Friday, February 7, 2014

Peg People: Tips and Tricks

I have said it more than once: I am obsessed with painting wooden peg people. If you have been following my February-Peg-A-Day, then you already know this. If you are my friend on Facebook, then you may be sick of it. If you follow me on Pinterest, then you have been through the inundation of peg people pins. But really, can you blame me? They are adorable. My husband can attest that on more than one occasion, gleeful giggles have escaped my mouth upon showing off a completed peg. (For example, I just gushed over Hermione.)

The first time that I put paint to a peg, I was convinced that I was going to make many mistakes and that I’d waste peg after peg until I was happy with the final product. But it was not so! I am pleased to declare that with a little bit of proper prior peg people painting preparation, the possibilities are endless for anyone who wants to get in on the action. And I am someone who has trouble with stick figures, so I really mean what I am saying here. 

And you know what? Take one look at Etsy or Pinterest or a Google search and you will see that peg people range from the simple and rustic to the elaborately detailed. Your pegs don't need to look like someone else's, you just need to love them and they will be perfect.

I have shown off my pegs enough that I think it is about time that I shared my secrets. Without any further ado, here are some of my best tips and tricks:

1) Buy good pegs. It is easier to paint if the wooden surface is smooth and high quality. I personally buy from Casey’s Wood Products, but I know there are Etsy shops and other online sources as well.

2) Buy good brushes. If you want to do a lot of small details, make sure you have the brushes for the job. I have discovered that I like having separate brushes for white paint; I got tired of finding streaks of other colors in my dolls.

This heavenly view is at our local Michael's. I really like being able to choose from open stock brushes because I know I will use what I purchase. One brand had a buy 2 get 1 free sale, and I had a coupon! Wahoo!
I got a good mix of sizes. The angled brushes probably get used the most.
One set for white, one set for colors. Kind of like laundry.

3) Before you paint, get out a pencil and an eraser. I always draw eyes and hair first, because that allows me to center the rest of the clothing appropriately. Having a penciled outline allows me to feel more confident about where I am placing my paint.

My pencil and eraser get a lot of use before I paint.

4) Look at a picture of what you are trying to paint and focus on capturing the essence of it, rather than every single detail. In my opinion, hairstyle is one of the first identifying features on someone. Next, clothing color and style are important, especially when dealing with recognizable characters. You can keep it as simple as color blocking, or you can ramp it up a bit with more detail, depending on your comfort level. 

A red ribbon in a black bob hairstyle + bold colors and simple details in the dress = Essential Snow White

5) Use your paint to add texture. One of the ways that I like to add detail without getting too complicated is to manipulate the paint into adding fold in the drape of a dress, curls in hair, or pockets on pants. It is amazing how dots or lines can add so much detail in a very subtle way. This strategy is what makes my pegs special and unique (or at least that's what I think, anyway). 

Ariel's tail is much more interesting with green dots for scales. The best details of Cinderella's pink dress are in the texture added by strategically placed paint.
6) Faces. Oh, boy. They scare me. Whether I am drawing them or painting them, faces stress me out. That's why, as you have likely noticed, I stick to eyes only, unless it is absolutely necessary that I add something else. I do usually put ears on boys, but I recommend drawing them slightly larger than you think looks right, because if you paint on or just inside the line, they'll end up the correct size. Make sense? I should add that I usually paint the eyes last (using the end of a paint brush handle) so that I am least likely to mess them up while they dry.

Harry must have his scar and his glasses, though I will say that I was skeptical I could paint those spectacles. :)

You can't really avoid eyebrows and mouths if you want the seven dwarfs to be identifiable. I even gave them tiny button noses!

7) Varnish your peg! For the love of all that is peggy, varnish your peg people. To me, this is THE KEY. I use a gloss varnish, which I think looks 100% better than a satin or matte finish. The satin and matte varnishes leave your peg looking pretty much the same, and they do protect the wood, but the gloss varnish TRANSFORMS your peg. Megatron actually pops out of the bottle and changes your peg into something wonderful. It is absolutely MAGICAL; any mistakes or quirks suddenly look purposeful and perfect, the colors pop, and your peg is better protected against damage. I paint two coats on all of my pegs, using a wide, soft-bristled brush.They literally shine with awesomeness. 

8) Take your time, have fun, and love your pegs!

And there you have them - all of my peg people secrets! Keep watching the February-Peg-A-Day post for new pegs until the end of the month.

What do you think of these tips and tricks? Do you have any of your own advice to share? Got any questions?
Feel free to leave a comment!

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