Painting on Vinyl
on This Page:
~ Brief History of
Coloring the Inside of Vinyl
How to Apply the
Oil Paints to Vinyl
Allow Time to
Dry & Cure
~ Sealers &
~ Oil Paint is Not
Color on Vintage Dolls
BRIEF HISTORY OF REBORN
Reborn artists use many
different kinds of paints and colors to blush and tint
the bodies of their vinyl dolls. Initially they used
acrylic craft paints and stamp pad inks.
Eventually RIT dye, lipstick
colors, stencil paints and glass paints also became
popular for tinting and blushing. As I write this, the
reborners have experimented with just about everything
from the craft and art supply stores.
Vinyl is an oil-based product,
so you need to select paint or glue that will adhere to
vinyl. Even if the product you apply today seems to work
ok, within a matter of days or weeks the vinyl can work
against it and repel it.
Acrylic based paints didn't
adhere well and had a tendency to flake off the vinyl -
especially if the paint was thinned with water first;
which is what they were doing with the reborn
Yes, acrylic paints are used
for the popular fashion doll "repaints." You
can use acrylic paint on vinyl, but you should buy good
quality artist acrylic paints and don't
thin them with lots of water.
The acrylics are not suitable
for blushing the reborn dolls or creating skin tones, but
they are useful for eyebrows, fingernails and lip color.
OIL PAINT ADVANTAGES
Oil Paints have been used on
Reborn dolls for a relatively short time, so there is a
lot to be learned yet about the long-term affect of oil
paints on vinyl dolls. This method for coloring vinyl is
still experimental. However, I am excited about Oil
Painting on vinyl because it seems that this method
offers many advantages.
- SELECTION &
FLEXIBILITY. Oil Paints offer more selection and
flexibility. When you start using Oil Paint on
vinyl, it's as if you've walked into a different
room that is bigger, brighter and better than
where you've been before. But you have to go INTO
the room to know the difference. There are more
choices and you can do more, when you switch to
- TRANSPARENT. Some brands
of oil paints are transparent: which is a nice
surprise. I think it's important to tint the
vinyl rather than obscure it, so I prefer to
select oil colors that are as transparent as
possible. We think transparency is a very
important consideration when making reborn dolls.
After all, we selected the translucent vinyl
because of it's lifelike glow. Therefore, I don't
want to paint over that lovely vinyl and obscure
it: I prefer to enhance the vinyl with
- LIGHTFAST. Some of the
better brands of oil paints have ratings for
Lightfastness. How permanent are the colors you
are using? There are very few brands that will
tell you. None of the craft brands that I have
seen give any explanation about their product.
The Scuola brand of oil paint that I use does
provide that info. Therefore, there is no
guessing: I know I'm using colors that have the
absolute best chance of holding up over time.
PRACTICE FIRST... The Oil
colors are intense so if you have not used oil paints
before, approach the doll CAUTIOUSLY and apply very SMALL
amounts until you are comfortable with how the oil paints
work on vinyl.
SAFFLOWER OIL MEDIUM
We recommend SAFFLOWER OIL MEDIUM for thinning the oil paints. There are
problems with any other kinds of oil mediums. Linseed oil
has a tendency to turn yellow over time. This is not
noticeable on a painting where only a very little bit of
oil has been used, but when making reborn dolls we do use
a lot of oil to thin the color. Therefore, the yellowing
could become very evident in a few years. Safflower oil
medium does not yellow as it ages.
DON'T USE COOKING OIL... (Do
not use Safflower cooking oil or other cooking oils with
your paints: it is NOT the same thing as oil mediums and
will turn gummy eventually.
DON'T USE BABY OIL or LOTION...
Some people use baby oil, baby lotion or other kinds of
body lotions to thin their paints. Paint technicians say
that baby oil never dries, and it "spoils" the
paint. Baby oil is an absolutely non-drying oil.
Theoretically, this means that
the baby oil will continue to seep through the vinyl year
after year. It may not be possible for the paint color to
stabilize: the oil colors will continue to spread and
migrate through the vinyl. There may always be gradual
changes, and not always for the better.
One other concern about using
non-drying oil on vinyl: will the vinyl eventually
destabilize and become mushy? This happened to early
vinyl dolls from the 50's. Eventually, oil seeped from
the vinyl, the dolls got sticky and there was general
breakdown of the vinyl. Eventually the dolls needed to be
thrown away. Therefore, using a lot of oil on vinyl has
some risks involved as well. We could actually ruin the
vinyl with excessive use of oil.
Because the reborn methods are
experimental, we don't know the long term affects that
these methods will have. Moderation is always the safest
Having said ALL that... how much safflower
oil medium do you need to use? Not much. I dabbed a little oil into the
paint until it was a consistency I liked and then I used
makeup sponges to apply the mixture. The paint soaked
into the Special Edition doll body that I was using and I
didn't need to wipe any of it off. The blush colors will
need more oil than the skin tone colors.
LIQUID ALKYD (RESIN)
Liquid Alkyd (or Liquin is
another brand) is an oil medium that accelerates the
drying time. Liquid Alkyd helps to thin and
transparentize the oil paint, besides adding a drying
This sounds good, but the
Liquid Alkyd prevents the oil colors from soaking into
the vinyl. The color sits on top of the vinyl and tends
to streak and smear. So I don't recommend using it for
blushing or applying any kind of color to the BODY of the
HOWEVER... the Liquid Alkyd does have it's
useful purpose for Reborn Artists: Debbie R. uses it when
painting doll lips. She says the oil colors stay where
she puts them. The colors don't soak into the surrounding
vinyl and make a mess, even after many months later.
Ordinarily, oil paints tend to
bleed into the surrounding vinyl, so the doll's mouth
ends up with a "koolaid mustache." But when
Debbie applies the Alkyd resin first, this
"bleeding" does not occur. Debbie thinks the
Alkyd resin medium is probably the reason why this does
not happen with her dolls. The Alkyd resin prevents the
oil paints from spreading.
To learn Debbie's special
technique for using Oil Paint on the doll's lips, CLICK HERE.
RISKS OF COLORING THE
INSIDE OF VINYL
If you use oil paints for the
INSIDE purple color wash, there is considerable risk for
eventual "bruising", because it is even MORE
likely that the purple oils will seep through the vinyl.
Bruising occurs when the blue colors inside the vinyl
pieces leech through to the outside and look like bad
bruises on the babydoll. Even acrylic color has been
known to cause bruising after a year or so... There is
even more risk of bruising with oils since the oil base
has even more ability to seep through.
CLICK HERE to read all about painting the inside
of vinyl: why the reborn artists do it, and the problems
that have developed.
If you use oil paints for
tinting and blushing only the outside
of the doll there probably won't be a problem with
unwanted bruising or coloring later.
Debbie's Reborn Gallery says she has abandoned the inside
coloring altogether now, because she was having problems
with dolls turning into strange colors later on. Since
she can get the results she wants using the oil paints,
she is very happy. Debbie doesn't think that anything has
been sacrificed by foregoing the inside colors. Oil
Paints allow her to give the doll all the depth,
dimension, and subtle shading that she wants.
If you do decide to color the
inside of the vinyl pieces: go lightly. Never use heavy
color inside the doll. Even if it looks good now, there
will be changes after months or years. This is true no
matter what kind of paint or dye you use. Caution and
moderation are good habits.
HOW TO APPLY THE OIL
PAINTS TO VINYL
Squeeze a little of your oil
paint colors onto a palette or disposable plastic plate.
Use a brush or palette knife to mix the colors as
desired. Add safflower oil to thin the paints as desired.
I dabbed a little safflower oil
into the paint until it was a consistency I liked. I
didn't use a lot of the oil, because the Scuola paints
are creamy and don't need a lot of thinning. The paint
will take longer to dry if you add oil medium to it, so
you don't want to use any more than necessary.
You will probably add more
safflower oil to the blush colors, than the skin tone
colors, in order to make the blush colors more delicate.
The red oil paints are very vivid, so add white or Flesh
color and safflower oil to make the delicate rosy shades
that are so beautiful on infants.
Then I used makeup sponges to
apply the paint. The paint soaked into the Special
Edition doll body that I was using and I didn't need to
wipe any of it off.
My experience is only with the
Scuola paints ~ so your method may vary due to the
consistency or characteristics of the paint. I
specifically selected Scuola colors that are transparent
because I only want to TINT the vinyl, not obscure it. I
don't think it's necessary to cover the doll in a layer
of paint. The Berenguer vinyl is beautiful, we don't need
to hide it.
You only need a little bit of
paint and a little bit of oil. A little bit goes a long
You can use brushes or sponges
to apply the colors. This is especially true when you
apply the blush colors. Since oil colors are intense,
apply small amounts and be cautious until you are more
comfortable with painting vinyl. In fact, it would be a
good idea to make a practice doll first
before you try
oils on an expensive doll.
sponges are a wonderful tool to work with. They provide
more flexibility than fingers, for applying paint in tiny
crevices. In fact, I don't think that fingers alone do a
very good job. It bothers me when the blush is on the
surface of the vinyl but the creases and wrinkle lines
are uncolored. Makeup sponges can get into places where your fingers
can't. And, the sponges are gentle: they don't damage the
PAPER TOWELS... I've heard that some people are using a
lot of paper towels to clean the paint off the dolls, but
I don't understand why this is necessary. Is the paint
real thick and hard?
I'm concerned that paper towels
will remove the textured surface of the vinyl, and once
that happens, there will be a slick shiny spot that
doesn't accept color as well. It's important to protect the textured
When I use the creamy Scuola oil paints and apply them with sponges, there is
no waste. All the paint soaks into the vinyl and there
isn't anything extra to wipe off. That's why I've
wondered about the paper towels. Maybe there is a big
difference in the texture of different brands of oil
If your paint is thick and
hard, I suggest that you try other brands until you find
one that is easy to work with.
DEFINITELY ALLOW TIME TO
"CURE" THE OIL PAINTS
If we use oil paints on vinyl
dolls, the paint needs plenty of time to dry. It also
needs several weeks to "cure"... therefore it
will take at least one month to make a reborn doll using
Many changes take place during
the Cure time. One artist says she never knows exactly
what the doll will look like until at least 3 weeks
later, when the colors have soaked in, spread out,
blended and dried. And, sometimes she needs to do a
little more touch up on the doll during the Curing
process. So don't rush it. Take your time.
For one thing, it's a very bad
idea to apply any kind of sealer over the oil paint until
it is completely dry. Otherwise you could lock in
moisture, which causes various problems in vinyl.
If you do apply a sealer, we
recommend low gloss silicone protectant such as Vinylex. Don't use varnish or other sealers
that are traditionally used on oil paintings, because
they will crack and crackle on vinyl.
SEALERS & FINISHES... Although sealer may not be
necessary, it's probably a good idea to put some kind of
protectant on your doll. But don't apply ANY sealers
until after your doll is completely finished, thoroughly
dried and cured. Make sure you are completely done with
your doll, because once a sealer is applied it will work
against you if you try to make additional modifications.
We recommend several sealers
for vinyl dolls. Low gloss silicone is possibly our
favorite for sealing the body. Acrylic type sealers are
good for lips and fingernails. CLICK HERE to learn about our favorite sealers and
OIL PAINT IS NOT FOR
We don't recommend using the
oil paints for fingernails, eyebrows, nail polish, lips
etc. It is better to use GLASS PAINT for the lips, or Acrylics for the
facial features. Oil paint tends to soak into the vinyl
and spread out. It won't stay where you put it.
Oil paint should not be used on
the lips unless you use the Liquid Alkyd resin with it.
Even with the Liquid Alkyd, use only small amounts of the
oil paint. (See the section on
Liquid Alkyd, on this page.)
RESTORING FLESH COLOR ON
Some of the vintage doll
collectors are using RIT DYE to re-color their old dolls which have
faded. I've heard the PlayPal collectors are doing this,
because the arms of the PlayPal dolls sometimes turn a
ghostly white. They try to restore the color using dye. I
don't know what "recipe" they are using or what
their method is.
The RIT dye manufacturers
suggest this formula for mixing FLESH color with RIT dye:
Use 1 part of Tan and 1 part of Peach dye.
One collector recently used our
Flesh color oil paint to color the arms of her
PlayPal doll, and she is very happy with the results. She
used makeup sponges to apply the flesh color, and removed
the excess with a soft cloth. It was not necessary to
take the doll apart (one advantage over RIT dye.) And,
our Flesh color paint is permanent and lightfast, which
means that the color will not fade or change. I'm not
convinced that RIT is very permanent or lightfast.
vintage Chatty Cathy dolls have arms and legs
which have a tendency to turn a very sallow,
sickly color. My own Chatty was difficult to
paint using the oils, and it took a very long
time to dry. I did not apply a sealer over the
paint when she was finished, so the paint tends
to pick up dirt even faster than the vinyl did. I don't
think oil paints are a very good solution for
restoring color on vintage dolls, or any dolls
that are intended for children. RIT Dye is
probably the best option.
Disclaimer: The methods for
making Reborn vinyl dolls are experimental. We try to
offer the best materials and suggestions that are
available. However, we cannot make any guarantees or
warrantees about results, partly because methods and
results are in your hands. And, the long term affects of
oil paints on vinyl are not yet known. Therefore, use of
these instructions is subject to your own discretion and
your own risk.
For more information on Oil
Paints and Oil Mediums, this book is recommended: THE
ARTIST'S HANDBOOK OF MATERIALS & TECHNIQUES by Ralph
Meyer. This book is considered the ultimate handbook for
artists who want to understand the technology of paints
Since Reborn artists are
using a very unusual canvas (vinyl dolls) the technology
is a huge consideration in our work. We need to learn as
much as we can, and document what we learn from our