Intro: Paper Dolls That Don't Suck
In a past life, my office was in a library that had a rather full "discard" bin. Books were often damaged past the point of being readable and were usually outdated or uninteresting to the students. Sometimes, a book would pop up with pictures that were too good to see shredded and pulped. I needed to come up with a way to re-use the book art and kill some time at work.
Step 1: Getting Started
Your workflow may vary, but it was easiest for me to cull through the book and remove anything that might be visually striking. I particularly looked for facial clarity and at least half a body on my first pass through the book. If there was nothing "good" on the other side of the page, I would run my Xacto knife across the binding and remove the page. After this was done, I could scrap the guts of the book and get to work.
Again using an Xacto, I would carefully score the outline of the figure. Book print varies wildly, so I would err on the side of leaving too much on the first few pages. Some turns are best done by coming back with fine scissors to kept stress on the rest of the page to a minimum and reduce tearing.
Step 2: Creating a Story
With a figure cut out, I would look for a story. Perhaps the person has an exquisite beard or a look of befuddlement. These characteristics can be the basis of our joke. From there, decide how best to tell that story.
For some, it's as elementary as a thought bubble. For others, I like to add props and costumes. One of my personal favorites involves a sash/banner for "1st Place Beard." For this, I laid a sheet of paper over the character and made reference marks for where the shoulders and torso end. This allowed me to know where to draw the sash, and then later, where to make the cut for the figure to slide through the prop.
Some props, like the wizard hat, were done with paper from the same book to keep a more cohesive color and texture. The ability for this to relay in photographs varies.
I prefer a mostly solid background. Most of my examples are on a workbench top. The scratches and texture are just enough to be interesting without distracting too much from the foreground. Anything with a texture, particularly if abstracted, will make a fair background.
Since I photograph them with my iPhone, I use a free app called "Photo Notes" by Onestop. It allows for thought bubbles, speech bubbles, and outline text. If I'm planning to use a filter in Instagram or a similar app, I will typically do that before added a speech bubble. Filtering with Sepia or altering the saturation can help blend in the props for older pictures.
Step 3: Additional Options
Since I generally share these through social media, I've taken the photographs of the paper craft into photoshop and added additional touches. The ability to alter opacity and saturation is nice, since this will make the alterations match the original more so than some paper/ink that might be on hand. That said, it really depends on the desired result. Sometimes the contrast of new and old is desirable. Sometimes it's nice to blend in the changes.
Step 4: Closing Thoughts
I hope that you will take some time to make your own paper doll style comic. It's like a crude form of photoshop that's accessible to a lot more people, and in my use-case, it's still fairly environmentally friendly. If you make one, please be sure to comment with a link.