This first section will be all about the materials I use when I repaint my dolls. I, in no way, claim to be an expert in art materials, these are just some of the things I have tried and kept on using because they’ve worked the best for me. I’m always trying new supplies, partly because I always like using the best possible tools, but also because I obsessively hoard art supplies. :P Each time I try something new, I will update this tutorial about whether or not it worked out.
Just warning you now, but this is quite long! I have tons of ideas constantly running through my mind, and even though it’s not always necessary, I like to have the materials at hand to make my ideas real. To make it easier to navigate, the materials I use have been grouped by type and then listed in the order you’ll most likely use them. I am writing this for complete beginners, so if you’ve been doing this awhile already, you might find some things pretty obvious.
Solvents are used to remove things, obviously. But each solvent works differently on different surfaces, and therefore is only suitable for specific uses.
- The first can on the right is pure acetone. I use it to remove the factory paint from the doll’s vinyl head. It works amazingly well and I have never had any bad results. However, you do have to be very careful to not get it on the doll’s hair or hard plastic body. Do not even try it on the body, it melts the plastic! It’s easy to keep it to the head, though, if you use q-tips. Btw, that black bottle in front of the acetone can also holds acetone. I have to use a screwdriver to open the can, so it was much quicker to just pour some into a small glass bottle for easy access.
- Next to the acetone is Winsor and Newton Brush Cleaner. Some people use it to remove the factory paint instead of acetone, if they can’t stand the smell or think it’s dangerous. I’ve tried that and didn’t like it at all. It’s a lot harder and takes longer to remove the factory paint. It tends to be smearier too. I use the brush cleaner exactly as intended, to clean my brushes. For the most part, I wash the brush in a cup of water as I work. But sometimes I forget, or don’t wash it well enough and the brush dries hard and unusable. The brush cleaner will revive the brush with little effort.
Just never put it in a plastic cup, it will eat through the bottom! I did that the first time I used it and then walked away, so when I came back, my desk and speakers were covered in it!! It came off (luckily!) with soap and water, and in some spots, rubbing alcohol.
- Speaking of rubbing alcohol, it’s one of my essentials! It works the best to remove a previous repaint, on the head or body. Acetone makes acrylic paint gummy and hard to take off. And it’s not safe on the body, but rubbing alcohol is! I also use it to fix a mistake while repainting if the paint has already dried. Don’t use a brush for that, it’ll get gummy quickly.
Instead use something I recently discovered, pointy q-tips! They’re perfect for precisely removing tiny mistakes. It will eat through the sealant if you press too hard, so be prepared to go over that spot after you seal it next, if you had any blushing there. You can also just get the end wet with water to blend/remove water color pencils and pastels.
- Notice nail polish remover is not pictured. That’s because every brand I’ve tried has sucked at removing factory paint! Perhaps I’m using the wrong ones, cause I’ve seen several people recommend it. Personally, I wouldn’t try it, it’s not worth taking the chance and wasting your money!
2. Spray Sealants
Just like before, obviously all sealants will seal something, and because they are formulated differently, some will go cloudy or sticky when applied to certain surfaces. Sometimes that might happen even when you use the right sealant, since all spray sealants are very sensitive to temperature and humidity. You must always warm up your can first and shake it well, then make sure that where you will be spraying your doll has a humidity lower than 50% and a temp higher than 60f. To be safe, you can buy a humidity and temp gauge for around $10. This can make it difficult for people in cold and wet climates, like me. I’m lucky to have a capable father who built me my own spray booth.
Sealants in a spray form are necessary if you are using pastels or watercolor pencils in your repaint, they will smear otherwise. If you’re not using those things, you can get away with just brush-on sealant. But be aware, even a matte brush-on sealant can’t perfectly match the texture of bare vinyl, so you have to be careful to blur the edges when you seal your blush. And even the best acrylic paint can stain vinyl if you don’t put down a protective layer first.
- Okay, starting at the right again. First there is Testors Dullcote. My current fav because of how cheap and readily available it is. This is the one that I have been using all the time lately. Testors dullcote so far has worked out amazingly for me. It dries like it’s not there and despite the claims on the bottles, one coat usually doesn’t affect any metallics. I’ve read in a lot of places that it can make resin dirty and it’ll yellow easily. First of all, I’m using it on vinyl, not resin, so that might change things. I personally haven’t seen any yellowing on any of my dolls, but then again the monster high dolls have crazy skin colors that might make it hard to tell. I am going to be testing this out by placing a spare head out on my window sill for a week or so. I just have to wait for the sun to come back to Oregon again and that might take some months. But really, you are not supposed to expose your doll to a lot of sun anyway. I’m sure that the vinyl and any paint you use could yellow over time too.
And about making the doll ‘dirty’ I actually had a lot more trouble with zm spray attracting tons of dirt to my doll’s face. Dullcote does seem to take a while to dry fully, so sometimes even when it looks and feels dry to the light touch, it’ll feel slightly sticky when pressed hard. I’ve also noticed that on dolls that have been done for months, if my fingers are sweaty. Aside from that, it attracts no dirt or dust at all. The only real cons to Dullcote are that it doesn’t seem to work on the body and it has no tooth, therefore if you only use pencils for your customs you are better off going with Mister Super Clear.
- Which is right next to it! Many people rave about this product, for good reason. It works just as well on vinyl as Testor Dullcote. Perhaps better, considering that the tooth it has really grabs pencils and pastels. The only reason I don’t use it all the time is that I’d have to order it online for a fairly high price. I’d always worry about running out in the middle of a commission and having to wait weeks for more to come. I do have a full bottle on hand, just in case anyone is especially averse to Testors Dullcote. Btw, I haven’t tried it, but I’ve read that it doesn’t work on the hard plastic body, that it’ll just flake off.
- Next is ZM spray from Volks. The bottle above is actually empty - it was what I first used when I started repainting. I had it on hand from when I ordered a 1/6 dolfie that I ended up hating. Overall ZM spray seems the same as MSC except that it has more tooth. Perhaps because of that, it really collected dust fast on the dolls I used it on.
- That big bottle with all the small text is Purity Seal from Citadel. I took a risk and ordered some off of Amazon since the price was so good for the amount. It ended up going a bit sticky on the vinyl head, so don’t use it for that. It did, however, work great on the bodies! Be sure to really shake it before you use it, or else you might get a thin white film that will scrape off easily.
- Finally, Rustoleum Painters Touch Matte. I bought some at Joanns for like $3, so I figured it was worth a try. Do not use it on vinyl, it goes very sticky! It does work on the hard plastic bodies. I haven’t used it that much, but it does feel very sturdy. It might be a good thing to use to seal the body after you changed the skin tone with paint.
Being safe is very important! Especially if you are doing any sort of spraying or sanding. All of the supplies above are only needed if you will be using a spray. Not being properly protected can do terrible things to your body. Spraying anything without protection can and will do serious damage to your lungs! You might not notice it at first, but it will build up over time. One of the things you can develop is called Black Lung. There is no treatment and if bad enough, it will kill you slowly and painfully. So protect yourself! The cost of everything above only set me back about $40. This is much less than the potential thousands you would spend if you got sick!
- First is my half face mask and organic vapor cartridges. This is the most important item and is necessary if you use spray sealant/paint. A paper mask will not work! And a half mask by itself is not enough, you must have organic vapor cartridges. I spent a little more on my mask and bought one made of silicone since I knew I would be using it often. That’s not required though, as long as you get one that fits you properly. A mask with filters is useless if outside air can come in any other way. If you are just sanding a mask is also important, but it can be a paper one as long as it’s rated p95.
- I use thin rubber gloves to protect my hands while spraying sealant. It’s a pain to clean it off skin and some of my sealants say that chemicals can leach in through the skin. Better safe than sorry.
- Plastic wrap is actually for protecting the doll, not me. I wrap it around the parts I don’t want the spray to get on, like the hair or body. Some people use other things. Just don’t get the sealant on a doll’s hair, it’s almost impossible to get out. This particular plastic wrap I got at Costco, and I am extremely happy with it! It’s very thin and sticks to itself incredibly well, so I don’t need to use tape to secure it like I used to with other brands. I also love the box it comes in, the little sliding blade make it a snap to cut!
4. Spray Paints
I haven’t tried any of these products out on my dolls yet, I’ll update here once I do. This is more of a placeholder for products I think might work. I am pretty sure that these will work on the hard plastic body, but less sure about the vinyl heads. If you want something that’s already been proven to work, here is a blog post about using spray paint for car vinyl. It looks like the only downside to that is there are limited colors and you have to take all the mold release off first.
5. Modeling Pastes
Like their name suggests, these are pastes that you can model with. Since they’re pastes, they stick to surfaces very well but they also stick to your fingers, making them very hard to shape. An easy way around it that I found, is to put a sheet of plastic wrap over it after you’ve used a spatula to lay down the amount you want. The plastic wrap acts as a barrier and allows you to shape it freely, just peel it off carefully once your done. To get it perfectly smooth, you can sand the area when its dry.
- Golden Modeling Paste is flexible when dry, unlike the Liquitex one. It flexes nicely along with the vinyl head. I’d use this, rather than flexible clay, because it really adheres to the vinyl and won’t come off when you flex it. You can use it to add onto and change any facial features you want! If you press into it with your nail when it’s dry you will make an indent. It does seem to be very resilient though, you’ll immediately see the indent start to disappear and can barely even tell it was there after a while. I am going to make a Navi using this stuff to build up the nose and mouth. There is a lighter kind you can get, it seems basically the same. It just weighs less and feels a bit spongier.
- Liquitex’s basic modeling paste is not flexible. However they do have a special one that is. I haven’t tried it yet as I’ve had no luck finding it. This inflexible modeling paste is not necessary, you can just use epoxy or air dry clay on the body. However it does help to fill out and smooth the surface of a sculpt if you have any little dips or divots. It thins with water and sands very easily.
This is the end of the first part of my tutorial! I still have a lot more to talk about. As far as just my materials go I have yet to mention my pastels, water color pencils, acrylic paint, paint mediums, paintbrushes, sparkley stuff, varnish and glosses, rerooting supplies, glue and clay. And then I still have my actual repainting process to post about!
Please ask me if you have any specific questions, or would simply like me to elaborate on any part! I can even take more pictures. It makes me happy to share the information that I’ve learned! I hope the all the above info helped out. :)