Adventures in shrinking vinyl heads

There's been several blogs out there detailing some information about shrinking vinyl doll heads, but most of them feature Barbie, Bratz, Moxie or other brands of dolls. I'm developed a fascination with Monster High and Ever After High dolls, mostly for the fashion designs and creative ideas, but I tend to prefer more realistic appareances. While I do enjoy a certain amount of stylizaton, the heads of both brands are a bit too big for me, so I've been experimenting extensively with shrinking their heads.

I'll link to the 2 methods below this paragraph, but please read the rest of this page before deciding which method to use because there are definitely factors besides time to consider about what each one does:

Fast Shrink guide: http://www.dirili.com/mh/fastshrink1.html

Slow Shrink guide: http://www.dirili.com/mh/slowshrink1.html

Fast Shrinking vs. Slow Shrinking

Hopefully this will help you decide which method is better for you. The most important distinction is that with fast shrinking, you cannot keep the face paint. That actually includes the stripes in hair like on Toralei, Meowledy and Purrsephone. If you don't want to repaint, you HAVE to slow shrink. Slow shrinking is safter in many ways which will be explained a bit more further on. The length of time it takes for either method is determined by just how much you want to shrink your head and the chemical composition of the particular head you are shrinking. Even two heads that seem identical can have slightly different material structure that will alter just how it behaves during the process. This mostly effects the speed at which the head will finish shrinking and drying but can also effect just how much the head shrinks overall since thinner vinyl shrinks more and faster, so dolls like Honey Swamp who has thick vinyl all over her sculpt shrinks slower and may take additional soaks. Draculaura the same, as she has really round and chubby cheeks which equals thick vinyl there.

Fast Shrinking features

The left one is the fast shrunk one, center slow shrunk, right one unmodified:

1 - Faster obviously: If you only want to shrink it a little, or if you happen upon an unusually fast shrinking head, you only have to do one session. Soak the head in 100% acetone for 2 hours, then let it dry for about 22 hours. At that point it will have done most of it's shrinking and a good amount of hardening and you can determine if you want to do more soaks. I have not gone past 3 myself, so I don't know if there reaches a point where the vinyl will deteriorate from the process. At 3 sessions, from start to finish it can be done in 4-5 days. The first day you need to wash the head to get rid of excess oils or contaminants and make sure it is fully dry.

2 - Accentuates sculpt features: As mentioned, thinner parts will shrink more than thick parts, and because of this you get things like more prominent cheek bones because the cheeks are thicker. This tends to make the faces look more elegant and mature in some cases.

YOU SHOULD NOT FAST SHRINK HEADS WITH ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
- Thick hard glue in the head (can cause head to warp and/or crack)
- Very close hair plugs (often causes cracks or even for the whole scalp to separate from the head)
- Any cracks or scratches that you know of (can worsen and crack through the vinyl)
- Dolls with metallic or pearly sheens unless you don't mind recoloring the whole head to match the body again, because fast shrinking will leech out pearly effects and sometimes changes the color of metallic vinyls. Some examples are Lagoona, Robecca and Jinafire.

Slow Shrinking Features

1 - You can keep the factory makeup: Using the slow shrink method, the only change to the face makeup is that any glossiness will be gone. That is easily remedied by applying a new gloss layer like a clear acrylic gloss or something. It seems that the factory makeup has some elasticity that allows it to expand and contract through the shrinking process without breaking, thus, it does not work for repaints sealed with MSC or Purity Seal or such. So yeah, you can't shrink after repainting, unless you want to repaint all over again. You can also maintain the pearliness or shinyness in vinyl skin like Lagoona and Jinafire. 100% acetone seems to leech the pearl effect right out. I have only tried this on Lagoona though as I did not have enough Jinafires to waste on testing this further.

2 - Keeps the head and face feature shape: Sometimes there will be some change, but for the most part it's minor and there is little difference between the overall look and shape of the original head and a slow shrunken head.

3 - Only method for dolls with closely rooted hair plugs Any doll that has hair plugs that are very close together will crack if fast shrunk as the thin vinyl between the plugs will errode and run together. If there are too many spots like that, the scalp will just completely break off and separate from the rest of the head.

4 - Only method for dolls with thick hard glue in their heads If you have a head that cannot be squished because the glue is too thick and hard inside, then that will cause problems with fast shrinking. Acetone DOES soften the glue, but vinyl absorbs the acetone and expands much faster than the glue does, so it can cause the head to crack in various places or warp. If thick glue is the only issue, it is possible to do a 24-48 hour soak in 70% acetone/30% water which softens the glue enough to either break it up a little with some tool, or just wait for it to dry again and fast shrink since the glue won't go back to being as hard as it was.

5 - Safter overall especially if there is any structural damage There are sometimes unknown factors inside your doll's head that you cannot see. Like perhaps there is already a scratch or crack inside the head from a rough reroot. If fast shrunk, that can result in the crack opening up as the head expands in the 100% acetone. There's all kinds of factors that are far less risky using the slow method. If you really want to minimize any chance of things going wrong, slow shrinking is the way to go.

6 - More time to reroot if you want to do it in soft vinyl You CAN reroot once the head is fully shrunk and hardened, but some may prefer rerooting while the vinyl is still soft. This totally varies. Sometimes the head can harden as fast as 3 days, while some are still soft after 2 weeks.

Special notes about particular dolls:

Abbey Bominable - There are 3 issues to be aware of with Abbey. (1) Whether you fast or slow shrink, she MUST have her face fully wiped, both makeup and all the glitter. I believe it's the glue that's used to hold the glitter on her face that causes the vinyl of her head to become discolored when it combines with the acetone during a soak. So you must be prepared to do a repaint of her and reglitter her if you like, if you want to shrink and Abbey. (2) Also whether you fast or slow shrink... depending on the particular Abbey you have, some of the color streaks in her hair will turn spongey (though the blond parts have been unaffected as far as I've experienced. Sometimes it will be all the color streaks, sometimes just one. Whichever colors are made out of kanekalon. I've had one where all the colors puffed out, and one where only the pink did. The other 2 I had dehaired before shrinking. (3) Her irridescent tinsel will loose it's shine and color. It will turn dull. It won't hurt the rest of the hair though, doesn't melt or anything so you could remove it before or after or just leave it in depending on what you are trying to achieve.

Venus McFlytrap - I believe that the glue from her flocking mixes with the acetone and if allowed to dry in her hair, it turns her hair hard and stiff and it can actually break. so after each soak, rinse out her hair. I haven't had a chance to shrink a 2nd Venus to try this out yet, but I believe that should work. I will update when I get a chance to test this.

Dolls with kanekalon hair - Thanks to my friends on Monster High Arena, I've learned that it's the kanekalon fiber hair that has an issue with acetone. It'll kink up and turn sponge-like and stiff. Dolls that I know of that are affected by this are: Abbey's colored streaks, some Spectras, some Ghoulias and some Draculauras' pink strands. You can pull a few strands to test soak ahead of time to see if your doll's hair will affected or not.

If you have any questions, you can email me at drkne@yahoo.com and please make sure you put something in the subject that won't make me think it's spam.