Patterns are a wonderful way to make your doll look more interesting, or to add that tad bit of texture that makes the whole thing 'pop'. But unfortunately they are often forgotten about, or people fear using them because they are difficult. Now, let me tell you a little secret: they aren't! Or at least not in MS Paint.
All you need for this tutorial is MS Paint, a doll and a bit of patience, because patterns can take some time.
The base I used for the doll is from Dolaria.
This is the doll I'm starting with. It's already fully shaded, since that's easier to work with. It may be a good idea to outline things that would overlap her dress, like the hair and shade under them.
First of all: copy your doll or the part you'll be putting a pattern on like a bazillion times. Well, actually three or four times. It's just a way to prevent losing your doll when the patterns don't come out very well.
Second of all: You'll notice my background colour is blue, this is because white washes out some colours. If you use another background, like this one, the colours will look nice on every site.
Okay, I made three copies, with one as a backup. The flowy shapes in orange are the pattern I'm going to use. If you want to draw your own pattern, just scribble the shape you want and clean it up a little. The palette is the one from the dress, since I didn't really feel like making a new one.
Now the adding of the pattern. I cut it into little pieces, to make it follow the curve of the belt. It'll look a lot better than when it's just put on straight. Mind, you don't have to do this with every pattern, just use your common sense.
The part circled in black is the non-cut up part. The order I put the pieces of the pattern in was from yellow, to blue, to green. Do this for the whole pattern, so that you come up with something like this:
Time to recolour the belt now! (use a copy without the pattern on it) To do this: select your colours (foreground= the colour you want to replace, background= your 'replacing' colour) and take your eraser, right click and drag it over the picture. The colour should change now. Do this for all colours, then go back to the pattern. Change it into the background colour and make sure transparency is ticked on. Now place it on the recoloured picture, like this:
Make sure you place it right on the other version, otherwise it'll mess up your outlines and such.
That's what my belt looks like right now. See, adding patterns isn't that difficult. Now, let's move on to something more interesting looking.
What I mean with complex patterns, are multicolour patterns. I just like to call them complex because I used to struggle with them when I was a newbie. Oh and also because it sounds nicer than 'multicolour patterns', that'd be the main reason for the name.
This is what I already have now, the belt looks more interesting now, doesn't it? Finally time for the real work!
Again copy your doll several times, and make sure your workspace is big enough to save copies of the recolours.
Here I drew the pattern on, it consists of four colours to give it more depth. Always use colours you didn't use in the doll. This was inspired by moon craters and was just scribbled on fairly quickly.
Here is a zoomed in picure of the pattern so you can see the different colours better. The bright red is going to be the darkest colour, the brown and dark red are going to be less dark colours and the yellow is for the brighter accents.
Now you can start recolouring the dress. The palettes I used are beside the dress, I've put the corresponding colours of the pattern above each palette.
Change the bright red bits of the pattern into your background colour. You can now put the version with the pattern on the recoloured version. On the next picture you can see what my dress looked like then, I already started erasing the next pattern colour: brown.
Repeat step three again, but with the second palette and pattern colour. My version came out like this, there isn't much of a difference between the two parts of the pattern, but that'll make the whole thing look smoother.
Now it's time for the dark red to die! *Ahem*, what I mean is that I repeated step three again, but this time with the dark red part of the pattern. I circled the palette I used for this.
Again, repeat step three. Exciting, nah? Actually it is, you're now finished with your pattern! Well, that is if you used four colours like me. If you used more colours, you'll have to go on.
This is the doll in full view. You can call it finished now, but I'm not going to. Since I have this strange love (or obsession, whatever you'd like to call it) for not only patterns, but gradients too, I'm going to add a quick gradient on the dark blue skirt ^-^
Pixelling gradients isn't as difficult as it seems to be. The most important bit of it are the palettes. If you get those right, your gradient is more likely to come out looking great. Also, don't be afraid to recolour if the gradient looks a bit off. Yes, it takes time, but it can make your doll look so much better. Again, before you proceed, make some copies of your original doll.
The most important step: making the palettes. Just start out with the palette you used for the clothing, in my case this one:
Now start selecting the darkest shades, this is where initial colour, here blue, shifts into the gradient colour, which would be green here. Make sure that there isn't too much of a difference between the different colours, otherwise your gradient will look too harsh. This is what my palette looks like now, see the subtle colour shift from blue to green?
The image below shows the curve where I took my colours from, they not only differentiate in colour, but also in saturation. This is not needed, but it's just something I do now and then.
Now from the colours you choose, start making a palette from the second colour:
Do this for the rest of the colours. It's important that you make the contrast of those shades (see the red arrow on the image below) as big as in your original palette:
This'll make the whole thing look more smooth.
Another tip would be not to go overboard with the amount of palettes. Look at how big your doll is, if it's regular DHF/Fainelloth size, don't make a gradient with twelve colours. That would be too much and a bit redundant (of course there are exceptions to this, it can depend on the colours you chose). See that one tint of green that I didn't make a palette off? That's because I decided five different colours would be enough.
I cut my doll up! That's my way of indicating where which colour would go, and it takes less time to recolour it. Those are the bits I'll recolour. See how they aren't cut straight? There is a reason for that besides me not being able to control my mouse properly. A gradient is supposed to look like dyed fabric. Fabric curves around the body, that's why most dollers make the bottom part of a skirt curve. It looks more realistic. So, in order to make it look like the gradient is part of the doll and not just put on top of it, you'll have to make the gradient curve as well. It doesn't need to follow the shape of the clothes perfectly, just a rough version of that is enough.
Now we can start recolouring. I left part one as it was, as it's the beginning of the gradient. Then I recoloured part two with my second palette. After that I put those two pieces of the skirt back together (make sure you put them the right way, otherwise your doll may look weird). I decided that the colour change in the middle part of the skirt was too noticeable, so I dithered it a bit (the pink squares). You don't need to do that if you think your gradient is smooth enough. If you look at the sides of the skirt, you'll notice I didn't dither there. It just didn't seem necessary.
Repeat step four for every palette. Dither where necessary. If there is something off with the colours, then don't hesitate to recolour. That may take some time, but trust me, it's worth it.
Here I've put the skirt with the gradient on the doll. The gradient is done now! If you've been able to read through this all, congratulations!
Some dolls made with this technique:
If you've made a doll following this tutorial, I'd love to see the results :D You can send it to me by e-mail or leave a tag.