Ultimate Guide: How to Make a Reborn Art Doll
There are many types of reborn dolls out there, as well as many mediums in which to reborn an art doll. So in this blog, I will only touch on how I reborn a vinyl kit (the most common type of reborn) with vinyl limbs using Genesis Heat Set Paints (GHSPs).
Typically, a reborn artist will purchase a blank vinyl sculpt of a baby, called a kit, along with a cloth body and all of the supplies needed to complete the reborn from an authorized retailer. Some of the supplies you will need to complete a reborn art doll include:
- Paints (air dry or heat-set) including flesh colors, mottling colors, veining, undertones, highlights, hair colors (if painting hair), neutralizing colors, blushes, creasing colors, lip colors and nail colors.
- Distilled water for air-dry paints or odorless thinner for heat-set paints
- Mediums needed for air dry: primer, dilutent, emulsion, shine remover, gloss varnish, satin varnish, ultra matte varnish, matting powder, sealer, 3D air dry medium, correction fluid, and remove zit.
- A paintbrush cleaner
- Mediums needed for heat-set: dewy skin, thick medium, 3D medium, shine remover, glazing gel, satin varnish, Windsor and Newton, and matte varnish.
- A nuwave oven or other turkey roaster or infrared oven if using heat-set paints.
- Excellent lighting that reproduces daylight for your work station, a workstation itself and an ergonomic chair.
- If you will be rooting, you'll need mohair, alpaca hair, rooting needles (various sizes as you are learning how you root as an artist), a rooting pillow, scissors, a thinning razor, a baby hairbrush, mohair conditioner, and tweezers. I also HIGHLY recommend a nice magnifying lamp to help you see the hairs better so you don't lean forward too much and hurt your back and neck.
- Puppy pads to line your workstation so the paint doesn't ruin it and so you can clean your brushes off
- Paint Palettes
- Paint Brushes
- e6000 glue (for gluing in hair and magnets)
- Magnets (for the pacifier and bow)
- Baby powder scented wafers (to make the baby smell like a real baby)
- Polyfil (to stuff the reborn doll when completed)
- Glass beads (to weight the reborn)
I know, I know...I never said it was a cheap hobby 😆...this is why reborns cost so much! But most reborn starter kits will come with everything you need above, so don't stress too much about buying everything all at once.
Authorized retailers of reborn doll kits and supplies include:
- Macpherson Arts n' Crafts (Canada)
- Bountiful Baby (USA)
- Irresistables (USA)
- Truborns (USA)
- Dolls by Sandie (USA)
- Dolls So Real (USA)
- I Art Reborn (UK)
- Tinkerbell Creations (UK)
- Debbie's Reborn Doll Kits (UK)
- Ultimate Fusion (Australia)
- Aussie Reborn Supplies (Australia)
- Anne Made Reborn Supplies (Australia)
I may have missed a few, but what you won't see on there are some very popular online sites, and that's because it is not possible to get an authentic reborn doll kit from websites like Walmart, Amazon, or AliExpress. I repeat: you will never ever purchase an authentic reborn sculpt from Amazon, AliExpress, Walmart, etc, even if they say it's authentic, and that it comes with a certificate of authenticity. They are selling counterfeit reborn doll kits, which is theft.. but that's a whole other story.
Once we have all the supplies we need, we wash the reborn doll kit to rid it of any residual oil left from the process of creating the vinyl kit, usually with a good dish soap and a soft toothbrush and cloth.
After the reborn doll kit has been washed and dried for 24 hours, it's time to start priming! I use Genesis Heat Set Paints (GSHP), and on occasion, will use RebornFX Air Dry Paints, or PanPastels. But for simplicity, I will discuss the GHSP process.
The first thing we need to do, is apply a base layer (aka a primer) to the kit. Every artist is unique in how they do this and what medium they use. I like to apply thinning medium mixed with a little bit of odorless thinner on half of the reborn doll kit (so it doesn't touch anything inside the Nuwave oven). I let this dry for 12-24 hours, inspect it for buildup/dust/hair, and then bake it twice for 10 minutes, allowing it to cool down between each baking session. Then I prime the other half of the kit and repeat the process.
GHSPs are also required to be baked at a temperature of 265 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 minutes. Since heating vinyl releases toxic fumes, I choose to do this outdoors in my NuWave Oven Pro Plus with an extender ring. I typically preheat my oven first to make sure it has reached a temperature of 265, then I place the vinyl pieces inside the oven, being careful not to let any of the pieces touch each other, or the bottom of the Nuwave Oven. I line the bottom of it with a couple of towels. Once the timer goes off, I remove the lid on the oven to let the pieces cool down, then repeat the process.
For the rest of the process, the colors are applied in a very thin, watercolor consistency, allowing each layer to air dry and then inspecting each piece for paint buildup before preheating the oven, and baking between each layer.
The colors artists use to reborn and the order in which they are applied is typically kept a secret, so as not to expose how they obtain their original masterpieces of hyperrealism! But what I can say, is that typically some flesh layers are applied, as well as veining, undertones, several layers of mottling, blushing, blending layers and then the creases, nail tips, and hair are painted.
You're probably wondering, if everyone keeps their processes secret, how is it possible to learn how to reborn! Well, I started out watching and reading free tutorials by reputable artists! Once I got good at it, I then graduated to paid tutorials.
Here are a list of some really good, free reborning tutorials that you can watch or read for free!
- "How to Draw Wispy Reborn Baby Hair" by Kim Yerino from Custom Doll Baby. She has since gone MIA, but I have seen every single one of her YouTube videos too!
- "Introduction into RebornFX Air Dry Paints" by Shelley Marie, resident artist at Macpherson Crafts
- "RebornFX Air Tutorial" by Angie Jones of Lil Dumplins Nursery.
- "ReBornFX Air Dry Live Paint Class" by Shelley Marie.
- "Reborning with PanPastel" by April Yap of Sweetie Pie Nursery.
- "How to Use ReBornFX Matting Powder" by Shelley Marie.
A lot of products you will purchase as part of your start-up will also come with free reborning tutorials, so don't fret too much.
The paid tutorials I have completed, and highly recommend, include:
- "Reborn A to Z", an all inclusive course by master doll artist Shaylen Maxwell, Canadian artist and owner of Reborn Sweet.
- "Blond 3D Hair Painting" by Christine Woolley of Silver Lining Art Dolls (I was able to get this from Dolls by Sandie since it's closer to me here in Canada.
- "Pan Pastel Hair Shading" by Shelley Marie, resident artist of Macpherson Crafts. I got all 3 color sets.
- "Painting Hair and Eyebrows" by LaDonna Briggs, well known and talented artist of Sweet Potato Pie Nursery.
- "REAL Reborn Beginner Basics" Creating Newborn Skin Tones by Lara Antonucci of Angels in Waiting Nursery.
- "REAL Reborn Basics of Rooting" from the Beginner Basics of Reborning booklet by Lara Antonucci of Angels in Waiting Nursery (sold by Dolls by Sandie)
- "A Complete Beginner Air Dry Kit - RebornFX" complete tutorial by Macpherson Crafts.
The most all inclusive tutorial would be the Reborn A to Z one, but the others definitely helped me get to where I am as a professional reborn doll artist.
After the baby is completely painted, it needs to be varnished or sealed - depending on the paint type you choose to use. If you will be rooting, that happens after the baby has been varnished or sealed.
If you're rooting, this process happens next. Once the rooting is complete, you can glue in the hair as well as the magnets inside the head for your baby's hair bow and magnetic pacifier. I like to use e6000 glue because it's flexible, strong, and it dries in 12 hours.
Once your glue is completely dry, if you haven't glossed your baby's eyes, nails, or lips yet, it's time to do this. If you have already done this, you get to move on to assembling your reborn doll!
Once the baby is weighted, it's photoshoot time! I always recommend shooting with NO filters, in a bright room, with natural sunlight. Don't take photos in a dark room, or using any dark colors, and make sure to get close-ups of all of the little details - remember, the buyer can't see your reborn in person, so your photos need to cover all angles in order to make the buyer feel like they can see and feel your reborn. In fact, Shaylen Maxwell goes over all of this and more in her free Masterclass webinar. Check it out here.
Is there anything I missed? Do you still have questions? Comment below and I will try to get back to all of you!