How to Create Your OWN Reborn Horror Doll
Bitten by the terrifying creativity bug? “Reborning” a doll (taking it from stripped or blank parts to a finished piece) is no walk in the park, but the results can be amazing. If you’re ready to create your own dark little darling, follow along with the instructions below. Sweet dreams!
You Will Need:
- one blank reborn doll kit (check out ebay, etsy, Amazon or a kit site like bountifulbaby.com)
- doll eyes (acrylic or glass), if your doll will have open eyes – ebay and sites like eyeco.com and safrindoll.com often have “fantasy” eyes in all-black, piercing blue, milky blue-white, “demon” yellow, red, etc.
- mohair (look on ebay) if you plan to root hair into your doll, and/or if you plan to root eyelashes onto the eyelids
- a rooting tool
- Genesis heat-set paints: a basic set should be fine, but make sure there is a white or white-ish color included for very pale skin, as well as red, black, etc. depending upon the finished look you’re going for
- air-dry or heat-set gloss
- oil paint thinner, such as Mona Lisa Odorless Paint Thinner
- paint brushes
- cosmetic sponges/wedges
- a doll body (doe suede is the cuddliest)
- plastic cable ties (to attach the limbs and head to the body)
- artificial French manicure-style fingernails, plus nail glue (if creating a vampire doll)
- a drying rack; inexpensive baby bottle racks are perfect for this
- a separate portable oven if you don’t wish to use your own kitchen oven (remember: ALL plastics and vinyl, even if they’re phthalate-free, will emit fumes while baking)
- E6000 or other permanent glue
- doll weighting beads
- stuffing, such as Polyfil pillow stuffing
- palette for mixing paints, if you wish
- a reliable kitchen timer, or your smartphone timer
- Using any gentle soap, wash and thoroughly rinse all vinyl doll parts. Set out to dry completely.
- Tweeze small holes of varying sizes into your sponges. This will be to produce a “mottling” effect on your doll’s skin.
- Lay out an old towel or sheet to protect the surface you’re working on.
- Set out your paintbrushes, paints and if you wish, a palette to mix your paints in.
- Have a clear idea of what you’ll want your finished doll to look like. If you wish, bring up images of other artists’ dolls for inspiration.
Painting the Basics of Your Doll
- Using one of your paintbrushes, dip a VERY SMALL (half a pinky nail-tip size) amount of the lightest flesh color you can find (I typically use Genesis Flesh 08) onto your palette, or place it in the paint jar cap. *Please note that this and instructions #2-7 below are for pale dolls, such as vampires and zombies. For other skin tones, such as greenish, brownish, etc., mix the appropriate colors.*
- BARELY DAB White or Nail Tip Genesis paint with a separate brush and mix into the flesh color.
- Add about 1 tsp. paint thinner and mix well. Continue to add thinner in VERY SMALL increments until you
have a watercolor-like consistency.
- Paint the mixed color onto your sponge with the smallest plucked holes, or onto a cosmetic sponge that hasn’t been plucked at all (either is fine for this stage).
- “Pounce” the painted sponge all over the limbs and head of your doll. Allow to dry completely. You will barely be able to see any color.
- Pour a bit of your mixed color into another jar cap or area of the palette and add a just slightly darker color (such as Flesh 07). Follow instruction #3 above.
- Taking a sponge with larger-plucked holes, paint with the color you achieved in #6 above and pounce as in #5 above. Allow to dry completely.
- You now have a base skin color. Preheat your oven to 265-270F (ovens heat differently, so if your oven tends to get overly-hot, you may wish to use the lower end of this heat scale). Place the limbs and head onto a cookie sheet lined with a CLEAN, non-colored (white is best), already-washed (so no color leaks into the vinyl) towel. DO NOT allow the parts to touch each other or to touch the metal part of the cookie sheet. DO NOT allow the towel to drape over the sides of the cookie sheet; they may touch the metal inside the oven and in rare cases, could catch fire. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN BAKING VINYL PARTS.
- Ventilate the area very well. If baking indoors, open all available windows. If baking outdoors, check several times to be sure no curious animals or children are near your heat source. Keep your heat source well away from the walls of your house and away from any flammable items outside.
- Bake for exactly 8 minutes. Be sure to time this – don’t estimate. Over-baking will melt the vinyl and ruin the kit. Under-baking means the oil paint will not set and will wipe off when cooled.
- When the 8 minutes are up, remove the vinyl parts immediately and cool on a clean, white, already-washed towel.
- Your base layers are now permanent, so you can go ahead and add detail; see below.
If You’re Creating a Vampire
Add layers of very light-colored paints, using Flesh 08 and white. Be careful to mix very well and not to add too much white in any layer, or you will wind up with a chalky look. To give the skin dimension, use sponges plucked in varying sizes of holes, using some with uniform holes and some with a more random plucking sequence.
Using a large-size holes plucked sponge, create skin mottling – the appearance of capillaries under the skin. Use a pink or blush color. Go very easy and add rather than adding too much and trying to remove.
Create a sunken appearance and a contrast with the pale skin by shading around the eyes, in the nasolabial folds (the two lines that go down from either side of the bottom of the nose to next to the lips) and so on. You can go a bit heavier on your lip color than you would for a non-horror reborn doll, as vampires traditionally have very richly-colored lips. Add a few “blood drops” near the lips if you’d like. See “Ad-Ons” below for instructions on how to create and attach fangs to your doll.
If You’re Creating a Zombie
Add a very, very small amount of blue to a very light flesh mixed color in order to get a grayish appearance.
Dab red, brick or brownish-red coloring in various places to create bruises. Paint the lips grayish-pink or very pale barely-pink. Some artists prefer black for the lips.
Zombie “babies” often have very, very prominent veins. See below for veining instructions. They also may have a much more stark contrast between the basic skin tone and the mottling color, so feel free to do a bit heavier-handed on your mottling color choice. (See “If You’re Creating a Vampire” above for mottling instructions.)
If You’re Creating a Werewolf
A werewolf can have any base skin color, so go darker than the above instructions if you’d like. You may wish to paint the nose a brownish color and paint the lips a very deep brownish or even off-black color.
You may not need as much mottling for your werewolf, as you will probably be covering more of the body with hair. However, this choice is up to you. Some mottling adds dimension to the skin and makes the reborn less “doll-like” and more realistic. (See “If You’re Creating a Vampire” above for mottling instructions.)
Details for Any Horror Baby Choice
- Shading the inner ears, inside the nostrils, and inside all the folds and creases of the head and limbs will add dimension and make for a more realistic look. You may also wish to blush the knees, elbows, the tip of the nose, the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
- For specific choices, such as a Frankenstein, Chucky, clown, etc. doll, you may need colors that do not come with a basic starter paint kit. Purchase separate paints, but always use the same type of paint (for example, we’re describing Genesis paints here, which are oil-based; choose ONLY oil-based add-on paints in this case).
- Paint the fingernail beds a light blush color and finish with a tiny nail tip color in white mixed with a tiny bit of Flesh08, or with Genesis nail color. Use the smallest brush you can find, or cut all but two to three hairs away from a small paintbrush.
- Every two or three layers, or if you’re going from one basic color to a very different type of color (i.e. black Frankenstein bolts and stitches over green skin), you will need to re-bake all your vinyl parts following the instructions above. OIL PAINTS ARE NOT PERMANENT ON VINYL UNTIL BAKED.
- To add veins, use a blue color diluted very well with thinner. Go lighter at first – blue tends to be very permanent on vinyl! You can always re-paint over the veins you’ve created. Dilute as above to a watercolor consistency and add a tiny dab of green or purple per your preference. Dab well with a sponge to blend the beginning and ending parts of your vein lines so they look more natural.
- Paint eyebrows with a brush that has only two or three hairs, or draw them on with a Prismacolor art pencil. DO NOT smudge. Bake to make these permanent.
When you have finished your painting, add any of the following per your preferences and horror doll choice:
- Hair (search Youtube for hair rooting tutorials) – be sure to paint glue inside where the hairs are so that they won’t pull out later
- A wig, if you prefer not to root individual hairs
- Eyes (the eye socket needs to be slit first; again, please view a tutorial or ask a reborn artist before attempting) – brush glue over the cut part of the sockets inside the head once the eyes are placed correctly
- Eyelashes – either rooted (better for “sleeping” dolls) or artificial lashes glued to the inner eyelids
- Gloss – adding gloss to the nails, lips, insides of nostrils and inner ears add wonderful realism
- Fangs – cut French manicure fingernail tips into tiny triangles, add a SMALL amount of nail glue and glue onto lips – be sure of your placement first as if you lift and re-place the fangs, the glue will remain in the original area and look white
Finishing the Doll
At last, it’s time to assemble your little darling!
- Fill pantyhose/stockings, a new, clean sock or a vinyl glove with weighting beads.
- Place some Polyfil into the doe suede doll body.
- Place the filled, weighted stocking/sock/glove into the bottom of the doll’s body.
- Add more Polyfil.
- For a larger-size doll or to add more weight, add a second filled stocking/sock/glove.
- Fill the rest of the body completely with the Polyfil. Arrange around the filled stockings so that the stockings can’t be felt when holding the body.
- Place another weighted, filled stocking into the doll’s head. Add Polyfil around the filled stocking.
- Thread one cable tie through the neck of the doll. Place the head into the opening and tighten the cable tie. Cut off the cable tie very close to the cable tie head and thread the head through the opening so that it doesn’t stick out and scratch you when you’re holding the doll.
- Fill the arms and legs to just above the knee or elbow with your weighting beads. Stuff each limb the rest of the way with Polyfil. Follow #8 above to attach the limbs to the body.
- Add a great outfit, a creepy stuffed bat or spider, and enjoy your adorable little terror!