BRIEF HISTORY OF REBORN
have used many different kinds of paints and colors to
blush and tint their vinyl dolls. Initially they used
acrylic craft paints and stamp pad inks. They painted the
dolls inside and out with the craft paint. Sometimes they
layered different colors inside the vinyl, to get
different skin tones.
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, hardware
stores, as well as cosmetic and beauty supplies.
And, they are
still using all of it! The Reborn art has not settled on
any one method or technique... the artists continue to
use all their own favorite materials.
is good. However, vinyl is an oil-based product, so you
do 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.
FOUR SKILL LEVELS
have identified four different Skill Levels for coloring
Reborn dolls. You don't need to be intimidated about
making a reborn doll because you can start at Skill Level
1 (which is very easy) and work your way up to the more
difficult techniques. In fact, you probably should start
at Skill Level 1 in order to get acquainted with vinyl as
lipcolor pencils, manicure nail polish, stencil
creams and glass paints are rated EASY because they
are ready to use without much prep time or cleanup
time. You don't have to mix colors, you just use them
Acrylic Paints and RIT dye are rated skill level two
because there is more care required in their
application. You do need some inherent artistic
talent in order to mix colors properly and apply them
with correct results.
paints are very nice to work with and they don't dry
out while working with them, but they do take a long
long time to dry: as long as two months to fully
cure. There is more cleanup after using oil paints.
You are likely to make some mistakes before you get
comfortable with using oil paints on vinyl. Oil
paints are wonderful for making ethnic dolls with
beautiful skintones. I've been
told that Oil Paints don't work on the silicone type
Genesis Heatset paints require more skill when mixing
colors. There is definitely a learning curve while
you figure out how to work with the heatset paints.
The Reborn artists tell me they had to stick it out
until they got the hang of it, but they feel it's
worth the effort and expense of making a few
mistakes, because the Genesis heatset paints dry fast
and the colors are very durable on vinyl. The
Genesis heatset paints can be used on the silicone
SKILL LEVEL 1:
COLORBOX STAMP PAD INKS
Easy to use, easy cleanup. Transparent colors are
good for blushing.
Limited color selection, there are only one or
two colors that are popular. And only one brand
name: Colorbox. Can be hard to find. Limited color selection.
Easy to use, easy cleanup. Transparent colors are
good for fingernails.
Rubs off the lips if the doll has a pacifier.
Glass paints are available in limited color
Easy to use, wide range of colors available, easy
cleanup, nontoxic, good for playdolls.
We don't know how permanent or lightfast the
Easy to use, easy cleanup. Some of the reborners
love the Stencil paints but I'm not real familiar
with how they're using them. Stencil paints are
opaque, which can be an advantage or not,
depending on the situation. Also very good to use
on vintage dolls for blushing.
Stencil paints are not transparent. Not good for
Easy to use, easy cleanup. Transparent colors are
good for fingernails.
Nail polish can get gummy over time. You should
use an undercoat as well as a polyurethane
varnish over the nail polish to seal and protect
it from breakdown.
Good for facial features and nail color. Popular
for fashion doll repaints.
not appropriate for blushing the infant dolls.
Requires an undercoat in order to stick to vinyl
better. Requires a topcoat of varnish or else the
paint might rub off.
Good for ethnic dolls and all-over skintones. The
dye can be re-used. RIT is recommended for vinyl
and works well. You can mix the various RIT dye
colors to blend your own special custom tints.
Don't overdo the color. It's easy to get too
much. You have to work with the dye to get a feel
for it, how long it takes to get desired results,
Very beautiful skintones and blushing can be
achieved with the oil paints. The rich colors are
a pleasure to work with.
Takes a very long time to dry. Don't use too much
of the Safflower or Linseed oil mediums, or else
the paint might never dry. When completely dry,
oil paint needs a surface sealer or else it might
Dries immediately when you want it to be dry,
because you use a heat gun to dry the paints.
Adheres very well to vinyl: forms a strong bond.
You can layer the paint, drying each layer and
then apply another layer on top of it.
Requires special equipment such as a heat gun or
a drying oven. (A hair dryer is not hot enough.)
You have to mix your own colors, which takes some
trial and error until you are comfortable with
the paints. Does not need sealer or topcoat.
Reborn dolls is truly an art form. There is a learning
curve at EVERY skill level. You will make mistakes. You
might ruin a doll or two. You won't make the perfect doll
the first time... each doll you make will be better than
the last one.
you want to make a play doll for your children or
grandchildren, then you should probably stay with Skill
Level 1 or 2. The materials are good for play dolls: RIT
dye, lipcolor pencils, stencil paints, glass paints and
nail polish are typical household items and not very
likely to cause problems for a child. RIT Dye and
lipcolor pencils are nontoxic and durable: they won't rub
off during vigorous play. In fact, these colors soak into
the vinyl and probably won't ever come off.
SKILL LEVEL AND ARTISTRY
can make beautiful dolls no matter what Skill Level you
choose. Selecting a higher Skill Level doesn't mean that
the doll will be better or more valuable. Skill Levels
have nothing to do with the Beauty of the Reborn Doll:
the artistry is entirely in your hands.
definition of Skill Levels is ONLY intended to give you
an idea of how Difficult these materials may be to work
with. Many very successful Reborn artists are not using
the Genesis paints and don't plan to use them, they much
prefer working with dye or oil paints.
is just a coincidence that the difficult techniques are
more expensive: the materials cost more and you even need
special equipment if you want to work at Level 4. The
materials required for Level 1 are quite inexpensive.
Level 2 and 3 are moderate price range.
PREPARE THE VINYL
painting the doll you must remove all paint and surface
sealers that are on the doll first. Use some kind of
remover or stripper that won't harm vinyl. After the
paint is removed, then wash the vinyl thoroughly with
sudsy water and rinse completely and DRY completely,
inside and out. Use hot water because this helps remove
any surface protectants that may have been applied at the
factory. THEN, begin the reborning process after the
vinyl is completely clean.
SANDING THE HEAD
Reborners think it is essential to remove the molded hair
lines from the head of the doll. This is one area where I
think the ladies have gone to an unnecessary extreme.
Most of the Berenguer dolls have little or no molded hair
marks so they're not much of a problem. If you sand the
doll, there are quite a few risks involved. You can punch
a hole through the vinyl head. Or, the vinyl becomes thin
and weak so it might break later on during the hair
rooting process. You might scuff the vinyl on the doll's
forehead and then you will have problems coloring the
vinyl in those places.
have seen many vintage dolls with molded hair underneath
the rooted hair: this is nothing new. I know that the
Reborners go to extremes in their quest for
"realism" but I do think we should remember
that this is just a doll. It may not be a good idea to
sand down the vinyl. It may even be toxic, because of the
fumes and vinyl dust that could be inhaled.
some ladies choose not to sand the heads, I don't think
it should be held against them. The Reborn Art has a
tendency toward cult fanaticism. This is partly due to a
high level of competition on the eBay market. I don't
think we need to go to all extremes in order to be a good
paints are recommended for lips and eyebrows on the
Reborns. Glass paints have been popular for
doing the lips. Even the oil paints have been used
successfully for lip painting. Genesis heatset paints are
also used for lipcoloring and eyebrows. And the Lipcolor
pencils are good for "blushing" the lips to
give them additional color, rather than painting the
main thing to consider when selecting paint for lips: are
you going to have a pacifier for the doll? The magnetic
pacifiers can rub the paint off the mouth of the doll.
The Genesis paints are the most durable on the lips. Some
artists use the Genesis paints for the lips only, and use
their other favorite coloring mediums for the remainder
of the doll.
paints are the only appropriate choice for doing the
Fashion doll facial repaints. Many of the fashion doll
collectors have inquired about our paints, so that's
another reason why we added acrylics to our shop.
you plan to make an ethnic Reborn doll with a darker
skintone, the oil paints are the best way to make a
beautiful overall skintone. Oil paints give the ethnic
babies a glowing, rich skincolor that is just gorgeous.
It does take a long time for oil paints to dry, so
patience is required. We recommend a minimum of six weeks
to dry and cure. One doll artist I talked with said that
the waiting period doesn't bother her because she has so
many dolls in progress that it's not as if she's waiting
for this one doll to be completed.
time is a factor, you might want to buy a vinyl doll that
already has a dark skintone and enhance it, rather than
do an all-over skin color.
Dye is a good option for ethnic dolls or even the white
dolls. Some doll artists like to dip all the white doll
pieces in a tan/rose mixture, quickly, to tone the
"plastic" color of the vinyl.
can mix dye colors easily to create your own custom
tones. I mix black and brown together for dark skin
tones. Brown alone tends to be too red. Black has a
bluish/purple cast to it. Together, the skin tone is not
dye is specifically recommended for vinyl. The RIT web
site has "recipes" for mixing your own colors.
of the vintage doll collectors have used RIT to restore
color to their dolls, such as the arms of the PlayPal
doll artists use RIT for the "Purple Wash". You
can pour dye into the vinyl pieces to color just the
inside. There are risks (see our chapter on purple wash) but some people still
prefer to do the inside color.
have even used spray paint inside the vinyl pieces, and
it worked well. I sprayed a light pink color first, then
a mauve tone next. It took a very long time to dry
completely (several weeks!) but it did do a nice job for
the inside wash. Two years later the pieces look the
same. (There are some spray paints that are recommended
for vinyl and plastics.)
probably best to use RIT dye if you must color inside the
vinyl. I heard of some ladies who used acrylic paint
inside the pieces, and assembled the doll within 24
hours. And I also heard about dolls that got MOLDY
inside, because the paint wasn't thoroughly dry when the
doll was put together.
paints are popular for blushing the reborns and adding
a bluish tone to temples and other areas where a blue
undertone is desired. Almost all our colors are
appropriate for blushing, except for the acrylics.
Acrylic paints are not recommended for blushing and skin
color... they are recommended for facial features only.
PURPLE WASH & OTHER
paints were originally used as a "purple wash"
on reborn dolls. The purple wash was acrylic craft paint
thinned with water. The doll was painted inside and out
with the purple wash, to give it a more realistic
skintone. That practice was abandoned because the paint
flaked off within a year. There were also some terrible
problems with "bruising."
craft glue was widely recommended for wigs, but the wigs
would fall off after a year or so. Rubber cement is
another one that was recommended to me. Even E6000 is
widely touted as an excellent glue for vinyl, but we are
learning that E6000 seems to lose it's grip after a year
or so. I have seen some really wild claims made by
companies that sell glue... it seems they are allowed to
say almost anything. Truth is, most glue does not work
reborners were gluing their dolls together: they would
cut off the ends of the vinyl arms and legs, paint
inside, and then glue bear joints so they could attach
the limbs to the doll body. They excused their shoddy
construction by saying it was an "artist doll"
and needed to be handled carefully. The dolls fell apart
in a very short time.
experiences illustrate how the Reborn Art is still in
the initial growth period and is an experimental art.
We don't know yet, how the materials we use will hold
up in the next 2, 5, 10 or 20 years. Fifty years from
now we will have a better idea of what worked very
well and what didn't.
it's not a good idea to promote your Reborn doll as an
heirloom until we really know what we're working with. It
is a good idea to do some research on the materials that
we use. And, it is very helpful to share with one
another, and pool our knowledge.
important to know whether your coloring materials are
lightfast or not. We selected oil paints and acrylic
paints that have been thoroughly tested and are proven to
be permanent colors that are durable over time. The
better brands of oil and acrylic paints have ASTM ratings
for lightfastness. ASTM stands for American Society for
Testing and Materials.
pencils don't come with that information. Neither do
stencil paints, RIT dye and nail polish. Partly because
they don't have to... many of the materials we use on
vinyl were intended for other purposes than art projects.
Whether the color will hold up for 100 years isn't even
an issue with the manufacturer.
haven't seen colorfast ratings for the Genesis Paints. I
have not seen any ASTM information on the Delta or Plaid
craft paint products either. The craft paints are very
popular but the companies provides little or no
information on the quality of their products. This
doesn't mean we shouldn't use these products but it's
something to be aware of.
FINGERNAILS, LIPS &
is oily. So it's a good idea to prepare the vinyl before
painting it. It's not a bad idea to scuff the vinyl a bit
using very fine sandpaper or an emery board. Scuff ONLY
where the paint will be applied, such as nails, lips,
eyebrows. (For blushing you definitely do not want to
scuff first. Scuffing is for the detail work only.)
scuffing, then apply acrylic sealer, allow to dry. Then
apply your paint, such as glass paint, or nail polish, or
acrylics. Then apply a topcoat polyurethane sealer over
that. Be sure to allow each layer to dry thoroughly
before you apply the next coat.
paints are good for doing the Reborn fingernails. We have
ivory color for that purpose, and a very pale Spring
pink. We also stock French color nail polishes. It's
important to note that you should use Acrylic Sealer as
an undercoat, and Polyurethane varnish as a topcoat. You
can also use the Acrylic paints for nail color.
use clear nail polish as a topcoat for nails or lips,
because nail polish tends to get "gummy" over
time. We recommend using our matte, satin or gloss
varnish as a topcoat for nails and also to give a shiny,
"wet" look to lips.
undercoat sealer and the topcoat sealer are VERY
important when using glass paint, nail polish or acrylic
paints. Please note that the acrylic undercoat and the
varnish topcoat are different products.
Reborn art has become a modern Gold Rush.... everybody
wants to sell their dolls on ebay. Everybody wants to
quit their job and become a doll artist. I've even seen
ads for Reborn teaching aids, that encouraged you to buy
the book so you could make thousands of dollars on ebay.
are not another get rich scheme. Slow down... don't get
caught up in the Gold Rush mentality! We lose all the joy
in life and in art, if it's always about money.
Reborns is definitely an art form, and it's a very lovely
art form. The internet has made it possible for anyone to
become an Artist... but it's not likely that many people
will be able to become full time artists because there
are dozens or maybe hundreds of NEW ladies (and gents!)
who are learning this art every day. It is a very
enjoyable craft, and it's a very unique art form that is
the doll is the most challenging part of making a Reborn
doll. The artist's eye, the artist's skill and the
materials that are used according to the artist's
preference will all contribute to the end result. Reborns
are not a paint by number system... each vinyl doll is
truly an opportunity for unique creative expression.
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 paint on vinyl are not yet known. The same
is true of the glue that we are using.
use of these instructions is subject to your own
discretion and your own risk.