Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Custom Doll Making - how to reroot hair

A huge part of the look of any doll comes down to the hair. And unless you can incorporate the locks she (or he!) was given in the factory into your design, you need to either re-root she hair or replace it with a wig.

A wig can be fitted at any time during the customisation process, however, if you choose to re-root the hair it needs to be completed before you start repainting. This is because the re-root is not going to be gentle. You often need to squeeze the head which may cause sealant to crack and you will generally be handling the face. Repaints are fragile and usually meant for display as opposed to play. Therefore, they must always be handled with care.

There are many different fibres out there that can be used for doll hair, both natural and synthetic. You can use human hair but I generally work with either nylon or mohair.

For this tutorial I will be using nylon hair and will use mohair in my next tutorial on wig-making.

The hair I am using is "Pussycat" nylon hair from

My 2 'scrapers' a blackhead
remover (left) and clay
working tool (right)
You will need:
Your doll
Small cup/jug of boiling water
Needle nose pliers
'Scraper' (see right)
Doll Hair
Acetone (if painting scalp)
Acrylic paint (matched a closely as possible to the new hair colour)(if painting)
Re-rooting tool

Step 1 - Remove the head
Simply point a hairdryer at the back of the neck  for about 30 seconds - 1 minute.
GENTLY pull the head from the body. You may need to wriggle it a bit and reapply heat if it does not come away easily.

* wear gloves because her head will be hot!

MH heads are attached with a pronged coupling which will bend if the head is simply pulled off. If this is done, the head will not sit firmly when returned to the body and flop all over the place. Not pretty.

Step 2 - Cut off all the hair with scissors
Get as close to the scalp as possible as the more hair to get rid of now, the easier it will be in ...

Step 3 - place the doll's head into a cup of boiling water for about 30-45 seconds.
(BE CAREFUL! Always use tongs and if in doubt, gloves.)
This will melt the glue in the head. Then, take your 'scraper' or pliers and scrape the plugs from the inside of the scalp.

I've tried many methods of removing the plugs from the inside, whatever works, really. The blackhead remover is good as it has a loop on the end making it less likely to accidentally puncture the head (which can happen very easily when the vinyl is hot). It also has a point on the other end to poke in difficult plugs. I got mine from Priceline for about $5.
The other thing I use is a clay working tool. It is wooden, with a curved end so great for avoiding holes-in-the-head.

Use your tweezers to remove any stubborn plugs.

Step 4 - remove any paint from the scalp using acetone or nail polish remover and repaint with acrylic paint to match the colour of the new hair.

* make sure you wash your doll THOUROUGHLY with soap and water after cleaning with acetone. Remember, is a solvent and will eat away at the vinyl if not washed off.

Let dry completely, then seal with MSC. This will stop the paint from flaking off while you are inserting the new plugs.

For a video on steps 1-4 check out part 1 of my hair re-root tutorial  at

 Step 5 - insert the new hair.
Take a small amount of hair. You only need a tiny bit as it will be folded.
Wrap the strand around your index finger to create a loop.
Using the re-root tool, catch the strand in the loop and pull tight so it is firmly wrapped around the tool.
Insert the re-root tool into the head using the holes from her old hair and then gently pull the tool out.
The hair should stay in place as long as it is not pulled too hard

* there's no right or wrong place to start, some people like to start out on the part and others at the nape of the neck. Whatever is comfortable to you.
VoilĂ !

And that's the hard bit, done! Now you just have to do that a couple of hundred times! Hehe, sorry! It's not that hard, but it is time consuming!

Step 6 -affix the hair on the inside of the scalp with glue. You want an adhesive that is no too thick so it can reach all areas inside her head and not too thin so it doesn't seep through the plug holes. I'm using wash-n-wear so I can use hot water to style her hair later.

Step 7 - style
Sometimes it is fine to leave this until after the face up as the hair will be wrapped during painting. However, if you want to set curls it's probably best to do before painting so you don't steam her face up off!

And you're done!

No comments:

Post a Comment