Sweet Personalised Hidden-Image Munny Doll Gift

Introduction: Sweet Personalised Hidden-Image Munny Doll Gift

About: Physicist and all-round nerd

This is an entry for the Christmas Gifts 2011 contest so please rate and vote!

I made this Kidrobot Munny for my girlfriend for Christmas this year, and I’d like to explain my reasoning behind it to begin with.  We were apart for a few weeks due to work and it got me thinking about all the little things that remind me of her. I wanted to make her something, and wondered if there was a way to include some of these little things into it.

Now I’m no artist, not by a long way, but I’ve always thought "hidden image" puzzles (like this) were cool, and that it’d be a good way to incorporate lots of unrelated pictures into a design. At the same time I wanted a physical object since it was a present, and I’d seen Munny dolls in shops before. Thus the idea was born!

It wasn’t a hard project, just took quite a lot of time due in part to my terrible skill at drawing, but the effort was extremely appreciated by my girlfriend! :)

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Step 1: Materials

Pencil (use a dark pencil, since it’ll be easier to erase than a hard one)
Pad for prototyping
Multi-color Sharpie markers
Matt Varnish
Latex gloves
Hair dryer (optional)
Munny doll (link)

Step 2: Designing & Prototyping

First I made a list of all the mementos of my girlfriend, and added an icon or image to go with each. We’ll use this as a guide when drawing on the Munny. I also wanted to add the letters of my girlfriend’s name, Louise. You can see that some of the ideas went through several iterations.

I went through a couple of methods to design my Munny. Originally I thought I could draw onto a picture of one, so I traced one from the side of the box.

That allowed me to get an idea for the face I wanted for him, but didn’t really make sense to draw a 3D design on a 2D shape, so I just started sketching the pattern I had in mind.

Start by drawing the symbols, and sketch an abstract design around them in pencil, going over your lines with a sharpie. Originally I thought I could fill in the areas with solid color (first pic), but that made the design quite heavy and dark, and also I was slightly limited by time.

A better idea struck me though; since the colors were a full spectrum I could color each line separately and step up or down the rainbow for neighboring colors. Turns out, this is a really easy and effective way to get a consistent pattern without having to sketch the entire thing out.

Step 3: Adding Features to the Munny

Start with the face, since that gives you a base size for the memento icons.

Sketch everything out in pencil first – a dark pencil easily rubs off Munny’s vinyl skin, but a sharpie does not. Randomly distribute the icons around the body and head and don’t color anything until you’re happy that they are spaced how you like them.

Color each of them in stages, starting with the lightest color so you don’t get too much ink bleeding into each other (yellow is especially bad for this). If you’re careful to follow your pencil lines you won’t even need to erase them, but bear in mind once their covered by sharpie they are permanent too, and they will show through yellow.

This is a German flag because my girlfriend studies German.

Once all the icons are added, it looks kind of like he’s covered in tattoos, though he’s still a little bare, so we’re going to fill in the gaps with color.

Step 4: Drawing the Pattern

In order to “hide” the shapes in the pattern, start by enlarging their outlines in pencil. As you get further away distort the shape so that the icon itself isn’t lost. 

Add random spirals and curves when far enough away from each shape, and try to fill in every gap with a part of the pattern.

Keep the spacing between lines even (I used around 5mm as my spacing). I deliberately left the ears, face and tail blank.

Step 5: Coloring the Pattern

The “algorithm” for coloring the pattern is: choose a color to start with, then for the next line go up or down one step in the spectrum so that all neighboring colors should be only one color away from each other.

I started with red, and in the first picture you can see a continuous spiral that changes from red to pink, and neighboring lines going to orange, then yellow.

The next picture shows that spiral filled in, going all the way to light blue, as well as a bunch of other spirals and shapes.
The third shows a point where I filled a wedge shape with a rainbow pattern. You can see all the colors here as they go from red through the blues, greens and yellow, back to red.

I said I left the ears blank, but on their insides I added brown spirals, kind of like the inside of a person’s ears. I also added a few curls of brown “hair” to finish the pattern at the edge of the face.

The pictures of the body may show more clearly the coloring process.

The procedure for the arms are the same, however for consistency I started at the top of the arm with whatever color is closest to that point (blue, here).

As a finishing touch I signed the bottom of one foot and added the year.

Step 6: Varnishing & Protecting Your Munny

I was really happy with how the finished pattern turned out, and I put the Munny back in its box overnight to see if the pattern would survive that. Unfortunately when I checked the next day it had smudged where it was in contact with the box, so I decided it needed to be varnished.

Other people have had success with various types of varnish, but the only one available to me in my local art supply store was Winsor & Newton All Purpose Matt Varnish, so I figured I should experiment with it first.

Set up an area to varnish your doll by covering everything with newspaper. Make sure to open a window for ventilation! You will want to wear some latex gloves while varnishing and handling the doll as it dries. To keep the doll from sticking to the paper disassemble it and use the holes in the joints to hold the parts instead. I found a pencil fit perfectly inside the neck and head holes, and a toothpick was fine to hold each of the arms. Stick each of these through a scrap box so that they won’t fall over and also make sure you can remove each of the parts without unbalancing the rig.

I was using an untested varnish so I decided to test on the inside of one of the doll’s accessories (in this case, a cape) at a point that wouldn’t be seen when it was wearing it. I used the brown sharpie because I had noticed it was possible to erase that color with my pencil eraser.

Before varnishing I slightly erased the right side of the line, and after leaving the varnish to dry I was unable to erase the left side, so violá, it was protected. It also didn’t melt the vinyl or the marker, so it was material-safe too.

Follow the instructions on the varnish by holding the can 1 foot away and only applying a thin coat to the doll. I was doing this on the day my girlfriend and I were exchanging gifts and was a little pressed for time, so I had to use a hair dryer to speed the drying process. In the end when I gave it to her the varnish was still a little tacky, but she didn’t care. She told me it was dry the next day.

After varnishing with “Matt” varnish, the doll was slightly shinier, but I think that just gave it a more finished look, so I’m very happy with it. It also caused some of the inks to run slightly – the orange, yellow and pink especially, but that didn’t matter too much as it just gave it more of a “tie-dyed” look.

Step 7: Points to Watch Out for and Suggestions for Improvement

Not all sharpies are created equal. Whatever way they are made, each color sharpie’s ink behaves slightly differently. Some are erasable while some are not. Some will darken when drawn over pencil, others won’t even notice. Some will run, and others won’t. I also found that some of the nibs of my pens were narrower than others’, so it was hard to get consistent line sizes.

Make sure your hands are clean while decorating your Munny. I let my fingers rest on some blue lines, and then when I held the head by the face it transferred some ink to a point I wanted to be blank and I couldn’t get rid of it!

If I had had more time for this project I was thinking of adding a red “beating heart” LED inside the chest, similar to the circuit from Make: Electronics experiment 14.

I also didn’t have time to decorate the accessories that came with the doll, but that just gives my girlfriend a chance to do some coloring herself.

In all, this present was extremely well received; my girlfriend loved it!

Good luck with your Munnys, please rate, and if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment!

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    8 years ago on Step 7

    note: I didn't just love it - I pretty much cried! best present ever!!! Also I forgot to mention .........While the varnish has dried completely, while it was still kind of tacky it got a little bit dusty so maybe keep it in the box until its completely dry!