I didn't really get the chance to take decent photos of these guys while I was working on them but Austin R. was kind enough to take snapshots of these...
This tutorial does not apply to the Ghoul’s Alive line. A Different type of plastic is used for the line’s heads. Using Acetone will result in melting the plastic.
This tutorial is covered in two parts:
Tools of the trade
Before we jump right into the fun bit, it’s important to get to know your tools. These are just a list of tools I use prefer to use. It’s good to understand their properties and qualities to achieve effects that you are going for.
My tools are generally divided in the following categories:
- Seals: Mr. Super Clear UV Flat, gloss and matte varnish
- Pigments: Acrylic paint, Soft pastels, water color pencils
- Tools: Brushes, cotton q-tips, kneaded eraser
If you’re familiar with digital programs like Photoshop, Sai, Painter, Manga Studio, or MyPaint, seals are essentially the equivalent of how layers are used during the repaint process for me. Unlike digital programs though, there is no “undo” feature once you’ve done something with your canvas but to start over from scratch. Seals keep your work intact, protected and enhanced.
Mr. Super Clear UV Flat
If you do any kind of doll repaint, Mr. Super Clear UV Flat is an absolute necessary part of your tool kit. Mr. Super Clear was especially designed for resin and vinyl dolls. As such, the finish has a “toothy” texture that allows pastels and powders to stick to surfaces that it’s sprayed on.
Other types of matte sprays are specifically designed for traditional art surfaces such as oil paintings, wood paneling, or canvases which will cause a yellowing effect if applied to vinyl or resin, sometimes even damage it due to unusual chemical reactions. Mr. Super Clear is available at most hobby stores, Junkyspot and Amazon. It’s been particularly hard to get it lately but it’s usually available for $16-$20 in the US.
When using this stuff, make sure you do it outside or a well ventilated area with a mask on. It’s absolutely toxic and very bad for your lungs! Make sure that you shake the can before you spray it to make sure that all the contents are properly mixed. Spray within 1-2 feet of the doll’s face to get an even coating. Don’t use this if there is too much humidity since the moisture will prevent the seal from adhering to the surface properly and cause white flakes.
From personal experience, Mr. Super Clear doesn’t seem to take well to Monster High bodies and flakes off eventually. If you really wanted to, apply Mr Super Clear UV GLOSS, then apply the flat version. My theory is that the plastic used for the bodies are too smooth for any of the sealer to actually hold on to, much like why mentos explodes when you drop it in soda.
Since it’s been relatively hard to get a hold of this lately, I try to use it sparingly. Use as little of this as possible anyway not just for cost but for health and because it’s good for your work in general. All you need is 5-10 seconds of applying the sealant for one layer, just enough to coat the surface very lightly. Too many layers will cause cracks in your work or a caking effect.
Gloss and Matte Varnish
I acquired my first Gloss and Matte Varnish from Dollyhair so I’m not really sure what brand it is. I have seen Liquitex Gloss and Matte varnish by most doll artists. At first I just never used any but boy is it a huge improvement when you do!
If used during the repaint process, apply gloss or matte varnish over the sclera (white part of the eye) before you draw the irises. The result is you get something of a translucent, watery effect just like with real eyes. When used as a finish, it enhances and helps make colors “pop.”
These are essentially items you would use to color or paint with.
I use a brand called “Pro Art Soft Pastels.” I have had this set since I was in High School (which was a very long time ago!) and have used these to make realistic miniature food, illustrations, basically anything where you want/need to control areas of blush/dirt.
This is the first thing to apply for a doll repaint since they are really easy to mess up due to unintentional smudges or just overdoing it. Sometimes it helps to plan your doll repaint process since it’s difficult to imagine your work finished when all you are looking at are blushed areas. However, applying the soft pastels first also adds that added “toothy” texture to hold your acrylics or water color pencils when it’s time to draw the face on.
Due to the nature of soft pastels, this is also why I apply a sealer on a blank face before any actual painting happens: 1) To create a layer that protects the vinyl from getting stained; 2) Tooth for the pastel pigments to hold on to. If you ever make a mistake and need to start over, it all gets wiped off clean.
They’re so versatile! I have been using Liquitex Basic Acrylics for years. They’ve always been reliable and accessible for various artistic experiments I’ve done in the past. They’re like glorious versions of watercolors for me. They don’t fade with time, and they’re perfect for doll repaints since they sort of dry in some kind of rubbery consistency that just “bends” with the plastic.
If you’ve worked with acrylics on flat surfaces, don’t be afraid to apply similar techniques on uneven surfaces… like doll faces. You can achieve some interesting effects.
Water Color Pencils
In some cases, brand name matters. I have tried other brands of water color pencils but nothing quite works like Prismacolor. I’ve avoided Prismacolor in the past because they were just so expensive! For good reason though. The colors are vibrant and they’re solid! They make other color pencils look and feel like crayon in comparison. Whatever kind of pigment was used to make Primsacolor pencils, they have a tendency to adhere better to the toothy surface of Mr. Super Clear.
If you ever make a mistake with these, just apply water and start over! They achieve nice crisp lines, sometimes finer and more controlled than what you can do with a brush. They also help me with those nice gradient effects if the acrylics aren’t quite working with me.
Pearl EX Pigment Powders
I think these were meant to be for calligraphy ink effects. I used to use these in clay miniatures or illustrations to add that glorious “sparkly effect.” It was less tacky than using glitter. It looks even better on dolls. Use sparingly unless unicorns are involved.
I personally don’t have any preferred size. It’s just very important that you get a hold of the tiniest brush accessible to you. They are easily found at any hobby or craft stores. Junkyspot and Dollyhair sell tiny brushes ideal for doll repaints if you don’t want to hassle yourself with research.
Available at any grocery store near you! They help with the clean up, they can also be used as make shift brushes or an alternative to sponge brushes to apply pastels or any powdery type stuff. Awesome.
These usually come in grey and are those rubber, doughy stuff used with charcoal pencils. They’re available in any art store. The fact that they are like clay makes them ideal to use for correcting stray blushes and erasing pencil mistakes. Remember to knead the eraser often so that you’re always using a “fresh” side. If you accidentally use a stained area, it will result in unwanted smudges.
Okay… Let’s paint.
The process is essentially: 1) Apply sealant, 2) Apply blush, 3) Apply Sealant, 4) Apply acrylics/watercolor pencils. Sealant is applied every time you are satisfied with what you’ve done with a layer or you want to secure it. Try to limit your sealant to 5-6 applications.
Apply blush! I want to keep Rochelle’s make up so she keeps her pink eye shadow and lips. I used a round brush and q-tips to apply the soft pastels.
Because pastels get smudged very easily, I seal this again to keep it in tact. We move on to the next layer.
I like to place outlines because I like to color inside lines. I used watercolor pencils to outline the eye shape, eye lids and some detail work on her lips.
Still on the same layer, I painted her sclera. I used watercolor pencils to enhance the sclera with shadows when the paint dried and applied gloss varnish. I seal it again so I can work on the next layer.
I painted her iris. Defined parts of her make up with color pencils.
More definition with water color pencils!
If I’m content with the resulting eyes and lips, I apply seal to secure it so I can do the eyebrows on another layer. That way eyebrows can be drawn and erased as many times without disturbing the layers below. I usually use a color pencil and lightly sketch out the eye brows until I get a good shape. I turn the doll upside down to draw the opposite eyebrow to help with symmetry.
One more seal!
More definition work to make things pop, applied white highlights to the eye and one last seal! I dabbed a bit of Pearl Pigment on her iris which looks really nice and glittery. Gloss varnish applied to the eyes and lips and she’s done!
Attach the head back on the body and pour boiling water over her head to straighten her bangs back. The hot water should also remove the greasiness.
There you have it! Be sure to watch out for other repaint subjects.