BJDs are the one hobby I have (at this point) that relatively few people know exists, and while there is a lot of information out there on the subject, I thought I’d give a rundown of the basics and answers to common questions. Feel free to comment with anything else you’d like to know or you think should be included.
Links are all to different BJD manufacturer’s sites, and I am not responsible for any content therein. However, I will warn that some may contain doll nudity and may not be appropriate for work or school.
What a BJD is
BJD (in this context) stands for Ball-Jointed Doll or Ball-Joint Doll. While this can be used to describe any doll that has articulated ball joints, when I use the term I am referring to a more specific type of doll. Some hobbyists call them ABJDs (Asian BJDs) or, more rarely, RBJDs (Resin BJDs). They are generally made out of polyurethane resin, a type of dense, porcelain-like plastic, though some companies use other types of resin or vinyl, and they are strung with elastic.
BJDs come in a variety of sizes, from a few centimeters tall to over two feet, and a variety of aesthetics from highly stylized (often with an anime look) or fantastical to more realistic. By default, they have no eyes, hair, or painted-on features (known as face-ups), though face-ups are almost always available from the manufacturer for an added price and many come with eyes, a wig, or (in the case of full set dolls) clothing and possibly shoes.
Why people collect BJDs
Like any hobby, people own BJDs for a wide variety of reasons. Some approach it as a classic collection hobby, buying fullset dolls and preserving and displaying them. Artists, photographers, and storytellers us them as an aid or outlet in their creative ventures, or take it a step further by customizing and modifying their own dolls, or selling their skills or crafted accessories. Some people give their dolls personalities and back stories and play with them or talk to them. Many hobbyists enjoy the social aspects of the hobby, convening online or at meet ups and events to share their experiences.
The BJD hobby has a lot of unique (or at least unusual) terminology that can be confusing and alienating to those who aren’t immersed in the hobby, especially when it comes to doll sizes.
blushing or body blushing – light coloration using airbrush paints or pastels to the doll’s face, body, and/or hands
face-up – painting done on a doll’s face
NS – normal skin. refers to dolls made of light beige or pink resin, approximate to a human with pale skin
stringing or restringing – the process of putting a doll together (or taking it apart and putting it together again) to replace the elastic string or adjust its tension.
sueding – the process of using a material with slight friction, such as suede or hot glue, at a doll’s joints to improve posability
tan or suntan – dolls made of a light brown or orange-toned resin
WS – white skin. depending on the company, this can be a very pale pink or beige color, or a pure white resin
yellowing – the natural process of resin’s color changing over time, which is accelerated with exposure to heat and UV rays.
Large BJDs run around 60-70 cm (24-28 in) or larger, and are commonly referred to 1/3 sized or SD-sized (though it is just as common to refer to a doll in its height in centimeters). The terminology can be controversial, as SD refers to Super Dollfie, a doll line by the BJD company Volks, though it is often applied to other brands’ dolls. It’s like calling a copy machine made by Canon a Xerox machine, or a generic brand cling wrap Saran Wrap.
Mini BJDs are in the 40-50 cm (16-20 in) range, and are commonly referred to as 1/4 sized or MSD-sized (short for Mini Super Dollfie… see above.)
Tiny BJDs are 30 cm (12 in) or smaller, and each subset of sizing is either referred to by its height (27 cm), its scale to 6 feet (a 1/12 tiny), or by a popular doll line in a similar size (pukipuki-sized)