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Productive Procrastination | Digital Paper Dolls and Character Design

If there is any single thing that defined an average afternoon when I was in elementary school, it was the horde of online dress-up and makeover games. Barbie, Polly Pocket, almost every Disney Channel show at the time. It seemed like every franchise aimed at girls had some version of this platform.

I can’t exactly say these games were anything more than a way to kill time, but this back-then die-hard Wildcat does have strong memories of recreating the High School Musical cast in several of these games.

The early 2000s have become a popular topic for Buzzfeed posts like this one I stumbled across a while ago. Along with the quips about using Limewire, playing on Neopets, and customizing your computer’s cursor were a few screenshots of the Barbie MyScene website.

And that’s when the nostalgia hit.

The remainder of the evening became dedicated to tracking down those old dress-up games.

While messing around with one of these and customizing virtual paper dolls, I realized that this time around, my selections of hairstyles and clothes seemed to resemble the design of my own characters.

Although it may seem juvenile or a waste of time, these online dress-up games can actually be used as a fun way to visualize your characters. 

It can help when deciding on your protagonist’s hair or eye color or testing out various outfits.

If you’re like me and write historical fiction, you might even be able to find some of these dress-up games based on your time period.

Doll Divine and Azalea’s Dress Up Dolls both have a wide range of themes including Ancient Rome and Egypt, Vikings, Tudor, Regency, and Victorian.

Below are two of the protagonists from my oldest WIP Guises to Keep as they appear in Chapter 30, created in this Game of Thrones Scene Maker. I love the artwork style in this one and the wide selection of features to customize the dolls.


There are also Tudor and Lord of the Rings games in this style.

Just for fun, I also checked out this Pixie Scene Maker, this time using my protagonists from Bound to the Heart.


There are as many art styles for these games as there are themes. Take some time to explore and see what suits your tastes!

Just remember, these games will not save your work automatically. Some have the option of saving your image as a JPEG file, but not all of them do. I personally recommend taking a screenshot before closing the tab or window to make sure you’ve got them for future reference!

Using these online dress-up games is not the only thing I’ve done in helping to decide on a character’s outfit. Click here for my post on how picking out a color for my bedroom walls led to me using paint swatches as a way to get ideas for deciding on a character’s outfit.

Have you used online dress-up games in your writing process? Do you have any similar tricks? Let me know in the comments below!



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