is important to remember that the Reborn Art is
developing through trial and error. This is a new
art medium, and working with the soft translucent
vinyl requires new tools, methods, paints and
techniques. This art form is truly being
Pioneered, as we speak.
we are still learning what the long term affects
of these methods might be. Dyed or painted vinyl
might stay the same color, OR it might fade or it
could even get brighter over time.
way your doll looks now might be different from
what it will look like in six months, or two
is an oil-based product and that's why many
paints or glues will loosen up over time: because
the oils in the vinyl will work against it. I've
glued rhinestones to vinyl shoes, for example.
This seemed to work just fine at the time, but
when I pulled the shoes out of a drawer a month
later, all the rhinestones fell off.
ladies have told me that the wig on their reborn
doll fell right off in their hands. The choice of
glue is as critical as the paints/dyes we select.
(I have more information about glue on the page
about doll wigs.)
is wonderful to work with. I love vinyl. But it's
important to understand the problems with vinyl,
as we work with reborns or refurbishing any vinyl
The purpose of
the "purple wash" is to give the vinyl a
blue/red undertone that compares favorably with real
human skin tones. Originally, the reborn artists painted
the inside of the vinyl pieces using a watered down
purple paint such as acrylic. They also washed the
outside of the doll with some of the purple and wiped it
off again. Thus it was called "Purple Wash."
As the reborn art has evolved,
many ladies have experimented with various paint colors
such as rose, wine, peach, bronze and others. And, they
have also layered all these colors and applied many coats
of paint inside the vinyl limbs.
Most likely there are very few
artists who use the purple wash anymore. The reborn art
has evolved VERY rapidly. Some methods that were popular
in the beginning have already been abandoned.
Problem: it is possible to use too much purple
paint and then the doll looks blue -- like a dead baby
rather than a live one.
Problem: In order to paint inside the pieces,
many ladies cut off the flange joint on the end of the
vinyl pieces so they can get a brush or hemastat inside
to paint it. Although the vinyl pieces can be attached
again to a doll body, the construction of the reborn doll
is flimsy and many reborns have been known to fall apart
later. I would rather not cut off the flange on the arms
Problem: the Berenguers are highly desirable for
making reborn dolls because of their translucent vinyl,
but if the doll is painted inside and out and then opaque
stencil paints are used for blushing, the doll is no
longer transclucent. Yet, that is one reason why the doll
was selected to begin with.
Problem: I heard from people (buyers) who
complained that the purple wash on their reborn was
flaking off. Which is not surprising, since most
waterbased paints or glues will not stick to vinyl. And
yet, the ladies have been using watered down acrylic
Problem: The most SERIOUS problem I've heard of
is BRUISING. This happens when the inside color seeps
through the vinyl and the purple blotches look like
bruises on the doll. Bruising can happen no matter what
kind of dye or paint you use. The bruising may not show
at first, but it could show up a year later. I've heard
of severe bruising with Acrylic paint and Dye so far.
Artist Oil Paints are a newer method but I expect there
will be even MORE likelihood of bruising with oil paints,
because the oils are even more likely to seep further
into the vinyl.
Therefore: if you choose to
color the inside of your dolls, you should not use a
heavy application of color. Go lightly!! Don't use a
strong bold color inside the doll, use pastels. AND, it
is possible that the reborn artists may have to abandon
the inside color wash altogether. The long term effects
of the reborn methods are still being discovered. The
inside wash is proving to be risky business.
The remainder of this page
explains methods that have been used for coloring the
dolls, both inside and outside the vinyl pieces.
We have tried using RIT liquid dye -- instead of purple
wash paint. Some ladies are using a combination of rose
or blue, tan or pink dye colors in order to avoid
"bruising" of the vinyl. And some ladies are
even making ethnic dolls and changing the vinyl color
completely, to shades of tan or brown.
Color: The dye colors which are most
recommended are ROSE and TAN, blended. We have used other
colors with success, but apparently there is more RISK of
"bruising" with the wine or purple RIT dye. The
rose and tan combo has been more successful. Generally
the liquid dye is better, otherwise the vinyl can be
spotted by the powder dye if it's not completely
dissolved in the hot water.
is still in the Experimental Stage but so far many
people have been happy with the results. If you want to
contribute Your Experience to this site, just email me at
1. PREP. It's important to prep all your pieces
first, before you begin coloring the vinyl. Remove all
the factory paint from the doll. Some ladies use nail
polish remover, paint stripper, goof off and others. I
prefer stripper. It's not a bad idea to use stripper
all over the vinyl pieces, to remove any paint and
surface finish that is on the vinyl. If you do only spot
cleaning, then you might end up with streaks where the
surface finish has not been completely removed. When
you're finished stripping, then wash the vinyl pieces
well in warm sudsy water, rinse and dry. All finished
If you want to remove the
molded hair grooves from the head, you should do that as
part of your prep work. (PrissyMayDolls recommends using a dremel tool.)
HOLES?? Sometimes the doll head has factory
holes in the ears. You need to plug these holes tightly
before you put dye in the head. I used a small wood peg.
2. INSIDE COLOR
WASH. Pour the
liquid dye (undiluted) into the vinyl piece(s).
Immediately wash off any dye that gets on the outside of
the vinyl piece. Wait 2 to 5 minutes. I don't have the
timing down exactly, and anyway the timing might vary
according to room temperatures such as hot or cold
(summer or winter.) So, it's necessary to babysit this
Some people like to heat up the
dye. If you heat the dye you will probably need to dilute
it as well because it seems to work faster when it's hot.
In cold weather or cold climates, it may be necessary to
heat the dye in order to get any results.
Do not overcolor the vinyl.
There is much risk of bruising, so you're better off to
go lightly. If the vinyl is thin in some places, the
bruising could show up within days.
Some artists don't color the
entire interior of the vinyl pieces, they just paint a
bit of color at the creases in the elbows, wrists, knees
etc. Don't go heavy with the color.
3. SAVE THE
pour the liquid dye back into the bottle or bowl (so you
can save it to re-use on other dolls.) --
4. REPEAT AS
vinyl inside will be stained a blue/red color thus giving
the blue tones that are desired, but the vinyl is still
translucent. If you think the vinyl needs more blue tone,
then pour the dye back into the piece for a couple of
minutes more: repeat the process until the desired tone
Rinse the vinyl piece
It is better to be cautious...
don't overcolor the vinyl pieces because the dye color
will continue to seep into the vinyl over time.
Don't walk away and forget
about this project or your doll will look like
OOOPS!! If you do get too much blue, it might
be possible to bleach the pieces if you do it right
away before the dye settles into the
vinyl. Katheran puts the pieces outside in sunlight if
there is too much dye color. After a few days of hot sun,
the color will fade.
5. BLUSHING THE
DOLL with DYE. I
blush the outside of the vinyl pieces using artist oil paints. I do not use the RIT dye to blush the
outside of the pieces. However, some of the ladies have
been trying this so here is a report on what they have
Shannon has experimented with
diluting the dye and floating the vinyl pieces so the
inside and the outside of the vinyl is tinted. She was
very pleased with the results. She did watch over the
pieces diligently to make sure she got the right tones.
She does recommend turning the pieces frequently so they
won't develop a darker blue "float line" at the
The three photos in this
section show the pieces that Shannon dyed. She thinks
that the dye brought out detail in ear and bottoms of
feet. The photo of two heads, below, shows a regular
blushed doll head on the left and the dyed doll head on
Shannon used HOT water dye to
dye the pieces above. Hot water is important, she says.
She diluted one part water to one part dye. And, she also
tried two parts water to one part dye. She thought that 2
to 1 gave her a bit more control over the results. She
dripped the dye onto the ears to give them a bit more
CAUTION! Ladies who have
tried floating the pieces in dye are having problems with
the doll getting too red on the outside. If you do float
the entire vinyl pieces in hot dye, then do it for a very
short time, perhaps less than one minute or possibly just
dip the pieces a couple of times in the hot dye and then
rinse them immediately.
said that floating the pieces for even 2 minutes is too
much and the dye does need to be diluted quite a bit,
such as 4 to 1. And, the outside of the vinyl pieces
seems to accept dye more readily than the insides.
MORE STORIES from PERSONAL EXPERIENCE,
CLICK ON KENDRA OR KATHERAN...
ASIAN DOLLS... The Berenguer asian dolls do not have
translucent vinyl, and their skin tone is very
yellow/sallow. The vinyl needs warmth rather than blue
tones. When I made Judi Linn, I used bronze color spray
paint. I sprayed inside the head only. I did not paint
inside the limbs of the doll. I thought the head looked
very sallow and needed color. The bronze tone inside the
large head did improve the "complexion"
somewhat. The vinyl had a warmer, richer tone.
DRY IT OUT! Be sure to give the vinyl pieces plenty
of time to dry and cure after doing the "purple
wash", especially if you have used paint on the
inside of the pieces. I've heard of people constructing a
doll in 24 hours, including the painting. This bothers
me... Vinyl can go moldy inside very easily, and the mold
is caused by moisture.
Let those pieces dry for
several days and find ways to get air inside the small
pieces. You might want to put them out on a sunny day.
Don't be in an all-fire hurry to put the doll back
together. Make sure every bit of the paint is dry before
you re-assemble because if you pack the doll with
weighting material, the moisture from the damp paint will
be locked into the fingers and toes of the doll. It might
take a few weeks or even months for the damage to show,
but vinyl mold is a serious problem that vintage doll
collectors are very familiar with.
And, the filler needs to be
bone dry as well. I know one lady who buys sand, and
bakes it in her oven in order to ensure that there is NO
moisture in the filler that she uses to weight the doll.
I applaud her for using really good sense.
WARNING! The dye doesn't work for everyone.
Sometimes the dolls can develop the appearance of
"bruises" as the dye seeps further into the
vinyl. I haven't had problems with the translucent Apple
Valley doll that I dyed many months ago, but the
Berenguer vinyl is not as thick and heavy as Apple
Valley. Where the vinyl is thin, the dye can bleed
through and look like bruises.
Some people love the dye and
use it all the time... I've heard that they have
experimented with various colors in order to get the
results they want. Purple, pink, blue and custom
mixtures. This has helped eliminate the
"bruising" for some of the reborn artists. The favorite dye
combination is ROSE and TAN mixed together. The ladies
report there are fewer mishaps with this dye combo.
FLESH TONING... Debbie Ch. in Florida dyes all her vinyl pieces with a tan
mixture, just to tone down the "plastic" look.
She dips them quickly so the effect is subtle but
produces the flesh tone color she prefers.
She doesn't use dye or paint
inside the face at all, due to the risk of bruising. She
likes the way it looks, but she says that within a year
the color can leech through and cause problems because
the vinyl is thinner inside the face. She applies a bit
of color inside the temples, with paint or dye, but she
is very cautious. Debbie believes that pastel colors are
less likely to cause problems.
ACRYLIC PAINTS: Many people use acrylic paints for their
"purple wash". However, you have to know what
you're doing when you select paint to use on vinyl. Some
buyers have complained about the paint flaking off,
later. Which is very likely to happen since it's not easy
to find paint OR glue that will stick to vinyl.
paints are popular with the fashion doll artists who
are doing repaints, but they use an undercoat first,
and a topcoat to seal the paint. If Acrylic paints
are applied without a basecoat and a topcoat AND the
paint is watered down... it's going to flake off the
Read the labels to find out if
YOUR paint is recommended for vinyl. Vinyl is an
oil-based product and the oily nature of vinyl makes it
resist many paints AND glues. The paint or glue will
simply come off within a short time because the oil in
the vinyl will work against it.
Vinyl and Plastic are not similar materials. Things that might
work on plastic are not automatically suitable for vinyl.
Or vice versa.
OIL PAINTS: Some of the reborn artists have been
using oil paint colors mixed with Linseed oil. They mix
up the color they want and thin the paint with linseed
oil. Then sponge it on the doll. The oil/paint mixture
are used inside the doll pieces or outside or both.
The translucent nature of the
vinyl enhances the oil paint. After it has had time to
"cure", the dolls have a very lovely skin tone
with a wonderful healthy glow. I am very impressed with
the results that I have seen. The oil paint method is
well worth considering. However, I am concerned that
using oil paint INSIDE the vinyl pieces is risky: there
is even more likelihood of bruising if you apply purple
wash inside the vinyl pieces.
CURE THE VINYL! No matter how you color your doll, it is
important to allow plenty of time for the colors to dry
and cure. What does it mean to "cure" it? When
you use dye or oil paint or makeup colors on vinyl, they
will seep into the vinyl slowly.
The full results of your work
will not be known for at least two weeks or more. The
colors will spread and change to some degree. They will
also develop more of a natural "glow" during
this time. You may want to apply more color in a few
places. And you may see that you applied too much color
in other places so it is VERY important to give it TIME:
otherwise you will never learn what works and what
As with almost any art form,
patience is part of the process of making wonderful
art of making reborn dolls is not a "paint
by number" system. This is not a craft, it
is an art form.
that the results will be determined by the skill
and talent of the artists. Your own artistic
ability , and your own creative ingenuity are an
important, essential part of making beautiful
you will settle on your own favorite colors and
methods. These notes will help you learn from the
experience of others.
I like to use lipstick colors, of which there is endless variety.
They are oil based, durable colors that soak into the
vinyl and will last after they've had a chance to dry and
soak in. I use the lipstick color for vintage dolls
For reborns, I prefer to use
the Scuola oil paints for blushing. The Scuola paints
have the highest rating for permanence and lightfastness.
Red is one of
the least durable colors,
no matter what kind of paint or pigment you use on the
dolls. Don't put the doll in sunlight
because it will fade the red colors.
This is true of ANY doll, no
matter if it's a reborn or manufactured doll. The reds
and pinks can fade in sunlight, and even the vinyl itself
can be damaged by prolonged exposure to sunlight. It does
help to apply a UV sealer such as Vinylex or 303 Protectant to the doll, as a final surface finish.
Just remember: all dolls should
be kept out of direct sunlight. Sunlight damages the
vinyl and the coloring on the vinyl. The paint will turn
colors (pink turns orange). The vinyl will fade out to
sickly white. The eye color will fade. Sunlight is very
damaging on vinyl.
Copyright (c) 2002, 2012 Cynthia Stevens All Rights Reserved