Not all of us have been there but for the very adventurous, the assured artist or the courageous colorist many individuals redo a doll's face at some point in their doll collecting hobby.
The first time I ever did a doll-paint removal? Not to toot my own horn (okay, maybe a little tooting, *toot*toot*) I was probably '9'. This was long before face-ups, reborns or repaints ever existed and if I had know I was such a trend setter in the early 80's I probably would have shared all the secrets I knew in a tell-all book. But I was only nine and didn't realize the impact that redoing a doll would ever have on the doll community those many (did I say many?) years later when I became an avid collector of dolls and joined in the community of collectors.
Although I do not have any of the original dolls I redid as a child (why mom, why?!) I do remember fondly using nail polish remover to erase those stubborn tan lines on a Barbie or the glaring red or pink lipstick found on most dolls at the time. My most ambitious project was the removal of lip paint and shoes on a Glamour Gal, as well as switching heads with another GG, so I could remake her as the Forest Princess-- I was not a frou frou kinda girl and those heels and lips just irked me beyond belief. I even used an exacto to remove the tiny heels from her teensy tiny feet. But hey, she was a far sassier doll when she was completed in my opinion. She gave all the Star Wars action figures my friend next door owned a run for their Jedi-money. Even Princess Leia wasn't as cool compared to my tres' chic Forest Princess. I mean really, she was the miniature fashion doll equivalent of an ass-kicker.
*For a detailed analysis on keeping your plastic-based collection safer, please see the following link for details:
Helpful Tips To Consider!:
**There were supposed to be other photos uploaded to complete this blog post for Friday. However due to Nintendo corporation's recent cancellation of its uploads to Facebook service of DSi-photos, sadly, the photos meant to be here could not be added. Hopefully at a future date they will be included.
Little did my '9' year old self realize that even though I was a trend setter, I was also setting a dangerous precedent *insert dramatic musical emphasis here*. I was using pure acetone to remove all the paint off my dolls and they weren't even resin! Even my elementary educated brain noticed that the nail polish remover could cause damage to the plastic if applied to long and too often. (Just for the record, I actually used this melting property after discovering it to cool affect when I removed the paint from a few dolls.) So it was not accidental when the resin BJD community began a hue and cry over the use of acetone paint removers on any doll. The new method? Using an oily paint brush cleaner.
Now I don't want to rain on anyone's parade but oil will damage plastics over time. Resin is a polymer plastic and is therefore subject to this DoT (Damage Over Time) so why in Aslan's Great Green Country are people using an oily paint brush cleaner to remove paint from resin?
Well, apparently it works. It also works well. But here is the rub... if all the paint brush cleaner cannot be fully removed after being utilized (let us remember resin is very porous) are the people using these cleaners subjecting their dolls or the dolls they used these products on to an insidious creeping DoT? Will they (or their customers) wake up one sunny day and find their doll's face discoloring or softening slightly from where the cleaner was used? In all honesty, I do not know. But I am a serious proponent of the 'better safe than sorry' and the 'tried but true' method.
So does this mean acetone is safer? In some ways 'yes', if it is not oil based. But is is completely safe? Well, obvious from my own '9' year old tinkering with just vinyl and plastic dolls, 'no'. But with some care and some clear instruction I think it is a better product in the long run for use in paint removal on any plastic-based doll. I have dolls many years old that have shown no DoT from acetone removal techniques.
However, I know there will be die-hards out there just touting the safety and efficacy of paint brush cleaners so I will not be so biased in sharing paint removal tutorials. I will share one of each. But be forewarned, I chose a biased tutorial for acetone usage. I'm snarky like that.
Acetone et. al. (read the addendums):
Windsor and Newton Brush Cleaner:
Of course, just using just rubbing alcohol and Magic Erasers could be feasible removal techniques for those willing to put in the hard work required to use such methods. However, I haven't personally used either one yet so I cannot tell anyone how much work there will actually be. However, even using just those two things there will still be harder-to-remove areas of paint that will require a more intensive approach. Whether one chooses acetone or brush cleaner for those harder to remove spots is really the final question. My money is still on acetone.
For any sticklers out there, I also wanted to add, in absolute fairness, that I agree that there were probably some dolls damaged from acetone usage over the many years resin dolls have existed. Acetone causes a chemical reaction that can 'melt' plastic (and I use the word 'melt' only to describe what the process appears like and not to refer to what actually occurs in the chemical reaction) but (again being fair) not everyone should be removing a doll's paint if they are not familiar how such chemicals work on plastics in the first place. Disasters occur when you aren't familiar! (Rhyme 'familiar' with 'occur' in your head and it sounds a bit sassy like a doll rap about to happen.)
I also recommend rinsing your chemically exposed doll parts with water after exposure to acetone or alcohol as this may be helpful in halting the chemical reaction of any remaining acetone. I further suggest using a distilled water for the rinsing, since unfiltered tap water can contain chemicals that may react to chemicals or solvents used on your doll. At the very least filter your tap water if you chance to use it instead of distilled.
If you are woefully concerned about using acetone for paint removal then ethyl rubbing alcohol can neutralize any acetone that may remain. Again rinse with a plain distilled (or filtered tap) water wash after rinsing with alcohol. For a more informative breakdown on acetone please see the following (most especially the last answer!):
And for goodness sake don't ever bathe your doll in any chemical be it acetone, brush cleaner or any combination-chemical soups! Your doll will thank you and in the future will actually be there in the future to thank you, instead of being some melted lumpy soupy mess itself.
I suggest avoiding soaps as most soaps are oil based and have other chemicals that most likely are harmful to plastics (resins, rubbers, vinyls etc). But if you do decide soap is your only option for clean-up (which, when using brush cleaner, is advised) then Dawn dish liquid is the one most everyone agrees on. Maybe one day I will do some testing of my own with soaps but for now I can only suggest what others have tried and used successfully.
I think it is decidedly terrific that any first timers choose to repaint, reface or reborn a doll to enhance it for their own personal aesthetic but be forewarned there are dangers and possible upsets with such a choice. There may also be the discovery, even after consuming all the hullabaloo in this blog-post, that removing a doll's paint may not suit you at all once you start!
In the event you find yourself with a partially defaced doll or a paint job that leaves you less-than-breathless, there are artists available that remove and apply paint to dolls on a commission basis. Although I cannot personally recommend any particular artist from experience, I know there are many fabulous doll-customizers out there with open slots just waiting for dolls. Just ask a friend, a doll group or google "face-up bjd artists" or similar search for suggestions on doll customizers.
As a final note, if this post isn't one directly useful for you, the least it has done is informed you on several paint removal methods available to doll customizing artists out there. And if you are looking to get a face-up artist to do your doll, maybe that isn't such a bad thing after all.