• Bird

My Toolbox

Around 2007/08 when I began painting more regularly, a friend I visited in New York gifted me with a box containing some of the brushes she liked to paint with. Over the years most of my brushes have swapped out to either similar ones because I couldn't find the same brand or completely different ones I preferred; but it was a gift that meant the world to me. Not only did it give me a great tools to work with while starting out a new skill I knew little about, but it also gave me great confidence to keep painting.

It's a gift I'd love to pass on to anyone wanting to learn face-ups for the first time. So while I can't buy you all a box to start with, I hoped it might be helpful for some to take a look inside of mine.

Things to keep in mind if you are just starting out with face-ups...

  • Not everything here is essential, especially if you're just starting out.

  • What I use may not always be what you'll like best, experiment!

  • Online shopping makes it really easy to get things you normally can't, but buying local art supplies is great! They can be easier to find consistently, and you have the benefit of the shop staff expertise.


I would consider paints a relatively essential item to face-ups. Over the years some artists have made water colour pencils a more prominent item for doing line work, and that is an option as well. While I prefer paints personally, there are pros and cons to both. At the very least, when starting out, I would have a couple basic paint colours for eyeliner. While you can get some impressively delicate lines with water colour pencils, I've never personally seen them give smooth enough coverage for eyeliner, unless you're doing a particularly thin liner. On heavier lines however we're likely to see spots because of the texture of the resin and sealant.

Important notes on paint...

  • Do not use oil based paints. Acrylic and watercolours work best and won't stain your resin with proper sealant underneath.

  • I've found over the years that airbrush paints and watercolours are easiest for me to apply. I can achieve longer, smoother lines in a single stroke because of how fluid they are, while still maintaining a more opaque colour.

  • If you only have thicker acrylics to work with our want a less opaque colour, having a thinning medium is especially helpful. Depending on the paint you can get away with some amount of water, but in general water will break down the binder of acrylic paint where as a thinning medium is made specifically for that purpose.

  • Learning basic colour theory is INVALUABLE. My collection of paint colours is super limited, because I generally don't need more. Blindflower has a youtube video here where she talks about mixing and creates a colour wheel. While it is done in water colours the same principles would apply to other traditional media.

What I use...

  • Golden: I purchased my bottles of Golden airbrush paints probably close to ten years ago. Because I need so little (even when airbrushing), I haven't had to replace a single one yet. I only have a collection of basic colours in the airbrush paints (black, white, yellow, blue, brown, two different reds) and then a really nice teal and purple in their fuller bodied paints sent to me by another artist that I love to use.

  • Zoukei-Mura: My ZM paints (the tiny bottles in the container) were purchased in 2007 at a Dolpa painting class. They're only just starting to run out now, and while I probably won't replace them, it's because I prefer a thinner body paint. These little guys have served me well over the last thirteen years though, and if you are someone who wants to try out face-ups but isn't sure how serious you'll be about them, I would definitely recommend a couple of these little sets for a trial run before shelling out the big bucks. Volks sells the Make set ($9/¥858) and Basic Colour set ($15/¥1,540) on their websites, and also sometimes sell small starter sets like what they offer a Dolpa.

  • Fintec: These metallic water colours are a new addition to my supplies, and after using them once I wasn't sure how I had gone so long without them. They're absolutely non-essential for just starting out, but if you love painting your dolls and want to add a bit of glitz, I can't recommend them enough. They are pigmented, easy to work with and absolutely beautiful, not to mention the range of colours they offer.


Pastels have been my greatest struggle over the years I've been painting. I've tried no less than 5 different brands since I started painting BJDs. While I love the control pastels allow you vs airbrushing, and much smaller margin of error, I'm never as happy with them finish as I am a smoothly airbrushed head. That said, after all these years of narrowing out pastels I don't like, I think I have finally found the ones I do.

Important notes on pastels...

  • Like paints, you want to make sure your pastels are oil-free.

  • Soft pastels are easiest to work with, anything classed as "ultra soft" or similar is great because you don't need to worry about doing anything like scraping some off, just a swipe of your brush should do the trick.

What I use...

  • PanPastel: Pretty much my life saver after I had been traumatized one too many times by a dying airbrush and compressor. They are super soft, come in a wide variety of colours, and I actually love that they come in the pans because I find they take up a lot less room in my storage and on my desk when I'm working.

  • Schmincke: My absolute favourite pastels I've used so far. I find these the easiest to get an even layer with, and also the richest colours with a single application. (Though most of the pans are a close second)

  • Rembrandt: These were some of my earliest pastels, and tend to be my least favourite of the ones I use. I find for me these work best if I want a lighter/more translucent colour, or to build up some extra shading over a different base. I like these best in addition to my other pastels, not general as my only pastels.


I wish more people commissioned me and asked for sparkle. I can't even tell you how many years I spent not buying myself more shimmer because I told myself I couldn't justify it because I didn't get enough commissions that asked for it. No more! Bring on the glitter!

Important notes on shimmers...

  • While essential to my general existence, shimmer is not essential to face-ups. They aren't something you need to worry about to start out.

  • However, if a little sparkle in your face-ups would please you, look for synthetic mica based shimmers. Glitter is plastic based and not particularly great for the environment, and natural mica powders come with their own baggage.

What I use...

  • Volks Shine Pearl: The first shimmer powders I purchased, these little bottles have lasted for years. The Volks shimmers are definitely limited in their colours (Only white, pink, blue, green, purple and gold) and a lighter pigmentation. That said, you can get some really pretty results from them.

  • Pearl Ex: I finally said to hell with it and bought myself some Pearl Ex after seeing several face-up artists recommend it, and my only disappointment is that I didn't buy more sooner. I've only have a what's in this photo and two others, but the ones in the photo I've tried all of and have loved each one. I haven't had a chance to try out the others yet.


It's not all paint and powders, here are a few other tools I use almost religiously in my work.

What I use...

  • Cotton Gloves: Not my favourite item in my kit, but they are helpful when handling pieces you're working on. Admittedly I don't always wear them on my left hand (the one I paint with) but they're great for my right hand to help keep any oils off the head that might keep pastels from sticking or get sealed on when I spray.

  • MSC UV Cut: Sealant is a must. It helps keep your head safe, it helps pastels stick to the head, and it keeps your face-up on. There are other sealants on the market that people commonly use (Zoukei-mura, Purity Seal, Testors Dullcoat, etc) but I find of the ones I've used over the years MSC is the best balance of quality and ease to acquire. If you've got a local hobby shop chances are they carry Mr. Hobby products, and if they don't carry MSC UV Cut; put on your best smile, don't forget your manners (round up a group of local friends who want some MSC if you've got any) and chances are you'll be able to get them to order some in for you.

  • Glue: Aileen's or Elmer's are my go to for applying lashes. I always do the clear glues because I find that even though the white glues dry clear, the clear ones are usually that little bit better. Or it's totally in my head, but I'm okay with that too.

  • Small Scissors: You'll need these for trimming lashes if you plan on applying them. I recommend nail scissors as they tend to have a pointier tip. The ones I'm using currently are for trimming beards, they work, but I don't recommend it. The larger, rounded ends make it a little bit of a fussier process. I lost my good nail scissors though, so this is my own fault really.

  • Cleaning Sponge: Mr Clean or a dollar store knock off work just fine, just make sure they're the simple, plain ones and not the ones with crazy soap in them or anything. I use these primarily for wiping old face-ups/cleaning heads, but a little piece of a clean one is also helpful for softening or removing pastel you've applied and aren't happy with mid-painting.

  • Gloss: Tamiya is my favourite, end of story. I get the smoothest finish and highest gloss from it. That said, it's not the only acceptable gloss by any means. The gloss in this photo has served me well, it was purchased during a time that I couldn't find any Tamiya, and has lasted me longer than I wish it had.

  • Eraser: A plain, white, plastic eraser or knead-able eraser are important tools to have for a little bit of clean up white working. You want to be careful not to rub hard with them and risk damaging any sealant, but at some point black pastel will go wild and leave with dust in places you don't want; an eraser will be your new best friend. One of the clickable pen sized erasers is super handy for control and getting at small spaces.

  • Papertowel: A lot of people will wipe excess paint on the back of their hand or glove, but I am that shmuck who will somehow still get it on the head. So a piece of paper towel is always handy to have by.


My selection of paint brushes is small, I don't need more than this and to be honest I could probably manage fine on just two if I wanted to, but I generally don't.

What I use...

  • Royal Soft Grip 10/0 Liner: I generally use this for the body of eyeliner and any larger linework like parts of tattoos.

  • ZM Facepainting Brush 07: This is an older brush I just use for glossing now. It's not in good enough shape anymore for more delicate work, and I like having a brush I use specifically for glossing, because even when I clean them promptly if I miss anything they can sometimes stay a little junked up with gloss. I like this particular brush for glossing because it still gets a relatively fine tip, but is also large enough to get smooth coverage over an area like the lips.

  • ZM Facepainting Brush 01: I use this guy for lashes and brow hairs, as well as the finer portions of eyeliner/tattoos/etc. I've tried a few others but I seem to have a hard time finding a balance of thin and long enough to hold paint but short enough to keep control.

Pastel Brushes:

My pastel brush collection is a little larger, and I generally don't use them all in a single face-up. Some are better than others for certain things, and some just hate me differently from day to day.

What I use...

  • Royal Soft Grip 1/8 Angled: This brush is trimmed down from its original length, I found it easier to achieve the results I wanted that way. For the most part I use this brush to rough in the base of eyebrows, and also sometimes if I want a more solid colour on eyelids of a doll with a smaller lid surface.

  • Royal Soft Grip SG375 1/8: This brush tends to work best for smaller areas where I want more solid colour, but maybe don't need the more precise lines the angled brush gives me. I tend to use this a lot for eyes. This one was trimmed due to some damaged ends while I waited for its replacement, but I find I like it this way and will likely trim the new one as well.

  • Royal Soft Grip SG375 3/8: This brush tends to get used mostly for putting down base colours around the eyes and blushing over the bridge of the nose. I find it good for a more solid, even base, but also being able to blend out softer edges as well.

  • Simply Simmons Filbert 10: This is probably one of the oldest brushes I own, it's held up so long because I generally don't use it to blush. I find this brush most helpful for blending out edges and brushing away stray pastel dust.

  • Robert Simmons White Sable Oval Wash: This was my original brush for dusting off heads and softening edges, I find the Filbert works better so this became the shimmer brush.

  • ???: I have no idea what this brush is since the branding has all worn off. I essentially bought it because the shape and feel was similar to a blush brush, and that's what I use it for. It's great for really soft blushing over a larger area like cheeks or the forehead.

And that concludes our tour folks! I wanted to give a general overview of the supplies I've used and collected over the years, but if there's anything specific you guys want to know or learn more about don't be afraid to ask! I'm happy to answer questions, or if there's anything enough people would like to see it will give me something to create a new post about.

Exits are to the left and right.

Until next time, stay safe and thanks for dropping by!

- Bird

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