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Experiment: Shrinking vinyl heads with acetone

Did you know that you can “shrink” vinyl doll heads like Barbie and Monster High by submerging them in an acetone bath? That’s right! If  you’re not a fan of the large-headed doll trend, you can always shrink those heads to match their tiny bodies.

I happen to have a headless MyScene head that sat neglected for 5 years because it was so difficult to find a body with a matching skin tone. Coincidentally, Cece from Disney VIP line was a perfect match.


Not bad, right? Unfortunately that face is going to have to come off due to the anticipated acetone bath…


I do happen to be a fan of the big headed doll aesthetic but one of the issues of rebody-ing a doll is that the neck hole might be too small, or in this instance, too big.


The idea is that acetone deteriorates plasticizer content in the vinyl head, the part that makes it soft and pliable. As a result, the head shrinks. Before a head shrinks, it expands. They MyScene head was half submerged in 100% acetone for 3 hours and left to dry for 24-48 hours to make sure all the acetone has evaporated.


After a 48-hour wait, the lower half of the head dipped in acetone has shrunk and fits more snuggly for the Disney VIP body. The head was washed thoroughly to make sure there wasn’t any acetone residue which could melt the hard plastic body.


I got the results I was looking for which is great! You can’t even tell that the head was subjected to an acetone bath unless you know what to look for. There is a very subtle seam that is barely noticeable. I had to darken the photo to make it more obvious. It’s a very minor flaw that a good repaint can hide.


The downside to acetone baths in an attempt to modify vinyl heads is that it’s completely unpredictable. Even dolls from the same manufacturer seem to vary in results, how long they need to be submerged and how long it takes for the head to deflate. This isn’t the kind of process that can be reliably used for customizing purposes since there is no guarantee you’ll actually get the results you want or expect.

Further reading:

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Wow! I have never heard of this before but it’s pretty darn cool. Makes me wonder who first figured this out and also how- was it an accident? Side effect of some other process? Just fooling around or experimenting?
    I have a Barbie head I’ve been wanting to put on a VIP body with the same problem of the too-big hole, and now I can finally solve it! Yay and thank you!

  2. Is it likely to depend on the quality of the vinyl in regards to results. I have a fake Sindy I’d like to try it on so she might fit an Obitsu but it doesn’t feel great quality very squashy something I’d say more reminiscent of a Poundland doll. I’m guessing that might not work out so well.

    1. I don’t know. Shrinking anything with acetone is extremely experimental. It’s hard to predict any results unless you’re willing to put in time (and materials) to do a laboratory type setup to get consistent results. ^^;

  3. I’ve used 100% acetone to remove the glitter on Blind Bag MLPs where I wanted to keep the Cutie Mark and the eyes intact. I put vaseline on the spots I wanted to keep (since acetone will make the paint come off) and the acetone didn’t affect them at all while the glitter just floated away.

  4. you can shrink the doll head without damaging the face paint and hair by using normal nail polish remover. I just leave it for 12 hours. dolls with fiber hair ( style magic Barbie type of hair) will become frizzy if dolls have silky hair it wont damaged. I have notice that if the doll head is very soft they wont . you can check some of the dolls I have shrink on my flickr acount.

  5. Thank you for the tutorial and for trying this out so pople can see the actual results, i knew about this and it has been nagging at me since EAH dolls came out as I really think their heads are oversized but then after much consoderation i think it isnt just the size of EAH heads but also the Rugby Ball like shape of them…..What do you think?

    1. I don’t mind the size of EAH doll heads and in a weird way, it works really well with the cartoony aesthetic of the body. What I don’t like is the actual sculpt. It only looks good from the front but it’s really disappointing from the sides. The eye style is very beautiful but would look better if it was rounder to go with the actual sculpt.

      If EAH heads were a lot smaller, would it be better? Personally I doubt it due to the flatness of the actual sculpt. Repaints definitely improve the sculpt.

    1. It would take several experiments to get an average of how much shrinkage occurs. I don’t think anyone has the time or money for that so it’s always a good idea to try this out on a bait doll for explicit experimentation. If it works out, great. If not, you lose a bait doll.

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