Sunday, 2 November 2014

Custom doll making - how to remove factory paint

This post is about everything you will need to get started repainting your dolls. Some items can be swapped out for a cheaper option if cost is a factor, but there are a few products that cannot be compromised on. There is a lot out there on this step so I will try to keep it brief.

You will need:
Mr Super Clear
Cotton balls and buds
Soap and water (cleaning wipes are also useful)
Face mask

- Paint Removal
Before you can start creating your own masterpiece you will need to remove the factory paint. This can be done by using a solvent or sanding, but I would definitely recommend using a solvent on the head as you are less likely to damage the vinyl (as long as you wash all the solvent off with warm soapy water).

100% acetone is the best thing to use for this step. Acetone is the active ingredient in nail polish remover. You can use nail polish remover if you don't have pure acetone but it is not as effective.

Use cotton buds and balls to wipe away the factory paint. Then, wash off any acetone with luke-warm water and soap. It is very important to remove ALL the acetone as if left it will eat away the vinyl.

When it comes to removing paint on the body, however, DO NOT use acetone. It affects the plastic extremely fast. It will literally melt your doll. Besides this, it is hard to keep the solvent out of the joints. This will severely weaken the plastic and it will start to go powdery after a few days. Trust me, you don't want this to happen. Once weakened, the plastic will snap under any kind of pressure.

To remove factory paint from the body -e.g. Frankie's stitches - take a piece of fine sand paper 400-600 is usually good. Gently sand the area in a circular motion. The paint will come off quite easily, but be patient and don't press too hard as this may scratch the doll too deeply. If she looks scratchy after all the paint is removed just take a finer grain of sandpaper and smooth her out.

* make sure you have lots of cotton balls on hand and don't use the same piece of cotton to re-wipe. The paint will simply transfer from the cotton to your doll's face and become a smudgy mess.

* it can be tricky to get into the gap between the lips. Use a toothpick with a little cotton wrapped around the end and squeeze the doll cheeks. As she pouts you can get into the gap with your tiny cotton bud.

- Sealant
Before you start working on your (now face-less) doll you will need to seal the vinyl with Mr Super Clear (MSC). MSC is one of those products I mentioned that cannot be compromised on. It provides a truly matte surface with significant 'tooth' for your pigments to stick to. Other sealants I have used have been shiny (despite declaring they are 'matte'), crack easily and don't give enough of said 'tooth'. It can be hard to find in stores but is widely available online.

Hold the can on a 45° angle about 20cm from your doll's face and spray from left to right and back again. While you want complete coverage, don't saturate as this may cause drips and will take forever to dry.

You seal your work as you go, kinda like a 'save' button

* make sure you don't squeeze your doll's head after applying sealer as it will probably cause the surface to crack.

* always seal before you start to avoid discoloration of the vinyl.

* always use a face mask when using MSC to protect your lungs.

Taking the factory paint off for the first time can be quite daunting. Just remember you are aiming to improve your doll and it will all be worth it in the end. If you are intimidated by the thought of completely starting from scratch then start off small. Only remove, say, the lips or eyebrows and practice just those areas.

The first doll you paint probably won't end up looking how you imagined. It's not easy and, like anything worthwhile, takes practice. My first repaint was pretty appalling, but I still keep her on the shelf to remind me how far I've come.

Doll painting is such an amazing creative outlet and above all it's fun - which is what dolls are supposed to be.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me, either through email or the comments section below.                    ,


  1. This article is very helpful and informative. Painting with Airless sprayer is so much faster and tidier. Thank you for sharing!

    Airless Spray

  2. If I just want to change to skin tone of my doll, but keep the factory paint, could I use msc or would it react to the factory paint? PLEASE HELP

  3. Should the face mask be a gas mask or can you wear a surgical mask?