The making of my custom one-of-a-kind Aloha doll

A few months ago, I had stumbled across what appeared to be 1/12 scale Splatoon dolls. Although Nintendo never sold any figures/dolls aside from the Bandai Dress-Up figures as well as the Figmas . . But those were barely customizable.

Any searches online to find out where these dolls came from yielded no results.. that was until I found the source of these dolls being the Chinese (and sometimes Japanese) Splatoon community. In fact, there was an entire community within the community for these specific dolls.

At first, I had thought they were made by one person. But after talking to a few people (with very very poor Google translated Chinese) I was able to get all the information about these dolls and how I could make one myself.

At first I wasn't sure what character to make, if I were going to be making a doll of my own. My inkling persona was way too complex for my first custom doll . . . but then it hit me.

I should immortalize my boyfriend as a doll! And be the only person on the planet to have a doll of Aloha.

So, this page will be documenting the process of building my boyfriend as a doll!
As of writing this, he's about 75% done. So I will post the progress pictures I have taken along the way. And maybe after he's done, I can share the adventures we go on together!

So for starters, the hardest part of this whole journey was figuring out exactly what dolls these were. Were they completely custom, or were they built upon an existing sculpt?
Over many MANY days of reverse image searching, talking to Chinese artists, I had found two listings on the Chinese second-hand marketplace Xianyu, for Splatoon faceplates for both inklings and octolings!

It seems that there were two main artist's sculpts that people were using for their dolls. Unfortunately I couldn't tell you their names, because translators always spit out different results. So, if you want to make a doll of your own, you'll have to find them yourself.

Considering Chinese websites are very strict about who is using their service, figuring out how to get these dolls from over there, to over here, was a pain IN THE ASS. Not only that, but it seemed BOTH of the artists who made these faceplates were out of stock.

So, rewind a bit. It seems the faceplates were a completely custom sculpt made to fit onto a nendoroid head and neck. There seemed to be two different bodies people were using. Azone's Picco Neemo D, and some sort of Piccodo doll. The Piccodo body had joints at only the shoulders and hips though, so I decided to go for the Azone doll because it had full range of motion, as well as swappable hands.

And here's my second hill, and arguably the steepest one in this entire journey. Azone stopped manufacturing the male version of this specific sculpt. That means I was going to have to find them second-hand.

Ebay? Nothing. Mercari? Nothing. Facebook Marketplace? Nothing. So we can assume no one in the United States was selling this doll.
I had to resort to using a proxy to buy from overseas. However, I wasn't able to buy these dolls on the Xianyu website because I don't know Chinese and I couldn't figure out the Chinese translation for their names. And so, I had to ship from Japan. Which is extremely expensive as of now.

But eventually, I had gotten a body.

I payed for overseas shipping, and it arrived. Only for me to realize. I was sent a female body. With boobs. I could not return it because I stupidly didn't pay for protection. That means if I was sent the wrong item I couldn't just exchange it. SO I had to make do.

Sigh. Well, luckily these dolls aren't all that expensive (minus the shipping). They were mass manufactured and made with PVC, which was an extremely soft plastic and easy to modify. So I grabbed a blade and preformed top surgery on the doll.

It was pretty easy to get one of the boobs off, and things were looking great! That was until . . I accidentally snapped the left arm while holding the torso in place.

In short, I was not happy. So what was I gonna do?

Well, this was shortly after my 19th birthday, which means I had a couple hundred dollars to spare. So I ended up just sucking it up and attempting to find another doll.

But it seemed NO ONE had this specific male sculpt for a fair price. The cheapest I could find it for was 30$. But fuck it, it's worth it for my boyfriend. So I bought it. and it arrived at the warehouse. As of writing this, it's still in transit. So we hope that this time, nothing is wrong with the doll. Because I paid an extra 25$ shipping.

Meanwhile, I had actually gotten a friend from China to help me with the whole Xianyu thing. I'll spare the details and just say that we ended up getting in contact with a seller and had ended up reserving a faceplate as well as a hairpiece for myself! Score!

While waiting for the face, hair, and the new body to ship, I started working on the clothes using the broken, armless doll as the mannequin.
Because of the small scale, the button-up was a challenge and a half. There were really no sewing patterns for button-ups in the 1/12th scale, so I had to heavily modify an existing Nendoroid pattern to fit the Azone body. Not only that, but because of the intricate design on the Aloha Shirt, I had to settle for patterned fabric that only resembled the design. I was NOT about to paint all those tiny details. Maybe in the future, if I figure out how.

After three failed attempts, I had finally made a shirt I was happy with.

Then, I sculpted TINY buttons using brown polymer clay, and poked the button holes with a sewing needle. I was originally going to actually sew them onto the shirt for the extra detail, but they were just TOO SMALL to do anything with. So I just used tacky glue to attach them.

For reference, the in-game shirt is on the right. I could not for the life of me figure out how to do the collar, but I have more than enough leftover fabric to make another shirt in the future if I so feel like it.

To close the shirt, because I couldn't sew actual tiny button holes, I just put two pieces of velcrow overlapping the edges on the inside. Nice and hidden.

Now for the pants, I thought it was gonna be easy. It wasn't.
The classic shorts resemble bike shorts, which are skin tight. I happened to have fabric which was super stretchy and of similar material as bike shorts, but sewing at such a tiny scale was impossible. Especially considering the stretchiness vs my sewing machine, which was pretty big.
I ended up opting for jersey knit instead, which was thicker and easier to sew but still stretchy. I was happy with the result.

For the pink stripes on the side, I literally just took strips of fabric and went along the edges with fabric fusion so they didn't fray, then glued them down on the pants while it was on the doll itself, to make sure it wouldn't pull on the fabric when it stretches.

Because of how I had to sew the pants, there was a seam running down the outsides of the legs. That means I wouldn't have been able to just paint over it. I haven't gotten to it yet but when I fix up all the little details, I'll be sure to glue the edges flat so it looks like a solid piece.

Now for the shoes, oh the dreaded yet absolutely fun little shoes.
At first I thought I could actually sew little sneakers with fabric and paint on the details, but considering how small of a scale im working on, that's nearly impossible. I wanted the shoes to actually function as shoes that could be slipped on and off. After multiple attempts at making doll shoes "correctly" I just gave up and opted for the "figurine" version instead. That being sculpting the shoes to be individual parts that could be swapped out with the feet. Meaning the shoe was solid and the ankle joint would attach directly to it.

I'm awful with clay, so I didn't do that. Instead, I ripped the model straight from the game and 3d printed it. I used clay to plug the hole and then used the joints themself to poke holes in the clay in order for it to be a perfect fit.

Now, because polymer clay has to be heated at extremely high temperatures in order to harden, and PLA melts at about 60 degrees, I couldn't just pop them in the oven. I had to opt for paper clay, which was a soft, light, air drying clay. I have never used it before, so it was a new experience for me.

And I'm glad I took that risk because paper clay is. Wow, amazing. I love it. It's so easy to use compared to polymer clay. It has a nice texture, and it sands so cleanly. Creating smooth surfaces is so simple, and it absolutely helped with filling the print lines and adding small details that my printer couldn't capture.
I eventually came up with a shoe-looking blob of PLA and paper clay.

I got ahead of myself and didn't take a picture of what it looked like before I began to paint it. But basically, I sketched out where I wanted everything to go with a pencil and then painted ontop of it.
Because it's such a small scale, I didn't really need any expensive paints. I used "Top Notch" (it's not top notch because it sucks) because they were on sale at Joann, and I got like 9 bottles for 6 bucks, hah!

When painting, don't glob on a whole bunch at once. It's gonna take a lot of thin coats in order to cover the surface. If you slap on a bunch at once it ends up lookin gross. Just a tip if you ever want to paint miniatures.

I realized the shoes lacked depth, so I went in with colored pencils and traced along the lines to give it more detail. The shoe on the right is before, left is after.

I sealed the shoes with a matte sealer before I went over the colored bits with a gloss to give it that plasticy shine the shoes seem to have.

After the "body" of the shoes were done, I had to think of how I was going to do the little loops near the ankles. I ended up folding over some red fabric and then gluing it to the insides, using the ankle joint to push it down while it dried. Then I ended up with this.

Because I have an awful hand, I wasn't even going to ATTEMPT to paint on the little Takoroka logos on the front and back of the shoes. I figured in the future I could print out little stickers instead, but I don't have transparent sticker paper right now so i'm just gonna leave it like this.

This is what he looks like all put together.

A little ridiculous without his left arm and a head, but I promise he'll be done soon!

Considering at this point I don't have a head to measure for his visor, there's not much left to work on at the moment. But just for fun, I decided to 3d print an ink tank.

I used paper clay, again, to mold the actual ink sack. I haven't painted it yet because I'm gonna wait until I paint his hair so the ink colors match perfectly and I dont have to mix paints a billion times to get it the right color.
I'm not sure how I'll attach the tank to his body when it's done, but I'll find a way.

As of writing this, this is where I left off. I hope you enjoyed reading about the making of my doll, and I hope you're just as excited as I am to see it finished!
(I'm so impatient)