Does anyone have experience with full-body repaints for plastic dolls? I'm working on a repaint/restyle and I need to paint the doll's entire body. I'm creating a fantasy creature but acrylic paint doesn't quite stick the way I need and it doesn't work well on jointed areas of the body.

I've tried using nail polish and acrylic base with a sealer, but these are not permanent. This is the doll I'm working with. I'd like to preserve her mobility and keep the paint from chipping away.

yoga-barbie picture

This doll is for a child (age 10) so it will go through some wear and tear and the paint job needs to hold up. Is there a brand/type of paint that will work better than what I'm using? Or maybe a specific type of sealant?


5 Answers 5


Plastics have become less adaptable to paint and vinyl plastics are often the least receptive. However, I think if you went to a distributor like Blick and visited the sign painter's paints, "One Shot" being the most prominent, you will find a very palatable product.

Palatable in the sense that they mix well, so you can buy a few small jars and blend a skin tone. And palatable because they just are the best enamel paints ever developed for commercial use. They are heavily pigmented so they can be reduced and sprayed. They lay down well and don't leave heavy ridge lines when strokes over lap, should you chose to paint with a brush. They dry quickly and provide an even gloss finish, which can be flattened if desired.


Vinyl and plastic can be tricky to get paints to truly adhere to; if you're looking for an overall recolor of the doll to a fantasy tone, consider dye instead. You won't have any impact on the mobility of the doll, and as it penetrates the outer surface of the doll, you'll see much less wear and tear over time. Dyeing for recoloring has been used regularly in collector communities, particularly with the Dollfie Dream line from Volks and the Obitsu line from Parabox.

You'll need a dye designed for synthetics, also known as a disperse dye; check the labeling to ensure the dye specifies it's for synthetic fabrics, as union dyes ("all purpose," and not great at any of them) and dyes for natural fabrics won't work. Commonly available brands in US stores are Rit's "Dyemore" and Jacquard's "iDye Poly," as well as a large number available online. You'll also need a dedicated pot large enough to submerge the doll (or component parts if you're able to do any disassembly) without it touching the bottom or sides; an old or thrifted pot is great for this, as you should not use it for dye only, never for food. Additionally, you'll want a large bowl of cold water for cooling and rinsing the doll afterward--again, make this a dedicated item.

Keep in mind, too, that you'll be layering over the existing color, rather than replacing it with an opaque layer. For both the purposes of practicing the technique, and of getting the color correct, you might want to pick up a couple of similar dolls to sacrifice to testing, before dyeing the "good" doll.

You'll need to measure and mix your dye to work toward the color you want (more dye for a darker color, less for a lighter one), use hot (boiling) water, and use something to lower the doll in that won't hold the dye (I've used an aquarium net for smaller parts when dyeing different types of dolls, and fishing line or similar non-absorbent strings could work for larger ones--don't make my mistake and use cotton, as it will leave a mark behind where it held the dye longer). For both the test parts and the final doll, you'll dip them into the dye for a period of time (worked out in the test), avoiding the edges (which will cause blank spots, melting, and scorching), then transfer the parts to the cold water bowl and rub them gently to remove residual surface dye. After removing the excess, you can lay the doll or parts on a towel or hang to air-dry.

Forum user elianti has a very detailed write-up of their experience using dye for Volks and Parabox parts at the Doll Dreaming forum that can give you additional details on recoloring dolls with dye.


Acrylic paints mixed with Liquitex Varnish Medium. Choose matte, satin, or gloss. Dolls can even be washed once the paint has cured. No harsh detergents. Mild dish soap is best.


Well I would use outdoor paint. Because it stays on if you leave the doll outside in the rain!And it stays on and pretty much NEVER chips.

  • Have you used this on dolls before? Outdoor paints are not typically used on mobile objects. I would also wonder about toxicity but that is likely true of all paints.
    – Matt
    May 28, 2017 at 3:46

Sand it, prime it, paint it with an acrylic paint and seal it with a matte acrylic sealer.

  • 3
    These instructions are extremely high level. Instead of the 10 mile view, could you zoom in and provide a lower level of guidance on these steps?
    – user24
    Jun 8, 2017 at 2:04

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