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****[Customizers!: I currently have Monster High dolls on sale for anyone looking for bases for customs, and to help support this site and the tutorials]****

Customizing fashion dolls can be just as fun and creative as making a doll from scratch! Here is a little basic tutorial on how you can go about customizing fashion dolls such as Barbie and Monster High into your own characters and style!

Supplies:

  • Fashion Doll
  • Nail polish remover/ purse acetone
  • acrylic paints
  • flat sealant spray (such as Mr Super clear flat or Dulcoat)
  • Spray paint (If you need to change the color of the skin tone)
  • hank of rooting hair
  • rooting tool or rooting needle
  • Gloss Varnish

The 1st step is the hardest! Once you have the doll you want to mod and your supplies together, it's time to take a deep breath, and start the wiping!

Using your nail polish remover or pure acetone, gently sort of "scoop" away the make up. It doesn't come off as easy and clean as nail polish. Try not to spread the paint around as you work to remove the original makeup, keeping the paint as localized as possible will make the job easier.

I had surprisingly good luck with acetone free nail polish remover which came away especially clean.

The next stage (if you want to change the hair) is to start removing the original hair.

With a pair of small thread or embroidery scissors, cut away the hair as close to the scalp as possible.

 

Once the hair is cut, using a pair of needle nose pliers or tweezers etc start to scrape away the glue inside the head. This should also pull with it the hair through the roots in the head.

It takes a while, but work away till every piece of hair is removed, and pull the glue/hair out of the head with your pliers/tweezers as you go.

Now the painting!

With monster High dolls especially, there is a good chance you'll want to change the color of the skin. Lot's of people have different ways they like to achieve this, but the way I prefer is spray paint.

There are spray paints out there that specifically bond with plastics which is great for dolls where there are a lot of moving parts to help prevent scratching..

Spray with light layers and build up letting each layer dry first. Also remember the different poses you might want! Once the 1st coat dries try to change the pose and spray any new parts that are showing up in the original color till your whole doll is the color you desire.

Spray Paint Pointers:

While most spray paints will set well on the hard plastic. The soft Vinyl head can be problematic. Krylon Fusion is wonderful on the body, but will never set on the head.

For regular spray paint a generous coating of primer will help the paint cure. My favorite option is to look for vinyl spray dyes. They come in relatively limited colors, but are designed to bond with plastics hard and soft. Brands to look out for are...

Brillo VHT (loved this one)*
Grisson/Magix (leather dye) * SEM
Meltonian Nu-Life Color Spray Krylon Fusion* (body only)
(* indicates paints I have tested and used I'll be adding new paints and dyes to the list as I find and try them so keep checking back!)

 

When we start painting the face the desire to go fast and get a true opaque color first stroke is strong! But apply your paint in thin layers bit by bit. It takes a little longer but helps avoid leaving brush marks and is the way to go to get a nice smooth factory like finish.

I like to start with the eyes, slowly building up all the block colors first.

When painting the eyes, do each step on each eye before moving onto the next color/step. It is much easier to replicate each brush stoke on the left then the right eye step by step that it is to copy a finished eye from scratch.

I like to keep drawing in any outlines to last to keep those lines as true and clean as possible.

Once your face up is complete, give it a coat of flat sealant to help keep it in place.

Add a little gloss varnish to the lips to really give the face some pop and polish!

Re-Rooting the hair!

To re-root the hair you will first want to paint the area you will be re-rooting on the head the color of the hair you will be rooting with (as seen above) I recommend using a re-rooting tool such as the ones available from dollyhair.com. You can also DIY a similar tool by cutting the eye of a size 10 needle off at the top and at a slight angle, and slipping into the handle of an exacto knife or scalpel!

Hair Types:

I've used both Nylon (see Maria Curie) and Saran (Lochturna Ness) and both looked lovely. Saran is the closest to the original Monster High and modern barbie hair, Nylon closer to My Little Pony.

I'm a big fan of dollyhair.com's doll hair. I find one Barbie sized hank will root a whole Monster High head with a little to spare. Pick up a cheaper RD hank for any high light colors and cut to the desired length.

First you'll need to separate a small section of hair off your main hank
Then holding it as you'll see in the photo between your first and middle fingers at one end, and your thumb and ring finger at the other, hold the separated hear about 1mm above your dolls head, with the center of your length of hair over the spot you want to root.
Then with the longest side of the needle facing towards your hair, scoop up a few hairs, and push the needle though the hole taking the hair with it. Push the needle in all they way (you should have about 1" or 2cm of needle exposed to push into the head)

When you take the hair and needle out and away you will see your first plug looking great in your dolls head!

Repeat this for every hole in the head. You may need to use a thicker needle to punch in extra holes as well if you want to add say an extra part in the dolls hair for pigtails for example.

When you have all your hair rooted, spread a generous amount of fabric glue around inside the head to hold everything safely in place. (Fabric glue is best because it won't soften in water when it comes time to style your dolls hair)

To style to hair just secure the hair in the direction you want by, for example, wrapping the hair and head with saran wrap, and dipping the hair you want to style in hot or boiling water for a minute or 2. Different types of doll hair require different heats of water, so test a strand first! Some do well with boiling water, some can melt at that temp, so a strand test is always recommended before to commence styling.
If you want to curl the hair, then take up the section you want to sit in each curl like so
With the fibers smooth wrap with a little tissue or parchment paper to help keep all the hairs uniform

Roll the wrapped hair around a drinking straw, and use a little bobby pin to secure!

The dip in hot water as before. Once the hair has dried some and cooled off, you can unroll and arrange the hair.

I hope you found this tutorial helpful, and that you'll be able to use this as a starting point for making your own custom fashion dolls!

 

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