Sunday, October 13, 2019

The journey of my own dolly Hime ~ #1

Hime #1's journey~ TLDR; I cannot describe everything that went wrong, because it would just be overly complicated. All advice I can give you is if something is clearly wrong from the beginning and the factory doesn't even see it or acknowledge it, get out now!!! xD
I don't know when exactly the idea of making my own doll popped up in my mind, but I do know that customizing Pullips wasn't exactly what I had always wanted to do. I didn't want to depend on another company's fickle release dates for kits and Pullip's inherent quality issues as well as not being able to really call it a doll "made by me". 
So I decided to search for companies (first in Taiwan, then in Korea, then in China) for producing my very own doll (head). I knew as of yet that I wanted to create a vinyl doll because of the versatility of painting, rooted hair options as well as lightness knowing of Pullip's balancing problems. 
Turns out Korean companies are hard to reach without speaking the language or knowing a local person - there are also companies in Japan which the same applies to. The prices for these countries are also likely higher - so I opted for alibaba. 

How did I start? Some questions I asked myself first:
-What material do I want to use?  (I chose vinyl)
-Do I also want to create a body or use an existing body (due to mold fees I opted for azone/obitsu bodies)
-What about the shape of the head - do I want child-like or more mature - do I want pre-shaped eyes or not? Or will I choose eye holes? (I opted for a simple but more versatile design for my vinyl head)
-How will I design my head? 3D or sculpting? (In my case I learned how to use Blender)
-What about safety? Will the factory steal my designs? (There's basically nothing much you can do about this besides choosing a more reputable factory that other designers have had good experiences with.)

Thinks the factory will consider:
-Minimum order quantity - most factories ask you to buy at least 1000 - 3000 pieces
-Mold fee - this is the priciest part, for every factory I spoke to - the mold fee was over 1000USD (!!) For just 1 mold - imagine if you need several different molds?
-Sizing - remember that with vinyl dolls the head will shrink considerably from the original size - so you can ask them to print it a percentage bigger so it will shrink exactly to your size.
-Color - Make sure you can accurately provide colors using pantone's system.
-Face printing - the factory can usually provide this - but they require you to prepare the digital print matched to the 3D design which can be complicated  ~
-Hair rooting - some factories that specialize in dolls offer this - once again there's a minimum quantity though.
-Whether they need to design a doll for you - they certainly can, but I personally don't really recommend relying too much on a factory for doing the designs.
Mistakes were made, LOTS of them. 
The first factory I worked with was pretty good in the beginning, however, they made some huge mistakes, and never acknowledged them. For example: The first sample they 3D printed for me was warped, it was unevenly resized making the head seem stretched out. I had to do pictures laid over one another in photoshop to get the factory to acknowledge the mistake. Instead, they tried to charge me another 100-200 sample printing fee because they printed "according to my measurements". First red flag. Then, around Chinese new year they simply ignored all communication with me for at least 2 months. Now I used to live in China so I know the holiday is usually 10-14 days, not 2 months (!!!!). Second huge red flag, at this point, I had asked them to work with the body I intended to use several times, but they never provided me sizing or fitting pics no matter how many times I asked.. They got worse and worse at this point. When I got my first prototype it was the absolute wrong size and it also had the molding line on the bottom of the chin. Basically they just did whatever without asking me, so I switched factories. I should have done this very early on! Thankfully I now found a factory that is very detail-oriented and really cares about what I think. 

What to pay attention to for the factory: 
  • Make sure to write very clearly, as English is not their first language. Keep all your ideas simple, one idea per sentence or even per line.
  • If they ignore one of your questions or requests like this, I would seriously hesitate to work with this factory.
  • If their English is very bad - I would also seriously discourage you from working with them.
  • Provide lots of photos of what it is you want, or what it is you want them to change for you on your design. 
  • I recommend visiting the factory in person to build up a personal relationship, this will certainly help for future endeavors as well! (It's an Asian culture thing)
  • Make sure the factory sends you lots of clear photos of everything before approving anything! Make sure you have some samples in hand in each stage (prototyping as well as final production molds)
Other tips:
  • Remember import fees - they will likely be very high if you are importing a large number of items like this. Not only import, but also shipping fees. I live in Taiwan (next to China) and paid around 200usd for shipping 1000 pieces of my heads, and there were no import fees only because the factory marked the value as 100usd! I doubt every factory would be willing to do this, though!
  • Some importing procedures can be very complicated and you may need an import agent
  • When calculating investment consider this: prototype fee, designer fee, paint fee, mold fee, shipping fee, import fee, and leave a margin for unforeseen expenses.

Useful links: 


  1. I am amazed! What an idea and what a journey so far! Brave to take this step and just go for it, congratulations! Look forward to reading more! And the doll head, so beautiful!!

    1. Thanks soo much! There are many many details I left out! I've been working on this for over a year now, and so glad to finally get some results. Thanks for loving her too ~~~

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Metin! And also thank you for some of your useful tips (through Natasja ~ ) haha :D

  3. Congrats on finally being able to get your heads. That first factory sounded like a nightmare to deal with! I'm glad you gave them the boot! The heads look gorgeous. I love the features.

    1. Oh yes they were horrible! I even had to go out of my way to obtain the molds and have them destroyed by thew new factory because I just lost all faith in them! Thanks for loving Hime x3