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Supplies Needed to Repaint OOAK Custom Barbie Dolls

Updated on April 13, 2016

Supplies, paints you need to repaint Barbie dolls

What paints do you use to paint a doll? How do you paint doll eyes and faces? Here are the supplies you need to paint Barbie dolls and Tonner dolls.

I am Donna Anne of Fantasy Dolls by Donna Anne. As a doll repaint artist since 2001, I want to share with you the supplies you will need to start painting vinyl dolls. These supplies are ones that I have used over the years.

I know it's hard to find the information you need when you start a new hobby, so i thought I'd make it a little easier to get started painting dolls. Before you can even learn how to do doll makeovers and paint dolls, you need to know what supplies you need. Obviously you will need some dolls to start with, and for your first attempts, please choose an inexpensive Barbie. You can get cheap Barbies to paint at Toys R Us, if you get the playline dolls. Or, you can get them at tag sales or even at a thrift store. You can even find tons of Barbies on eBay for very little cost. Your first painted Barbie dolls will probably not be great works of art, so don't spend more than a couple dollars on them.

What to use to remove doll face paint

Before you can repaint a doll, you need to remove the existing face paint.

How to remove the paint from your doll's face in preparation for repainting:

My preferred type of paint remover is straight acetone. I prefer Onyx Brand Acetone, which is sold in drugstores in the nail polish section. It runs around $4.25 for a 16 oz. bottle and lasts a long time. Acetone has the benefit of removing the paint instantly without smearing. The problem with regular nail polish removers that contain other ingredients, is that you need to work harder to achieve the same result. The longer the product is on the vinyl and the harder you are working at removing the paint, the more potential there is for damage. Straight acetone removes paint instantly.

Use a cotton ball or Q-Tip and it will take less than a minute to remove all the paint. Some artists like to use a baking powder and water wash to neutralize the acetone and wash the face after paint removal, but in ten years of repainting I have never done this. I don't feel it is at all necessary.

Eve Kitten Doll repaint by Donna anne
Eve Kitten Doll repaint by Donna anne

A Doll Repaint

The Eyes Have it

It's all about the eyes.....This is an Eve Kitten doll. She is a 12" vinyl doll.

Magnifying Lense for painting dolls

You can't paint a doll if you can't SEE it!

Each doll artist uses a different combination of supplies; paints, brushes, sealers, and all vary slightly from artist to artist. I m going to show you what I use to repaint vinyl fashion dolls, such as Barbie, Tonner, and Fashion Royalty dolls. Some supplies are pretty much universal, and some are used by some artists and not others.

One of the very first things I generally mention when learning to paint dolls, is the ability so see very, very well. Now if you are not gifted with perfect vision, you are going to need some help. For many years now I have used a magnifying visor.

I had no idea my eyesight was so poor until a few years ago when I started using a magnifying lens to help me see better while repainting. I had no idea what I wasn't seeing until I started seeing it up close. Let me tell you, it was quite revealing!

Every little flaw that I couldn't see with my naked eye was very evident. I was shocked at what my dolls REALLY looked like close up. It was not good!

When I started using a magnifying visor to repaint my dolls, my Barbie doll repaints improved tremendously. As a result of this, my sales jumped up and I started getting repaint commission requests.

I highly recommend you use a magnifying lens visor right from the start. It is worn on the head and the visor part flips up and down as needed. They generally close with Velcro and are adjustable. As good as you may think your eyesight is, these dolls have extremely tiny eyes and you may be missing a lot that you have no idea of, except when you see your doll in a photo and realize he looks completely different. This advice can save you years of poor painting. In addition, when you can see your doll's eyes very close up on a much larger scale, you can add in detail that would be impossible to do otherwise. This can make the difference between mediocre painting and very realistic repainting.

Magnifying visors for repainting dolls

I have two magnifying visors. I got one on eBay and one on Amazon. Here are some that are pretty much the same as the ones I have.

Fantasy Dolls Customizing Blog- New 2014

My brand new doll customizing blog features not only Barbie Dolls, but Monster High Dolls as well. I hope you will visit.

A repainted custom doll by Donna Anne

One of my Tonner Doll repaints from 2009. Applied Dreadlocks by The Flying Ewe.

Paint Brushes for repainting dolls

Brushes are your first crucial supply. The wrong size brush can make repainting correctly nearly impossible. A brush too large will not be able to create the fine lines you will need.

I have used the same type and size of brushes for years. I use an American Painter Spotter ( made by Loew-Cornell) , size 10/0, # 4650, which is the smallest I ever use. I find that although brushes do come in sizes as small as a 18/0 or even a 20/0, that they are too small and the bristles don't hold the point well enough for me. Some artists swear by them, but not me.

A brush that comes to a very fine point is essential. If it doesn't, you won't be able to create the effect you want. Anything larger than a 10/0 brush is too large. Loew-Cornell also make a nice 10/0 spotter, # 7650. I have found this once in a great while in a craft store, but as a rule they can be purchased on Amazon. These small brushes are sometimes very hard to find locally.


If you buy your brushes in person, actually wet your fingers and stroke them over the bristles. Make SURE they come to a point!

Also, in addition to the one brush you will use the most, you may want to have on hand a stipple brush. This type of brush has short , stiff bristles. I use a Dewbury Scruffy brush, but anything that is similar in style would work. This is the brush I use to apply, by dabbing on, blush and skin mottling to achieve a realistic skin appearance. I find this especially helpful when painting male dolls, whose skin appearance would not be as "porcelain" as a female doll's.


Buy more than one brush at a time! MORE than once I have bought a brush only to discover that the bristles were not just right...maybe they were bent or didn't come to a point. Sometimes you WILL get a funky brush. I always but three at a time an sometimes only one works properly. The duds I save for applying sealer, which requires a bit less precision.

Loew & Cornell American Painter Brushes

American Painter Spotter Paint Brushes- cheap on Amazon.

THIS IS THE EXACT brush I use!!

Golden Paints for repainting dolls
Golden Paints for repainting dolls

Acrylic Paint for repainting dolls

The paints used for repainting Barbie and other vinyl fashion are always acrylic. Do NOT use oil paints on vinyl dolls. This is the quickest way to ruin a doll. The paint never dries. Never.

I use anything from Liquitex to Golden as well as some of the craft store brands. Golden is more expensive, ranging from $4.00 a bottle and up, and has a much higher concentration of pigment. The texture is perfect, and flows beautifully, but will still need to be thinned.

Delta, Apple Barrel and Folkart have the advantage of coming in hundreds of colors, and are very cheap. The texture is thick and often oily, and the paint tends to separate. When you buy cheaper paint you have to work harder to make the paint behave the way you want.

The bottles of Golden paint I bought at least three years ago are still working for me, and I have yet to replace any of them so far. A little Golden paint goes a very long way and although the initial cost is more, they last for years, and this is coming from someone who paints several dolls every week.

The choice of paint is yours, depending on your budget and preference. Try the Golden paints. Get the Raw Umber and the Carbon Black at the bare minimum. These are colors you will use frequently and when you do, Golden can’t be beat. The majority of my work is done in Golden paints, although for lips and shading, I almost always fall back on cheaper brands as I have a preference for a few colors that I use often.

For painting eyebrows and lashes and eye details, I ONLY use Golden paint. The flow is perfect for creating ultra fine lines needed to achieve a more realistic repaint.

Just remember, a better paint won’t necessarily make you a better artist, but it sure can help! When you are first starting to makeover dolls you do need to take advantage of the things that will help you paint better. Golden Paints are by far my preference, so do try some. If you compare Golden Paint for repainting Barbie or Fashion Royalty dolls, to a cheap craft store brand, you can definitely tell the difference in quality.

Sealers- the final touch when you paint a doll

Other supplies include sealers, or varnishes. I have several on hand at all times. My preference is Liquitex, although Golden makes nice sealers as well.

I use Liquitex Matte Sealer for all areas where I don't want any sheen. I mix it with a little water, to thin it down further, as it still has a slight sheen. For areas I want to be glossy, I use Liquitex High Gloss Sealer. I don't water this down. I use this on eyeballs occasionally ( if I want a dewy look), and lips and nails on my female dolls. I have noticed that most top artists tend to use mostly matte sealers, as they allow for better photographs by not allowing any reflection.

On a Barbie or Tonner Doll repaint you will only seal the painted areas-lips, eyes and brows. A brush on sealer is necessary for this.


Sealers for your repainted doll

Tonner doll repaint by donne anne
Tonner doll repaint by donne anne

Final words on supplies needed to paint dolls

So, essentially what you need is paint, brushes, paint remover, cotton balls and /or Q-Tips, and sealer. Another thing you will want to have on hand is paper towels for blotting the water from your brush, a small jar to hold your rinse water, wooden toothpicks for removing errant paint, as well as something to use as a pallet. I use a Styrofoam plate as a pallet.

And that is pretty much the supplies you need to start painting dolls. I am including some suggestions and links to my favorite supplies. If you are serious about learning to repaint dolls, do get a magnifying visor. Trust me when I tell you that there is a lot you may be missing.

I hope this lens was of some interest and help to you.

Tonner doll repaint by donne anne
Tonner doll repaint by donne anne

Reader Feedback

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    • profile image

      Alexis 12 months ago

      Thank you! And beautiful work!

      I'm planning on repainting some Disney Animator's Series dolls for my daughter (gonna change a Kristoff into a Flynn Ryder) and have been searching everywhere to find out what kind of paint sealer to use!!! Thank you so much!!! I know that they are a different material than barbies, but I don't know what they're made out of... do you think the same paint will work?

    • profile image

      Heidi 21 months ago

      Thank you for all the wonderful information. It is so interesting and amazing how you transform these dolls. Would love to do this for a hobby but it will take a lot of practice and patience. You are a terrific doll artist!

    • profile image

      Anouchka 2 years ago

      I waned to know if you are located here in the US, and if you do repair (paint) on damaged dolls?

    • profile image

      micodude 2 years ago


      You do some beautiful repainting job - especially the eys!!! :)

      I was wondering if you could tell me how do you make the blush so "blendy" or I guess "gentle" would be a better word - are you using any special sponge for that? And how do you highlight certain areas of the face - also with the Acrylics?

      Also - can you please recommend if the same paints can be used when painting dolls and figurines made of Super Scupley?

      Thank you! :)

    • Lady-in-Window profile image

      Lady-in-Window 3 years ago

      Thank you :)

      I always use water. I don't like the consistency or texture of other additives.

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      Beckikoala 3 years ago

      Thank you so much for this post!

      I was wondering what you use to thin your acrylic paints. Paint thinner, water, etc?

    • profile image

      burntchestnut 3 years ago

      I doubt I'll ever paint dolls, but it's interesting to know how it's done.

    • Lady-in-Window profile image

      Lady-in-Window 3 years ago

      @muffet: No, cheeks are never sealed in this type of repaint. Even when water color pencils used for the blush, it tends to "stain" the vinyl, eliminating the need for sealer.

    • profile image

      muffet 3 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your tips. Do you also seal the blushing on the dolls? How do get the water color pencils to stick on the smooth vinyl? Is there a special brand that can do that?

    • Lady-in-Window profile image

      Lady-in-Window 4 years ago

      @erica0angelique: Hi- thank you so much :)No, my dolls are all hand painted. I couldn't use an airbrush if my life depended on it.

    • profile image

      erica0angelique 4 years ago

      Hello,Beautiful dolls! Do you ever use an Airbrushing tool?

    • Lady-in-Window profile image

      Lady-in-Window 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Nope. :) I never got the hang of using pastels. Just can't get them to work at all. So, all my work is acrylic or watercolor pencil for the blushing.

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      mouse1996 lm 5 years ago

      Very pretty dolls and great advice.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Do u use pastels for the skin?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hey Kristin. Are you from DK? I am, started making those repainted dolls

    • Lady-in-Window profile image

      Lady-in-Window 5 years ago

      @mouse1996 lm: Thank you Mouse :)

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thank you so much. We even have the Golden here in Denmark ;) Now I need to make a little research on what colors I will need. <3

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thank you so much. We even have the Golden here in Denmark ;) Now I need to make a little research on what colors I will need. <3

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      dude u really have an artistic touch im very impressed and fascinated with your work. my father use to paint the holiday seasons on the windows of business an art that now is gone .. so when i see your work reminds me of those days.

    • angelsigh profile image

      angelsigh 5 years ago

      Awesome lens! Thank you

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Your dolls are beautiful. Your paintig is so realistic and the information on this page is well written and easy to understand. Thank you

    • profile image

      Obscure_Treasures 6 years ago

      The dolls really look so real...