How to Dye Vinyl Dolls
and Baby Face Dolls
You can dye vinyl dolls using RIT dye. In fact, RIT is recommended for vinyl. I've tried other things such as shoe polish and wood stain in an attempt to tint the vinyl - but those methods didn't work at all. The only things that work are RIT dye or some of the hair color dyes.
AND, some kinds of vinyl will take to dye better than others. Plastic will probably not accept dye at all. So if you're not sure what the doll is made of, test a small area first.
NOTE of CAUTION... Coloring dolls with RIT dye is definitely experimental and there are many things that can go wrong. This page offers general tips but I cannot anticipate what's going to happen when YOU try it. **You're on your own.** Let me warn you that there's some possibility the doll could be ruined. I would not use a valuable doll for a project like this.
ACNE CREAM for STAINS... We do recommend using acne cream with benzoyl peroxide to remove ink stains from vinyl dolls. One popular brand is Oxy-10, but there are many generic brands with the same active ingredient. (INK STAINS CLICK HERE)
HOWEVER... Benzoyl Peroxide STAYS ACTIVE in vinyl possibly forever: THEREFORE YOU CANNOT DYE A DOLL THAT HAS BEEN TREATED WITH BENZOYL PEROXIDE. The peroxide soaks into vinyl and it will bleach the RIT dye anywhere that the acne cream has been applied. Ann Pitingolo did some very interesting "scientific" tests with various kinds of bleach and household cleaners, to determine what affect they had on dolls that were dyed. Most of the chemicals she tested made no lasting impression on vinyl. But... if you've treated your doll with Benzoyl Peroxide: then you cannot dye that doll.
ALL-OVER RIT DYE... If you use RIT dye to make a black AA doll, then you should use a mixture of black and brown (approximately half and half... Use more brown than black.) If you use all brown, the doll ends up reddish. And if you use all black, the doll ends up blue-ish purple. So a combo of those two colors is the best.
LIQUID RIT DYE... Use the RIT liquid dye: if you use powder dye you're likely to get freckles and speckles because it seems the powder dye never dissolves completely.
Some ladies have used hair dye with success, but I've never tried it. RIT is actually recommended for vinyl, I'm not sure if hair dye can damage vinyl or not. I haven't dyed a Baby Face doll but I've dyed Berenguers using RIT and I dyed one of the Cuddle on Delivery dolls. Some of the info on this page I learned from the experience of others.
TAKE IT APART... It's best if you take the Baby Face doll apart so the pieces get the dye all-over evenly. (So you'll need a stringing kit to put it back together. I have the stringing kits in the DOLL SHOP CLICK HERE, and instructions on how to do it.)
BEFORE YOU START... DYE IS MESSY! Think of everything you'll need and get it together, because once you start dyeing the pieces your hands will be busy. Have a small coffee can handy (or tin can of some kind) where you can put the doll on her head to drain and dry. Have a small plastic washbasin handy to put the doll and the metal can in, so you don't get dye on everything else. Have a couple of old towels and washcloths handy in case of drips. If you get any dye on your floor or countertop, clean with bleach cleaner as soon as possible.
PONYTAILS ONLY... DYE IS MESSY! If you're only planning to dye a ponytail, then cover the entire doll in plastic and tape it carefully so none of the dye drips on the rest of the doll or the rest of the hair. Seal off the base of the ponytail with tight rubber bands and plastic wrap: so the dye doesn't run up into the rest of the hair.
STOVE-TOP METHOD... Dyeing the pieces isn't hard but it's best to do it on the stove: the boiling water method which is on the RIT bottle. I mix it fairly strong: I don't put in as much water as the bottle recommends.
Heat the dye mixture to boiling and make sure the dye is dissolved. Then take it off the heat to drop the vinyl pieces in. I don't leave it on the burner when I'm dyeing the pieces.
Babysit the vinyl the entire time, turning the pieces so the color gets evenly distributed. If you don't turn the pieces they'll float and get uneven color. Sometimes I drop a washcloth or cloth rag in the dye bath to cover the pieces with - because they DO float.
HAIR & EYEBALLS... Of course the dye will color the doll's hair and even the eyeballs. You might try coating the eyes with something before you dye the head. You'll need to be creative if you want to protect the eyes. Or be prepared to replace the entire eyeball when finished ... depending on how the eyes look when you're done.
Since you have the doll in pieces anyway, you could remove the eyes before you even dye the head. The Reborners heat the head and then pop the eyeballs out: easy as that. I haven't tried it with Baby Face dolls but it would be worth a try. Then pop the eyes back in when you're finished with the dye.
To heat the vinyl, use a hairdryer until the vinyl is soft and flexible. (Don't overdo it.) When the vinyl is warm, you have to work quickly because the vinyl cools off fast. (Don't use a heat gun, the heat is too intense and melts the vinyl.)
AFTER THE DYE... Rinse the pieces very well with cool water until the water runs clear. Vinegar helps to set the dye: you can rinse the doll and/or her hair in a vinegar solution too. Then pat dry and allow the pieces to thoroughly dry out before restringing the Baby Face dolls.
PONYTAILS TOO... If you only dyed a ponytail, rinse until clear and rinse with some vinegar to set the color. Leave the plastic wrap on the doll until the hair is thoroughly dry.
CAUTION about STORAGE... When the doll is completely done and reassembled: keep in mind that you can never store this doll with other vinyl dolls because the color is likely to leech off on other vinyl dolls. She'll need to be wrapped separately from other dolls if you put it in storage. If you stand the doll barefoot on a shelf, she might leave a stain on the shelf if she's left there for days or weeks.
COLORFAST... The new color is likely to change somewhat over time: or it might not change at all. Sometimes the color lightens up. In the case of my C.O.D. doll, the color is very dark and it has stayed that way for years now. I did leave the doll in the dye bath for quite a while so that's possibly why it has never changed.
USING HAIR DYE INSTEAD...
Penny came to me with the dark brown hair: which is interesting because I think they dyed the hair using a hair dye kit instead of RIT dye (which is what I have used in the past.) The hair dye has not leeched into the vinyl, so apparently it's a good choice if you only want to color the hair and nothing else. (RIT dye will leave color marks on the face unless you rinse and rinse and rinse the dye... and even then it can happen.)
The doll's hair is very nice and shiny too: I thought the hair dye chemicals would damage the synthetic hair but it didn't. The hair is mostly dark brown, almost black: but underneath near the roots it fades to more of a reddish brown color in places, which is not unattractive: it looks nice.
If you do use hair dye, I would not recommend trying to LIGHTEN the doll's hair color: the bleach will not work on this synthetic hair. You can use haircolor shades that are darker than the doll's original color. Or maybe I should say that hair dye will probably work on the blondes but not on the brunette Baby Faces.
I have not experimented with hair dye brands so I don't know which ones might be recommended.