Bridie, here's assignment #1!
Step 1: Choosing a base and concept-
First, pick a base and pose (if you'd like to go baseless, that's fine too, but still think about what type of pose you'd like). Concept out in your mind what you'd like the doll to be like and try to pick a pose/base that conveys the personality of the character you are dolling. Is the character sassy? Shy? Bored? Energetic? For the sake of this exercise, try to pick a base that has an interesting pose. A base (or pose) is very important to the outcome of a doll, in my opinion, as it is...well, the base that you'll build upon. It's the foundation. Also, if you are used to working with smaller bases, try to pick something a little bigger. Medium - large bases are the best suited for tooling, in my experience.
Next, think about what you'd like your finished doll to look like, and find some reference pictures to help you in your journey. We can always come back and find more reference pictures, but getting them now just saves you some time.
Also, step 2 is right in hand with step 1, so I'll jot it down for you too!
Step 2: Sketching Phase -
I'd like you to start sketching now. I usually lower the opacity of the base layer in my document (which is in the layer panel) and sketch my clothing on top on a separate layer. Sketch however is most comfortable to you, though. Here's the challenge in your sketch - make it refined and give yourself options! I feel like a good, refined, clear sketch is a great jumping off point for a really nice doll. Make sure to clean up your sketch so that the lines are as clear as you can get them. I even sometimes do a little preliminary shading on the sketch, because in my mind, folds sometimes feel awkward being marked out by lines. Also, and here's the kicker - do multiple sketches. I'd like to see at least 3 different sketches of the same character. Play with different clothing or hairstyles, alter things until you come up with something that you really love! Sometimes the best way to find a great design is to just play around!
I need a new signature...