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Author Topic: Changing a doll's skintone  (Read 2094 times)

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Offline VoidChilde

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Changing a doll's skintone
« on: January 04, 2018, 06:26:57 PM »
I've read countless of things about changing a doll's skintone and I know dyeing has mixed results since MH dolls are made of various plastics, and so far I haven't found a single alternative (paints don't seem to work?) except maybe pastels from what I read, although I doubt the soft pigment could drastically change the skin colour. I was wondering if anyone had any ideas, anything that might work, to turn a green-ish doll into a more flesh coloured one. I have a Honey Swamp who's going to serve as a base for an OC, I will be sanding down her skin details, repainting and making a wig, etc, etc. But my problem is that my OC does not have green skin and I'm not quite sure what to do. It has to be this doll in particular, because it's the Freak du Chic one and her joints work perfectly for what I want, but I want to know if I have to tweak my OC or if there is any option for me at this point?

Offline modernmonsterhigh

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2018, 07:54:06 PM »
Finally someone made a thread.. thank you. I tried acrylics and they are either dried like rubber and peeled off or chipped a whole bunch. I replaced a broken draculaura leg with clawdeens and that was the result. Peeling. Iím going to make her into a vocaloid anyways and they have long socks but I still would like to paint her. I also have a clawd I would like to paint blue and turn into an OC as well. and a howleen to paint red.. I think dollightful tried pastels on a Clawdia and since she was dark skin it turned the pigment a darker version of the color. Because of that happening Iím scared it will turn clawd into a navy blue D: Iím glad we have the same ideas for OC though :) hope to see how yours turns out ^^
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Offline witchabyte

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2018, 08:59:18 PM »
Hmm I've wondered about this too because it seems like either airbrushing (expensive!) or several layers of pan pastel and sealant (also expensive!) are the only ways to really get an even and sturdy coat. Darkening seems to always be easier than lightening, at least that's for sure. My gripe is that I want to make dolls from the anime Houseki no Kuni which have pure white skin but using a Catrine DeMew and getting rid of her feline features feels like a waste...

For your OC, is there something in particular you want from Honey Swamp's mold that would make you wanna use her?? From reading this it sounds like you wanna get rid of anything that separates her from the rest, so maybe you could use a more flesh colored body in the first place. Ever After High has a much more diverse span of flesh tones (and I personally like the body mold better for humanoid customs). If you want her head in particular you could just swap them out; it still leaves you with changing the head's color but that's all I've got.

Offline VoidChilde

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2018, 09:11:02 PM »
@witchabyte
Actually, it's because Freak du Chic Honey Swamp has marionette joints, so her limbs flip flop around and it really bothers me as Honey so I thought I'd change her into someone else, a puppet OC to be exact! Also she doesn't have toes? Well, she does but they're so subtle that it looks like she doesn't have any, which would look fine for a wooden puppet. I don't particularly like the EAH dolls shape, I prefer the tall slender torso of the MH girls, plus I like that all my dolls match and I don't have any EAH. I wouldn't mind my OC to have dark skin, as long as it's fleshy you know, the issue is finding a way to turn the green/teal into...well, a human colour.

Offline Duenia

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2018, 11:02:27 PM »
Maybe start with a light coat of red paint to neutralize the green and then build up to the color you want from there? I haven't done it on MH dolls but I have used floating medium and a cotton ball to rub the paint into the plastic. It very slowly tints and can be built up. Might be worth trying on MH?

Offline nassib

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Offline VoidChilde

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2018, 01:12:00 PM »
Hm...so dyeing would sort of work but would probably be patchy, right? I've seen people use paint with an airbrush gun but I don't have anything like that...Dyeing might be my best option, since the doll is supposed to be either an old porcelain doll or a wooden puppet (not sure yet depending on the final colour) so a "grungy" kind of colour wouldn't really be an issue, as long as it's not bright teal anymore.

Offline Nemesis

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2018, 04:55:33 PM »
Honestly, I would consider sanding down or altering the joints on another doll, rather than going forward with Honey. Changing the entire skintone, especially without an airbrush or high-end sealants, is pretty difficult if youíre just getting started with customs.

If youíre considering dyeing her, BEAR IN MIND: the head and body will dye in RADICALLY different ways. One is soft vinyl, and one is hard, inflexible plastic. To achieve a consistent tone for both head and body on a Monster High doll will be virtually impossible without paint. Sanding the molded details off will also affect the ďtoothĒ of the plastic in those areas, which could cause those spots to react differently to paint (maybe dye as well, not sure?). I do know some artists here have had success with special spraypaints, so you might want to research that if youíre determined to use Honey.

I hate to be a downer, so sorry if I come off that way! ^_^; I would just hate to see you wreck your doll, which is probably what dyeing her will end up doing. I would just buy a bait quality doll with a skintone you like, then tweak the pegs at the joints. Much less work, and much less expensive if you mess up (which is expected, and a big part of the learning process when youíre just starting out)!
« Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 07:48:40 PM by Nemesis »

Offline Ameyal

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2018, 05:08:52 PM »
If you're going with the puppet path, the details of Honey's body could be kept, just repaint them green after painting the rest of the body, IMHO

Offline VoidChilde

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2018, 05:16:03 PM »
@Nemesis
Don't worry, I'd rather know the truth than just go ahead and hope for the best! It's true that tweaking the pegs of another doll would be easier, I had to do a few peg repairs on my current dolls and so I know what works and what doesn't (Honey's hand peg broke off because I tried putting it back with shaky hands and Twyla came with crooked elbow pegs).

Thing is...I already started sanding down Honey x-x So her legs and part of her chest/back have already lost their details, as well as her hands, which I even removed the webbing from. I feel so bad about it but now I either live with a broken Honey or transform her into someone else because I was too impatient and decided to start before knowing everything (typical for me, I have no impulse control ^^"). I thankfully didn't wipe off her paint or cut her hair but, well, she's missing her vines and her spikes so she's already "damaged" in a way. Maybe I can think up another OC for her and find another doll for the puppet OC...?

Thoughts, anyone?

Offline SaelaVe

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2018, 07:10:28 PM »
I hate to say this, but I agree with Nemesis.  I don't think that this is going to work. :(

First of all, I would not recommend dyeing for this project.  Remember that when you dye a doll you're not covering its original color, you're simply adding a new layer to the already existing color; and so you want to use a doll with a base color that's already in the same family as the color that you want it to end up as (or whiteówhite will basically take any color dye).  Simply put: dyeing will not remove the green from her plastic, it will just add other hues on top of the green. 
On top of that, doll dyeing is tricky and requires a lot of experimentation and practice to get it right.  You're likely to go through several botched dolls before getting a hang of the process, so I would highly recommend acquiring several bait dolls to practice on.

Painting can be just as problematic.  I've seen very few examples of truly successful full-body brush painting on dolls.  Paints tend not to adhere well to the slick, hard plastic of the dolls' bodies without some sort of priming or preparation first.  The paint tends to look messy with very pronounced brushstrokes throughout.  And it almost always rubs and peels from the joints.
If you're going to try and paint the doll's body, I would highly recommend investing in either an airbrush or enamel spray paints. 
I believe it's Kara Zor-El who uses spray paints for her full-body repaints, and the results are fantastic.

Personally, I would strongly suggest using a doll that already has a fleshtone color for this project. 
If you're wanting to go for a puppet aesthetic I would recommend an EAH Cedar Wood doll.  She has marionette style joints and a woodgrain texture that you can either sand off or leave as it is.  And if you still want to use Honey's sculpt it would be quite easy to paint her head to match the color of Cedar's body.


Don't feel too bad about sanding down your Honey already.  We've all done stuff like that. ^.^  You seem very creative so I'm sure that you'll come up with another concept or use for her. 
I used to have a whole drawer full of "damaged" dolls that I had started to work on, messed them all up, and then tossed them aside until I figured out another use for them. lol


Offline modernmonsterhigh

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2018, 08:44:20 PM »
man.. I feel bad for ruining that operetta :( I could have sent it to you to use. she had very wobbly hips shoulders and knees for some reason when I got her. so I just threw her body out.. but yeah, like what nemesis said. Sanding her details might affect the paint. I suggest just painting it and leaving for display like I would probably do.. or maybe you could be creative and add wood carving details where Honey swamps swamp details were? I donít know but I wish you the best of luck!! Oh and donít worry. I start things too early sometimes as well. I already painted Clawdís hand blue with acrylics and I donít even have mr super clear or anything but paint @_@ and just asking.. whatís a peg repair and how do ya do it?
« Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 08:47:02 PM by modernmonsterhigh »
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Offline VoidChilde

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2018, 09:49:40 PM »
I'm going to think of something and try to see if I can get a secondhand doll with a pale-ish complexion for the puppet, I might already have an idea for a water nymph of some sort, I have leftover miniature fake pearls cabochons from a mask project I worked on a while ago that I could carefully glue on her skin, and a bunch of miniature seashells and stuff...In any case, she's going to be great! Thanks everyone for the info and the advice, I might invest in an airbrush gun one day but it's a bit early to buy something so expensive when I'm not even sure I'll be able to do my own repaints ^^"

@modernmonsterhigh
For the peg repair, you know the little plastic bits at the wrists, elbows and (I think) knees where you can pop the pieces off and on? That's the peg. There's a lot of different methods depending on how it's broken and where but for Honey's hand peg, I cut a small piece of the end of a bobby pin, carved a slit in the original mechanism, inserted the bobby pin in the slit with glue and then popped it back into the wrist socket. The little round bit of plastic at the end of the bobby pin works pretty much exactly like the original peg!

Offline modernmonsterhigh

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2018, 09:56:46 PM »
I'm going to think of something and try to see if I can get a secondhand doll with a pale-ish complexion for the puppet, I might already have an idea for a water nymph of some sort, I have leftover miniature fake pearls cabochons from a mask project I worked on a while ago that I could carefully glue on her skin, and a bunch of miniature seashells and stuff...In any case, she's going to be great! Thanks everyone for the info and the advice, I might invest in an airbrush gun one day but it's a bit early to buy something so expensive when I'm not even sure I'll be able to do my own repaints ^^"

@modernmonsterhigh
For the peg repair, you know the little plastic bits at the wrists, elbows and (I think) knees where you can pop the pieces off and on? That's the peg. There's a lot of different methods depending on how it's broken and where but for Honey's hand peg, I cut a small piece of the end of a bobby pin, carved a slit in the original mechanism, inserted the bobby pin in the slit with glue and then popped it back into the wrist socket. The little round bit of plastic at the end of the bobby pin works pretty much exactly like the original peg!

So excited to see it! Good luck and take pics :)

Yeah knees canít pop off unless you open up the entire leg ruining it.. sorry, got off topic. Yeah, those little ball thingies at the end? I think I know what youíre talking about. I may have to try this rather than burning the end and inserting it. Thanks for telling me about this :) and Iím sure if you just give her an outfit or something it will covered up the sanding maybe? ( possibly long socks, gloves, etc. I feel you with the hand peg thing. Never remove a super old dollís hand peg.. good luck putting it back in.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 09:58:55 PM by modernmonsterhigh »
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Offline Kara Zor-El

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2018, 01:59:19 PM »
Tagging this post to remind me tomorrow to add some information about full body painting.  Itís not impossible, and you can get great results, but it takes patience and experimentation.  Once I have some spare time, Iíll lay out some tips for beginners.
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Offline SpaceCadet

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2018, 02:11:57 PM »
There's a YouTuber called Poppen Atelier who routinely gives MH dolls realistic skintones using pastels. She even made a video just about the process - https://youtu.be/nGZrtJK80hU.

Offline Kara Zor-El

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2018, 11:06:58 AM »
It's a couple days later, but here I am coming back to this!

Doing a full body paint job on a plastic doll *is* possible.  However, it takes patience, high-quality materials, and preparation work to get good results.  I've been doing full body paint jobs for almost a decade with no chipping or peeling issues on even my oldest dolls.

The first thing that is important to understand is that you need to have high quality materials to succeed.  Grabbing a brush and painting on the 99 cent craft paints you buy at Michaels or Jo-Anns is going to result in a disaster. 

The second important truth is that you have to prep a doll several ways before you ever apply the first coating of paint.  The doll needs to be cleaned with a solvent like alcohol to remove surface plasticizers that react with paint.  It needs to be sanded lightly in some places so that the surface will have a 'tooth' the paint can grip to.  Joints may need to be carved or sanded down so that they won't rub up on each other and wear paint off after painting.  And you have to be aware that a doll is made up of parts that are built from several different kinds of plastic - each of which may act differently when painted.  For example, soft, rubber Monster High hands may stay tacky after being painted with acrylic paints that the rest of the body takes just fine.  And the vinyl of a doll head make react differently than the hard plastic of her body.

The third important truth is that what's under the paint matters, and so does what's on top of the paint.  You need a base coat (like a primer), a color coat, and usually, a good top coat for a paint job to be successful and look good.  AND you need to have patience between each layer!

Here's how a typical paint job for me goes;

1.  First, I clean the doll in ethyl alcohol, the kind you can get a hardware store.  If they have soft plastic hands or feet, like an MH CAM doll, I soak those in alcohol to remove some of the plasticizer and give them a better chance to take paint.  Now is when I remove the hair or any face paint if I find that necessary for the project.

2.  I use an Xacto knife to carve down slightly any joints that look like they may scrape in the future.  Or, if the joint is going to be covered with clothing, I usually don't paint it at all.

3.  I take the body apart as much as I can, and spray each separate part with a light layer of spray on white primer, like Krylon's primer for plastic.  I do the front, wait an hour, flip everything over, spray the back, wait an hour, and spray anything that I may have missed.  This is also where I test joints and see if anything is scraping and needs to be sanded or carved down further.  I do not prime vinyl heads.

4.  Now, I paint the body, at least one day later after priming.  I've used an airbrush, but I've also used a regular brush to paint the body by hand with high quality model acrylic paints. Adding a little water and doing thin coats looks best.  Don't be upset if you can see brush strokes a little bit, because the topcoat will help to even those out.  After rerooting, I paint the heads directly with acrylics with no coat underneath.  MH heads take acrylic paint really well.  They may have a slight 'rubbery' or very slight 'tack' feel to them after drying, but this will go away with the topcoat.  I give things a day or more to fully dry.

5.  For most dolls, I use MSC for a topcoat on the head/face and any rubbery hand or foot parts, and Testors Dullcote for the hard plastic parts.  If a character is shiny, I may use Testors Gloss instead.  Another day to dry, and it's done!


I have had good luck using water-based spray paints (the brand name is Montana Gold) as well as an airbrush for full body paint jobs as well.  Now, sometimes there may be a paint failure, or I may mess something up by touching it/working on it too soon.  If that's the case, I use alcohol, strip off the paint job, and start over.  Luckily, plastic dolls are a very forgiving canvas.

If you haven't, you can see the results of my work in this thread.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2018, 11:09:09 AM by Kara Zor-El »
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Offline Sendra

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2018, 02:32:58 PM »
Kara, that is super helpful information, thank you! I've been stalking this thread hoping that someone would give a detailed explanation and you've certainly done that. I have a few questions though: Krylon has a few different plastic primer sprays, which one specifically do you use? And when you say "take the body apart as much as I can" do you mean you actually take off the arms and legs? How is that done without breaking the doll? Thanks!

Offline VoidChilde

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2018, 03:23:06 PM »
@Kara Zor-El
Thank you so much for this! I'm not going to do the job myself because I don't have any of the required materials right now but that is super helpful! My doll is probably going to be mostly for display so I'm not too worried about the joints rubbing off - once she's done, she'll be posed in her set (I'm making her a diorama set to stay into) and that will be it since I don't want to damage her in any way. In any case, if I ever decide to try it myself, this is really informative!

Offline Kara Zor-El

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Re: Changing a doll's skintone
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2018, 08:30:22 AM »
I checked my supply, and this is the primer I'm currently using:



It works great, although soft parts like CAM hands and boy CAM feet stay a tiny bit tacky.  I fix this by soaking them in ethyl alcohol for a half hour after drying for a day, and then removing them from the alcohol bath and letting them air dry.  Works like a charm.

As for 'taking the doll apart,' I mean as much as I can.  CAM dolls, for example, I paint as their individual pieces, not as a fully assembled doll.  Regular MH dolls, I paint with the heads removed, and the forearms and hands separated from the bodies.  It just makes covering every part of the surface much easier.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2018, 08:32:18 AM by Kara Zor-El »
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