The Ins and Outs of Ball Jointed Dolls

Late 2014, I asked if there was any interest in me writing a post on the basics of Ball Jointed Dolls, aka BJDs. There was. And finally, many months later, I’ve found time to write this long awaited post. First, a quick disclaimer. Like all genre’s of collecting, BJD collecting is a very subjective thing. Some people look at it as one thing, others another. My idea of what constitutes a BJD may differ from how others define the niche.

It is said that the modern BJD trend started back in 1998 when doll designer Akihiro Enku sculpted a large scale 57cm ball jointed doll for his wife. The president of Volks, a company known for customizable 1/6 scale dolls and resin model kits, saw Enku’s work. By 1999, Volks released the first series of Super Dollfies. The hobby has grown widely since then, with many other BJD manufacturers opening shop around the world.

Standing Tall

What characteristics make up a BJD? There are four major things BJD’s usually have in common.​ ​ First, they are jointed with ball and socket joints. Alongside that, BJD’s are strung together. Ball and socket joints aren’t exclusive to BJD’s, non BJD’s like Madame Alexanders and Sasha dolls are strung in a similar fashion, but for a doll to be considered within the BJD realm, it needs to have these sorts of joints.

Hujoo/Junky Spot Phoebe

Second, all BJDs are customizable. True, any doll is customizable at heart, but BJDs come ready for you to  make them your own! BJDs are designed with head caps that allow you to open up the back of their head and change out their eyes. They also are designed to wear removable wigs, so you can change their look any time you’d like. On top of that, many BJDs come with blank faces, so you can put your artistic skills to work and give your doll a 100% unique face up.

Third, BJDs are usually cast in resin. Now, here’s where I divert slightly from some collectors. If a doll is customizable and built with ball joints and string, I don’t care if it’s resin. In my mind it’s a BJD. For example, Hujoo’s are strung, have ball joints and are 100% customizable. Yet, some would discount them and say they aren’t ‘real’ BJDs because they’re made of ABS and not resin. I don’t subscribe to that kind of thinking. It is true, though, that 90% of what people consider as BJDs are cast in resin.

Fourth, BJDs are commonly hand crafted in Asian countries. Most major BJD companies are based in Japan, Korea and China. This is becoming less and less true as time goes on, with the emergence of amazing designers like Kaye Wiggs and other doll artists.

Angel On Your Shoulder

Some will say that a doll has to be designed with an ‘Asian aesthetic’ to be defined as a BJD, but I don’t agree with this, either. Who’s to say what an ‘Asian aesthetic’ even looks like. Japanese animation great Osamu Tezuka (Astroboy, Kimba: The White Lion), for example, said the large eyes on his iconic characters were influenced by western favorites Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop, along with other Disney creations. My point? We’ve been mixing cultural aesthetics for quite some time now; I don’t see how we can use that to judge whether something falls into the BJD niche.

Now that we’ve talked about the characteristics that define what is considered a BJD, let’s talk about the different classifications. BJD collectors will throw out a lot of different terms. The three most common pertain to size. BJDs can range in sizes from super tiny to insanely large.

The largest BJDs fall under the term SD. While SD is universal throughout the hobby and used for all brands, it originally started way back in the early days and is a shortened version of Super Dollfie. SD dolls typically stand 60 or 70cm tall. You will often hear these referred to as 1/3 scaled dolls.

Innocent Troublemaker

One size down falls MSD dolls. MSD is another generically used Volks term which stands for Mini Super Dollfie. This mid range doll is usually around 40cm. MSD dolls are most commonly referred to as 1/4 scale dolls. Within this size range, you’ll find many variations on the body type. For example, I own a very mature Doll In Mind Fantastia, with hips and a bust, that is on a very different body than my Luts Aru, who was created to look more childlike.

​The last size range has the most diverse lot of dolls– tinies! Tinies are 30cm or smaller. These dolls are also sometimes labeled 1/6 scale. Like MSDs, they come in a variety of body types. A tiny can be a ​27​cm Bobobie March, designed to be a youthful Elf​ to an 11cm Puki, a small toddler/baby bjd.

Welcome Home, Baby Is!

Besides these size classifications, you’ll also hear two more terms tossed around. The first one is Anthro. Anthro’s are animal and human hybrids, like the Junky Spot/Hujoo Freyr and Fraya‘s I’ve reviewed in the past.

YO-SD is another term used by collectors. YO-SD dolls fall in the tiny category due to their size, which is usually around 26cm. YO-SD is taken again from the Volks line of dolls that size. I wasn’t quite sure what drew YO-SD dolls apart from the other tinies of that size until I purchased an Island Doll Artemis. The main difference, from what I gather, is the thick body type of YO-SD dolls. I personally love the feel of YO-SD’s because the dolls feel so much more substantial than skinny tinies.

Island Doll Artemis

One of the biggest issues new BJD collectors face is choosing their first doll. Let’s face it. BJDs are expensive and for those new to the hobby, it’s hard to judge what might be ‘worth it’. Like with any collection, finding the perfect BJD to splurge on takes time and research. Some big questions you should ask yourself are:

  • What size BJD are you looking for? This is a great question to ask first because it cuts out two thirds of your options. If you know you want an SD (1/3 scale) doll and you won’t be happy with anything less, don’t muddy your research with tinies or MSDs.
  • What gender are you looking for? One fun fact about BJDs is that they’re anatomically correct. If you purchase a male, you’re getting a proper male body with all his parts intact. This is another great question to ask because once you decide a gender, you can narrow down your search even more.
  • Do you have a character in mind already for your future BJD? If you’re modeling your BJD after a character or ‘vibe’, take that into consideration when looking at face sculpts. Does your character need large round, anime like eyes or smaller, glaring eyes? The openness of an eye can change your character alone in many, many ways.
  • To face up or not to face up, that is the question. Full disclosure, none of my resin BJD’s arrived at my house with a blank face. They all have factory face ups and I am more than happy with them. However, you can save yourself a little money if you order a blank face up. Prior to ordering your BJD, you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to undertake doing a face up on your future dolly.
  • How much do you want to spend? This is a huge question. Some people will say that this question doesn’t actually matter, but we don’t all live in a world where that is true. As I mentioned earlier, BJDs are expensive. My first BJD was a Bobobie March. She’s just under 28cm and cost me a little over $100.00 from The Junky Spot. This was a good purchase for me, because it allowed me to try out the doll type out without spending hundreds of dollars. Think realistically about what you can spend on a BJD before ordering a doll. That being said, don’t just buy a doll because it’s cheap, do it because it’s something you love!
  • Do I want it now or can I wait? Some sites, like The Junky Spot, only sell dolls they have in hand, ready to ship, while others take pre-orders. Dolls you pre-order can take months to get to you. The wait can feel like forever. Trust me, I know. I personally prefer to only order dolls that are ready to ship. It limits my choices a little, but honestly, I am totally fine with that. I’d much rather have my doll within two weeks than 5+ months. But what about you?
  • Do you want your doll to arrive as a full set or naked? Most of the dolls I’ve purchased have arrived naked. Full Sets, dolls that come with all the dressings (eyes, wig, outfit, etc), are very tempting, but can be very pricey. I’ve always chosen to outfit my BJD’s myself. It’s important to keep this in mind, though, because buying the base doll is not the end of the journey. You then need to find clothing, wigs, eyes (in some cases), shoes, etc to really create/finish your doll.

In the end, the most important thing to know about ordering your first BJD is this: Make sure your future dolly is something you love. If you love it, then you won’t face a checkbook of regret later.

How do you take care of your BJDs, you ask? A lot of non BJD collectors are surprised at how substantial these resin dolls feel. Before owning one myself, I assumed they were super fragile, like porcelain. That’s not exactly the case. Will they break if you drop them just right? Of course, but they are surprisingly durable. While BJD’s tend to balance well, I would use a stand if you’re displaying them in a standing position. I decided to take a different route with mine— they sit on my shelf. I’ve never had any trouble with them in that position.

Say Cheese!

One great rule of thumb is this: Just like you don’t feed a gremlin after midnight, don’t leave your BJD in direct sunlight for long periods of time. Display your BJD in a portion of your room or shelf that isn’t directly across from a window. Exposure to sunlight for long periods of time will make the resin yellow quicker than it should. Some collectors will go all out and store their BJD’s in a dark place when they’re not using them, like their doll box or closet. I’m more lax about that. (They’re going to yellow anyways over time, right?) My BJD’s are displayed on a shelf that isn’t directly in line with my window. That way, they’re protected and I can still enjoy looking at them.

You will also most likely find that your BJD will need restringing from time to time. That’s nothing to be afraid of. Keep a cool head, find a YouTube tutorial, purchase some string and you’re set.

Another handy item to have on hand is a Mr Clean Magic Eraser. I made the mistake of wearing a fresh coat of nail polish when I was messing around with one of my BJD’s and later noticed I had left a mark on her leg. After a few swipes of the magic eraser, she looked brand new again.

Hujoo/Junky Spot Anthro's (1/6)

So now you know a little more about what BJD’s are and what you might need to consider when purchasing one for your doll collection. Below are some links to my favorite BJD hotspots on the web.

The Junky Spot: 90% of my BJD’s have come from The Junky Spot. The fact that they only list products that are ready to ship is what makes this one of my favorite places to shop on the web. I’ve had nothing, but success ordering dolls from The Junky Spot.

Denver Doll Emporium: Denver Dolls is a nice site, because they offer dolls from lines The Junky Spot doesn’t. Of course, that comes with a caveat– not everything is ready to ship out. In many cases, you have to pre-order products from Denver Dolls. They do offer a nice variety of BJD accessories, including all the essentials (wigs, outfits, shoes, etc).

Mint On Card: I personally have never ordered from this Michigan based store, but I have virtually window shopped a lot! It seems they mostly deal in pre-orders, or that’s how it’s been every time I’ve visited. What I like about Mint On Card is that it offers a whole different selection of BJD brands to ‘ohh and aww’ over.

Breena, DIM Fantasia

Den of Angels: Den of Angels is one of the largest BJD forums on the web. It’s a fantastic resource for those looking for owner images of dolls or for information on loads of different BJD manufacturers. It’s Marketplace forum is great and is the reason I have a Luts Aru in my collection. (Yay for group orders!) The downside of Den of Angels is that the moderators are very strict about what can be discussed on the forum. They’re one of those forums that only allows resin dolls and have a very specific list of what dolls fall into their idea of BJD’s. That being said, if you play by the rules, it’s a very handy resource.

Dairyland BJD: Dairyland is a regional BJD forum for the midwest area. The people are friendly and the atmosphere is a little less tense than DOA. It’s a fun, chill kind of forum.

Chitown Dollz: This is another midwest forum. I was an active member for a while. Just like Dairyland, the people at Chitown are very welcoming. It’s a nice little forum to share your dolls on.

bjd_wtf: This isn’t a forum, but a very informative blog that has a ton of information on the BJD hobby.

Step- Sisters

Bobobie and Resin Soul: These two brands make great starter BJD’s. The prices are very affordable for the quality. My first BJD was a Bobobie March and my moms was a Bobobie Sprite. Over the years, their skin has changed to a more yellow tone and the resin is a little more glossy than other BJD brands, but you know what? They’re still very pretty, displayable dolls. You can find these easily at The Junky Spot.

Luts: I dreamed of owning a Luts for years before I actually did. My Luts Kid Delf Aru was purchased through a group order over at Den of Angels. After looking high and low for an US distributor for Luts, it was either a)find a group order or b)spend a crazy amount of money on shipping her straight from the company. As luck would have it, there was an open group order. After a bit of waiting and a late night drop off in the middle of the Gameworks parking lot, she was finally in my hands. It was all very exciting. Long story short, if you are going to wait for a BJD, Luts are definitely worth waiting for. They are beautiful, high quality BJDs.

My New Luts Aru

Island Doll: Island Dolls are priced very well. You can get an MSD doll for the mid $200.00’s and an SD doll for the mid $300.00’s.  Much less expensive than some of the other brands around.  On top of that, I must say, I love their sculpts and the resin seems great to me!  I own an Island Doll Artemis.  She’s a 1/6 scale doll that has a YO-SD kind of feel to her.  I am very happy with her.  She’s a very solid BJD. Denver Dolls is a distributor of this line.

Island Doll Artemis

Hujoo: I love Hujoo’s.  The Hujoo company hit the ground in 2005 and has been innovating ever since. I’ve been a fan of the line since Christmas 2009, when my brother gifted me with one. Ever since then, I’ve followed the company.  They continue to surprise me with their releases.

Kyp, My new Hujoo! (1)

The above are just a slim selection of BJD manufacturers. BJD Collectasy has a really great list featuring many others.  I recommend clicking through the links and window shopping!  If you see a doll you know you must have, add them to a wishlist and remember, sometimes BJD releases are very limited. If you find yourself falling in love with a limited doll, start saving.  I know what it feels like to regret not buying a beautiful BJD before it disappears from the site.  It doesn’t feel good.  (Oh, LeekeWorld Gee-Yu, I miss you! Maybe one day you’ll join my BJD family?)

All collectors should have at least one BJD in their collection.  They’re such fun to pose and photograph, not to mention they look great on a doll shelf. Hopefully, this post will help you, too, add a BJD to your dolly clan one day.

Reagen, Bobobie Pixie

If you have any questions, leave them in the comment area.  Is there something you’d like me to go into more detail on?  Let me know!  International readers, do you have a go-to forum or online store you order from? Leave it in the comments for other readers (since my suggestions are mostly US based).  And finally, what BJD are you looking to purchase in the future?  What was the first BJD you added to your collection?  Share your thoughts below!!!

August 24, 2015. Tags: . Uncategorized.


  1. Lisa Neault replied:

    So glad you touched on the Asian perspective thing. That is one thing with the fashion dolls that has changed dramatically- many fashion dolls are now bjd’s but are not considered so because they weren’t made in an asian country- or because they are fashion dolls they aren’t bjds! I have a Soulkid, 2 felix brownies , a realpuki, an anthro mouse by dollfactory and a sybarite which is a fashion doll bjd who is truly exquisite. Den of Angels is a great forum but they are so touchy as to what constitutes a bjd …I only visit occasionally. Thank you for the links to the other forums, didn’t know about them. I have wanted an SD for a while now but space limits are the factor for me on a doll that size. Great post!

    • Robotica replied:


      Which fashion dolls are bjd’s? I’m looking for an affordable one. Thanks.

    • kewpie83 replied:

      Yeah, DOA can be frustrating. I use it mostly to see photos of dolls I may be thinking of buying and to join the occasional group order. I rarely discuss anything on it, though, because I’ve seen far too many people be, to put it bluntly, bullied or chastised on the forum. Plus, their infuriating rules on what is ‘asian’ enough to be a BJD. That being said, it is a great resource. Your collection of BJDs sounds amazing!!!

      • jSarie replied:

        Honestly, I take most of DoA’s rules to be about keeping the forum organized (and it’s so large that I think they need to have some limits in order to stay useful) rather than defining BJDs in any grander overarching sense. I do think it’s too bad that so many people seem to have interpreted “off topic for DoA” to mean “not a BJD” (or worse, “inferior product”), but I don’t think it’s really the fault of the forum itself, you know?

        Anyway, I enjoyed reading your “ins and outs”! Totally agree that they’re great fun to pose and photograph. And I loved seeing all the photos of yours – I tend to be drawn to the more realistic sculpts (I have more Iplehouse dolls than I probably need), but I really enjoy seeing the more stylized faces too. 🙂

  2. Robotica replied:

    thanks for this article. It’s very informative and I learned a lot. I can’t afford a BJD right now. I was thinking about getting an AI doll from I heard that they’re not resin but I don’t care.

    Are Pullips and Taeyangs BJD dolls?

    • kewpie83 replied:

      Ai’s are GREAT tiny BJDs! They’re totally worth it. I wouldn’t put Pullips and Taeyangs in the BJD category. One of the main characteristics of BJDs is that they are strung and Pullips/Friends are on obitsu like bodies. Because of the difference in how they are put together, Pullips fall into their own category. 🙂

  3. 39yearslame replied:

    You have some gorgeous BJDs in your collection! I’m jealous! Thanks for the links to midwestern BJD forums; I’m going to have check those out when I have some time. Hopefully they’ll have some people in my area, and not be entirely Chicago-based.

    I don’t have any resin BJDs yet, but I have two of Groove’s BJD Ai dolls that I lucked into at Tuesday Mornings for $30 each (pity they haven’t been popping up there anymore lately), and I instantly fell in love with the seafoam green Hujoo Freya as soon as I saw her at the Junky Spot, so I’ve got her, too. 😀

    • kewpie83 replied:

      Thank you! It may be a small collection, but the few I own make me happy. 🙂 I think all us collectors ran to Tuesday Morning to hopefully find at least one Ai! That was a great deal at $30.00!!!

  4. Taswegian1957 replied:

    A very good article. I know little about BJD’s so I’ve learned a lot.

    • kewpie83 replied:

      Thank you! Happy to have helped you learn more about this doll niche!

  5. Blackkitty replied:

    I’m so glad I never got the BJD bug because buying them would be a real problem for me! But now thanks to you I can listen to other people talking about BJD without feeling like a useless paperclip. Ah, and I have a shop suggestion –, I never bought from them yet but they have affordable accessories and tools for BJD enthusiasts.

    • kewpie83 replied:

      Happy to introduce you to the basics of BJD collecting! It took me forever to figure out what was what, so I tried to put only the most important things in this post. Thanks for the link. I’ll add it to the post later this week, along with other reader submitted sites.

      • Lilybell Zhai replied:

        we are a factory in China we are accepted OEM/ODM ,We have our own designer and engineer if you are interesting please add my whatsapp or wechat 008615916966221

  6. Ana Paula replied:

    Thank you for this post,it’s very informative and I’ve learned a lot about bjd

    • kewpie83 replied:

      Great! I hoped this post would ‘demystify’ BJDs for readers. Thanks for reading!

  7. Danica N. (thekawaiione) replied:

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up! ^^ Always enjoy reading your posts.

    I only have an Ai doll right now (due to you posting about them being findable in Tuesday Mornings actually~ so thank you so much for that! ^^) but I really hope to add more to my collection. I’ve been ‘virtual window shopping’ on most BJD sites for years now waiting for the day I can afford one. XD

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t get why people only want to consider something a ‘real’ BJD if it’s resin and made in Asia. It may not be their aesthetic, but it’s still a ball-jointed doll. I’d bought an book of BJD photos in Estonia and most of them were made in Europe, but they were no less beautiful works of art than any of their asian-made counter parts.

    I’d suggest adding to the shop list, they carry a bunch of different companies’ dolls and clothes/acessories too. And in general is an awesome site for BJD news and their company website list is HUGE.

    Have a great day~! ^^ (also apologies if this posted twice, my internet’s not been cooperating today.)

    • kewpie83 replied:

      You’re welcome! Thanks for sharing the links. Alice’s Collections looks like a great site! So many pretty things.

  8. kenaiqueen replied:

    Nicely informative article! I’d like to recommend for collectors. It’s a great little forum for all kinds of dolls and they are very welcoming and positive people. I have mostly Tonners (vinyl) but I recently got my grail doll, a Kaye Wiggs Miki.

    • kewpie83 replied:

      I’ll add it to the post this week. Thanks for the recommendation.

  9. Willa replied:

    Thank you for this article. I am very new to resin and/or BJDs, but since starting collecting, I’ve acquired a few Tonner/Wilde Imagination resin dolls, including “Weeping Violets”, “Sad Sally” and even a tiny Halloween-inspired Amelia Thimble, who is SUPER tiny. The sizing confused me at first, because when sellers refer to ‘scale’ I never knew what they meant? In other words, 1/4 scale to WHAT? I wonderers. Anyway, at this point I’ve got that figured out. As for the yellowing, well, my little “Sad Sally” apparently has some creaminess going on, but I would not have even noticed had I not been reading up on the very fact that resins DO ‘yellow’ … hmmm. Thank you so much for this great article, which is probably the most informative and helpful I’ve come across. I’ll keep my resins out. If they yellow, they yellow. I tried to find some examples of just how a doll would look after yellowing. All I know is that now I am HOOKED, lol.

  10. Ester Rani replied:

    Hai,great article and very informative. Good job.

  11. alma may replied:

    I am purchasing a Bjd very soon. I notice that several people ans shops sale tape for them. Whats the tape for?
    Thank you for all your suggeations they are going to be very helpfull.

    Alma May

    • kewpie83 replied:

      If I recall correctly, tape is used in the joints to add friction to the knees and elbows. I’ve never put tape in mine, though.

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