Creating a Custom Doll
We caught up with Jessica who had just created her first ever custom Monster High doll. Here’s her complete step-by-step guide:Do you want to turn that original character into his or her very own Monster High doll? My name is Jessica Sneeringer and I am a twenty-seven-year-old Monster High collector (visit me here). I got into Monster High because my mom noticed them at a toy fair and said “wouldn’t you have loved these when you were younger?” I had to have them.
My favorite character is Draculaura. When I saw the beautiful custom Monster High dolls that were popping up over the internet, I wanted to make one for my own original character, Lunette. She just happens to be the main character in the novel that I am writing.
But where would I start? I had experience with crafts and painting but never customizing dolls. I found this website and jumped in head first. There were a lot of obstacles and things I had to teach myself along the way and now I’m going to share that knowledge with you.
- Nude Monster High doll (buy a fully clothed doll and remove her accessories or find an already nude doll on eBay)
- Small, sharp scissors (such as embroidery scissors)
- Pure acetone (beauty supply store, pharmacy, hardware store or online)
- Spray paint for the body (krylon fusion). Can find online, at Walmart or other hardware stores.
- Spray paint for the head (VHT brand). I could only find this online. eBay worked.
- 1-2 hanks of rooting hair (I used dollyhair.com)
- Rooting tool (also from dollyhair)
- Permanent fabric glue (Find at hobby store or Walmart)
- Acrylic paints (any brands although I use professional grade Liquitex brand)
- Paint brushes (small)
- Matte sealant (krylon or dullcoat) Find at walmart or hobby store.
- Gloss medium (I also use Liquitex brand here too) Find at hobby store.
Picking out your body:
The first step is picking out the perfect Monster High doll for your custom creation. My original character was a werewolf so I chose the School’s Out Clawdeen doll. For yours, pay careful attention to the species, the color of the doll’s skin, the ears, etc. Once you have your doll, remove her clothes. If you like the clothes, keep them! If you don’t you can always sell them on eBay or a Monster High forum.
Now you have your base – a nude monster high doll. Or you can buy an already nude doll on eBay and save a little money.
Removing the make-up:
The next step, if you would like to completely change her face, is to remove her make-up. You can use nail polish remover and q-tips. In a rolling motion, carefully lift away the factory paint. Don’t wipe; you will smear the paint across her face. Now I had a really hard time with this and was later given the tip of using pure acetone instead. So if you want to remove her make-up, I would try pure acetone and q-tips first.
You can change the look of her face without taking the make-up off completely. Here in the first picture below is a werewolf CAM (create-a-monster) doll. I wanted to change her eye color and take away her fangs. I also wanted to change the color of her eyebrows because I was going to change her hair color.
In the second picture below you can see the changes I made. By using very small paint brushes and acrylic paint you can go over the factory paint and change, for instance, the color of her irises. When you are done making changes, spray a very light coat of matte sealant over her face. The two brands I use are Krylon matte sealer or Testor’s dull coat. Then gloss her lips with a gloss medium (I used Liquitex brand here).
Removing your doll’s hair:
To remove your doll’s hair you want to first cut it as close to her scalp as you can get. Use normal scissors to cut off most of her hair and then use small sharp scissors to get it as short as possible. Embroidery scissors work well for this. Then take your tweezers and tug every piece of hair out of her scalp. This is a tedious process and takes a while. You will find that some hair comes out easier than others, but she must be completely hair free when you are done.
The first doll head I used, the tweezer method worked fine, but on the second doll head I was having a really hard time getting all the hair out down to the roots. I had an idea that about loosening the glue that held the hair in her head.So if you are having problems getting all of the hair out, try this method:
Soak her head (hair and all) in warm water for about ten minutes.
Then, taking your tweezers, try pulling the glue and hair out from the opposite end, through her neck hole.
You might have to soak her a couple of times and you might have to scrape around inside her head a bit, but you will find that hair and glue will be coming out in great clumps.
This was by far the faster and easier method. You might want to start here. You will have to remove her head first. Just pull it off with a little wriggling and do it slowly so as not to damage anything.
Changing the color of your doll’s skin:
If you picked a doll with a skin color you already like then skip this step. My original character was Caucasian and pale so I chose to change the skin color of my nude doll to white. If you haven’t already removed the head, do so now and put it to the side. You will want to choose a spray paint that bonds well with plastic. I suggest Krylon fusion. It is what I used here.
Choose a well-ventilated area. Perhaps outside or in the garage. Be sure to protect the surface you are spraying on with newspaper or a painting tarp because the overspray will go everywhere. I painted on a paper plate in the cut grass outside in good weather.
Spray about ten inches away from the doll in long, light strokes covering one side of the doll in a thin layer of paint. Wait about fifteen minutes and repeat the process with another layer. Keep doing this until the doll is the desired color. If you do not paint in light layers you run the risk of having runny, dripping, uneven paint.
Now wait an hour and then flip her over and do the other side. Later, make sure you move her joints around and paint those areas too. Put her in different poses checking to make sure that she is completely covered in her new “skin”. Then wait twenty-four hours until you do anything else with her.
Because the head is vinyl – a plastic different from that of the body – you will have to buy speciality spray paint to cover the head. I used VHT vinyl dye and I had to buy it online. I put her head on the end of a pencil and stuck the other end into the grass so that I would get even coverage.
Now here is where I messed up the first time. You must spray in very light layers or else your paint will pool and drip. I ruined a head by not being patient and going slow and light. Once you have her head covered in the new color, follow the directions on the can, waiting three hours before you touch her.
If you want to add tattoos or decorations to the body you may do so after she is fully dry. Use acrylic paint and small brushes. Once your design is dry, give it a light spray with matte sealer.
Rooting your dolls hair:
You want to do this step before you paint her face or else you risk the face paint cracking. First, paint the scalp the same color as the hair you are going to use. I used mostly black with some silver, so I just painted her scalp black.
Then you need to buy a rooting tool. I used the one and the method from DollyHair.com. You might break a lot of needles. I went through several and had to order extras along the way. You might want to do this ahead of time. Also, I had a problem keeping the needle from sliding back inside the tool. You have to be sure to tighten the tool as tight as possible. My husband used tools from the garage to do this for me. I also, at one point, put a little super glue around the base of the needle. Don’t worry, it is not as permanent as you think.
Now it’s time to begin rooting. Take a smaller piece of hair from the larger hank and hold it between your first and second fingers and then your thumb and third finger, leaving about an inch of hair between your fingers. Hold the hair perpendicular to the hole you are about to root. Take the tool in your other hand and pull some hair out using the longer prong of the two-prong needle. Push the needle with the hair all the way into the head. Pull back out. Congrats! You have just done your first reroot. Repeat until the whole head is covered.
Remember you can follow the holes premade for you but you can also create your own holes. If you are confused at all, the tutorial on Dolly Hair is most excellent.
Now this took me forever. So don’t expect to do it in one day.
When you are finished, you want to take permanent fabric glue and spread it inside the dolls head with a q-tip. You do not want to use water soluble glue because the hair might loosen when you try to style it with water later. Let dry twenty-four hours before brushing or putting the dolls head back on the body.
My doll’s hair is long and straight so not much styling but rather a trim will do the trick for me—maybe a brush-through with warm water to get it laying the way I want. If you want to style the doll more by adding layers, I might suggest finding a YouTube tutorial, or asking your hairstylist for a quick doll trim the next time you are in.
Here is a video with tips for cutting doll hair:
If you want to curl your dolls hair or anything more elaborate, the original website I came across had a good tutorial on some more advanced techniques (scroll to the bottom).
Painting your doll’s face:
You’ve probably put her head back on to style/cut your doll’s hair. I would suggest leaving it on for painting her face. Tie her hair back so as not to get in your way.
Acrylics mix with water. You want to have a cup of water for cleaning brushes and a cup of water to use to mix with the paint. You will also want a palette to mix the paint on, or a paper plate. Acrylics dry pretty fast. Thin your acrylics down a little, and using your small brushes, apply the paint in smooth layers to her face. I suggest drawing the eyebrows on with a pencil first. And you might want to keep a factory doll on hand to study the way Monster High paints their eyes. Or you can do it your own way!
When you are done painting her face, give it a spray with matte sealant. Gloss her lips (and eyes if you want!).
Clothing your doll:
Now that you are finished you need to find some clothes for your doll. Do you like your original outfit? Then use that! Do you like another outfit from a different Monster High doll? You can usually find them sold separately on places like eBay.
Also, if you want custom clothes, check my favorite place, Etsy.com. Or maybe you can create your own clothes. I just know I am not any good with needle and thread so I opted to buy my outfit from Etsy.
Before and After Pics:
Here she is above – from Clawdeen to the werewolf Lunette. She isn’t perfect, but she is my first and I am very proud of her, as you should be of your first custom, imperfections and all.
Common Questions and their Answers:
Q. Where can I find the supplies to create a custom doll?
A. You’re going to have to go all over the place to find supplies, from the internet (eBay and specialist sites) to hardware, and hobby stores. I name specific places to find things in the above article.
Q. How much do the supplies cost?
A. Most things are under twenty dollars a piece. The most expensive supply will probably be the doll.
Q. How can I keep my doll’s face from cracking or chipping?
A. Do not reroot after you paint the dolls face. Reroot before painting her face. Also, several very light layers of matte sealant should seal in the paint and keep it safe.
Q. How long will it take to create my custom doll?
A. Well it depends on wait time for supplies (DollyHair.com’s needles were on backstock twice when I ordered), motivation, and difficulty of your remake. It took me a little over three months to complete my doll. That was with a part-time job and the holidays.
Q. What was the most challenging part?
A. Honestly, when the skin on her face starting cracking and peeling during the reroot. I had to carefully cover her hair and try to fix these mistakes. Sometimes I had to make do with the fact that her hair was just going to hide some of those mistakes.
Q. If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?
A. When I was drawing her eyes on they got a little wonky. Wish I had been a little more careful, but I love her anyway.