How to Repair a Stained Doll Face

5 Apr


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – what an idiot. I re-rooted and repainted my Cherry Blossom Sindy about a year ago, and I MEANT to get round to sealing her face paint afterwards, I really did. But I forgot. I knew that paint sometimes spreads and stains the surrounding vinyl, I had read about it loads of times. I just forgot. I was so annoyed with myself. I find painting on dolls very rewarding when I get it right, but lets face it, its not often I get it right. I felt like I’d got it right with Cherry Blossom Sindy, and then I went and forgot to seal it and a year later, she looked like she’d been suffering from a very bad cold. Gutted.

Anyhoo, I thought I was probably going to have to swap Sindy’s head for a new one. Its usually the doll’s hands and feet that get playworn, so sourcing a replacement head wouldn’t be a big problem. However, as I can’t reroot at the moment I wouldn’t have been able to re-do her lovely pink hair. And dammit, I didn’t want to swap the head. I like her head. I didn’t want to re-do her hair. I needed to save it.

I came up with two plans. My first plan was to try and make her over as a Geisha with thick white makeup, which would cover the stain. However, I didn’t really want to have to change her all that much so first I decided to try and and cover up the staining round the mouth with some ground-down chalk pastel matched to the colour of her face. I gave this second plan about a five per cent chance of working, but actually ….




… I think it looks OK.

I applied thin layers of powdered chalk pastel, which I brushed on with a wide course-bristled paintbrush. I sealed in between each one, letting it dry fully before adding another layer. It took three layers to get it this good. I’m now wondering if this technique might be useful for correcting other types of stains, like pen marks and dust staining. I will try it if an opportunity arises. I’m just so glad I managed to save this doll – and in the future, I will be sealing as soon as the paint is dry.



13 Responses to “How to Repair a Stained Doll Face”

  1. Pam April 6, 2013 at 4:59 am #

    I didn’t know that new paint might bleed. My daughter has repainted a barbie’s features with acrylic paint – do we need to seal it, and what with?

    • barbielea April 6, 2013 at 10:36 am #

      Hi Pam. Yes, you do. If you don’t, it might bleed and it will also be prone to chipping, rubbing or washing off. Varnishing gives a nice finish too … if you get the right one. I don’t know what country you are in so I don’t know if this is the right Amazon site for you, but these are the sort of products you want to be looking at:

      Beware, though. Varnish has caused me far more hassle than painting has, and I still haven’t found one I’m completely happy with (I’m going to do some internet searches today and if I find a decent recommendation I will post a link). Before your daughter varnishes her repainted doll, I highly recommend that she tests her varnish out on an unwanted doll so she can observe how it dries and how much she needs to apply.

      You can choose from paint-on varnish (suitable for eyes and mouth and other specific areas but not for a whole face and not if chalk pastels have been used as well as acrylic – I use Daler and Rowney brand and its OK) or a spray varnish (I’ve read that these can be used on a whole face but the one I bought recently is rather sticky and slow-drying, so I’m not going to recommend it as I am going to have to repaint the dolls I used it on). You can also get matte, eggshell or gloss finish. A lot of doll painters seem to use eggshell or gloss finish on the eyes and lips, I think because it gives a nice shine and adds an extra element of realism. Finally, if she wants to avoid colour bleeding and is only painting specific areas, its best if she paints very slightly outside the line of the paint – but not too far out, or the edge of the varnish will be visible against the raw vinyl! Good luck with it. And if you start looking into it and find any decent tutorials or just want to share any useful tips about varnishing painted dolls, I would love to hear back from you!

      • Pam April 11, 2013 at 9:49 pm #


  2. Debbie H April 7, 2013 at 4:17 am #

    It looks very good! Impressive! I had no idea you had to seal the paint-I have always wanted to try & repaint some of my dolls. Thanks for the info

  3. Heather April 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    I always seal the faces before I start painting, but this is still a great tutorial … just reading the comments you’ve gotten, obviously it’s been helpful πŸ™‚ Thank you!
    I think this will be very useful for when I’m checking out Goodwill… I might not pass up a girl I otherwise would have left behind!

  4. kewpie83 April 11, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Well, you did a great job on her face! She’s adorable! You’re much braver than me.The majority of my face ups (the few I’ve done) are mostly watercolor pastels and pencils! Paint frightens me a bit!

    • barbielea April 11, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

      Lol, frightens me too! Although its varnish that’s giving me the most difficulties at the moment, I just can’t find a decent spray-on one … thanks Kewpie πŸ™‚

  5. Taswegian1957 May 23, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    What an ingenious solution. I’m much too uncoordinated to attempt any kind of doll repainting but I really admire people who do it.

    • barbielea May 23, 2013 at 8:17 am #

      Hi Taswegian πŸ™‚ Thanks! I like the challenge of painting something so small it can barely be seen. However, it can also be very frustrating! I’m continuing to practice and learn, I really want to be better at this.

  6. Blackkitty June 6, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    Hi there! I just found your blog today and I’m reading it all. I thought I was the only one who can’t find a matte sealer… and here you are struggling with the same thing and you live in a civilized country! Let’s cry together πŸ˜€
    Keep looking. You’re doing a great job!

    • barbielea June 7, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

      Thanks very much Blackkitty. Still not found one! But I will write a post if I find one. Best wishes πŸ™‚

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