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Full Body Spray Painting Tutorial

Ever wanted to give your doll a fantasy skin color? Or perhaps a special finish, like metallic, glitter, iridescent or pearly? But you've either found, or surmised that the joints would be a problem? 

Let me give you a hand! 

Video below and written version beneath that:

Full Body Spray Painting Tutorial (yes, even in the joints!)

Full Body Spray Painting Tutorial (yes, even in the joints!)

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Changing the color of the entire doll has its problems no matter what method you use, but almost all of them specifically have issues with the joints! 

Up until now, dying had been the method most likely not to get quickly rubbed out of joints, or using a permanent marker in those spots, but since various parts of dolls are made of different materials, they very rarely ever dye the same color all over. So you end up having to blush areas to match anyway, even if you had been trying to avoid that method in the first place. 

But here I'll tell you how you can spray paint any color or effect, evenly, all over, even in the joints without it getting scraped off during posing. The one caveate being that you WILL need a steady hand. 

In fact, before I even list needed tools and materials, I'm going to tell you the "big secret" so you can decide if you want to give this a try or not, before you read things that are going to end up being useless to you: The trick is to carve and sand inside the joint areas to make room in there so the parts aren't rubbing as the doll poses. In the tutorial I'll go over in detail how to do this, but you'll need to trim a little bit from each surface inside each joint. It's not quite as delicate a procedure as you might think, so you're not as likely to accidentally break something as you might imagine. 

They say fortune favors the bold, so if you're still with me, let's talk about what to use:


  • a doll 

  • xacto blade

  • dremel tool (optional, but makes things faster in some areas than just using sandpaper)-

  • files (optional, if that is easier to use in certain areas. It's all about preference and convenience)

  • sandpaper the grit doesn't really matter, since whatever spray you use is likely to be leveling out the texturing. 

  • spray paint (the sky is the limit! Metallics, glitters, enamels, haven't run into anything yet that has been a problem. 

  • Masking tape (if your doll has details that you need to protect) 

  • UV resin and 280 or so watt UV lamp (optional, but a strong tool if you use it right)

  • Sealant, don't forget that if you're doing something shiny, you'll want a high gloss sealant. I like Rustoleum Clear Gloss Laquer.


Step 1: Prep 
Dehair if if that's in the plan. If you're doing a reroot, that's easier done after spraying and drying. And wash up with a little soap and water to get rid of any oils. 

Step 2: Trimming Joints  
Wer're getting right into it! This is the hard part and I'll do my best to explain and illustrate. For shoulders and hips it's really easy because all you have to do is take your xacto blade and carve a little out of the torso around where the arms and legs meet it. Move the limbs around to check for parts that might touch in odd poses. 




Elbows, wrists, knees, ankles... those are a bit more complicated, and this is what I was talking about when I said you need a bit of a steady hand. Usually the first thing one will notice if you've ever fully body blushed a doll or tried to spray paint it before, is that, say you're looking at the back of the knee. If you spray painted it straight like that, then when you go to bend it, the bottom lip there will scrape along the joint disk and remove the paint. However, even once you remedy that part, notice that the disk joint also sits flush with the calf that is gripping it from both sides. So the idea here is to create enough space inside the joint so that no part is going to rub stuff off any other. 

As so often is the case, it's not as hard or as scary as it sounds! Just hear me out... You DO want to maintain structural integrity in such small areas, so you don't want to be cutting too much into any one place. What you do is just trim a little bit off of each surface. 

We'll start here with the outer edge. Many dolls have this disk joint type with the forearm, hands, lower legs and feet being made of vinyl. So at the bottom of the disk where the edge of the other limb would usually scrape, trim that opening a little, making sure to carve some of the vinyl inside where it would touch the wheel. Just enough to make sure that there is no edge anymore to do the scraping. Continuing with the nice, soft, easier to cut vinyl, go around the joint, cutting down, sloping inward as illustrated:


So that's one side, and now you want to carve the disk itself. a very thin layer all around the outside, then both sides of the disk that would have been touching the inward sloped cuts. This way, you're not trimming off a lot of material from any one place, but there is plenty of room for your chosen coloring. 


Make sure you've done this for each joint in both the most stretched pose and the most folded pose.

Step 3: All Over Sanding

Now you should do at least a light sanding all over the body to make sure that there's some tooth for the spray paint to cling onto and be less likely to chip off in later years. 

Step 4: Cleaning
This cleaning is the one you want to be more thorough on. Soap or dishwashing liquid are fine. Just make sure to get all that sanding dust and any oils off.

Step 5: Initial Spraying
You made it! It's time to put down the color and really get a good picture of what your project is going to look like. Read the instructions for your paint carefully and follow them. Most have temperature and humidity ranges for optimal results. If not done right, the paint can discolor, cloud, bubble or curdle. Also, it is always written in the instructions, but remember to work in a place with enough ventilation and cover nearby things that you don't want to get paint on. 

For the first spray, you want to make sure that all the doll's joints are positioned at the one extreme, so that the 2nd spray you move them to the other extreme to reach the rest of the areas and other sides of the joints. You have to wait for the paint to dry to the touch before repositioning which in my experience is usually somewhere between 30-60 minutes. 


You have to find a way to hang your doll for drying. If the head is off, it's easy to tie something around the neck peg. But if you can't remove the head, I've found that I can loop around in the thigh joint and find a good arrangement since we made a bit of a gap there anyway during prep. 

Err on the side of spraying too lightly, because it's more difficult to correct if you spray too much in one spot and it starts to run or drip.

Once this coat is dry, flip all the joints around to the other extreme, spray again and dry again. 



Now that all the joints have a layer of spray paint on them, you have to mask the joints during any further layers or sealing so that you don't get many layers building up, clogging and bunching. It's ok if some scrapes off while you're detailing. I'll tell you how to do finishing touch ups. 

Step 6: Detailing

Now is the time to do any further layers, or blushing or painting in details. 

Once you are ready, move on to:  

Just use masking tape over the joints and use your xacto blade to trim it to fit and tuck down around the joints.  


Step 7: Sealing 

You'll have to pose your doll the same way you did for the initial spraying back in Step 5 and mask all the exposed joints. Spray with whatever finish you have chosen to use and wait for it to dry. 

Once dry, remove the masking, flip joints the opposite way, mask the newly posed joints, spray again, dry again, remove masking again. This is kind-a-sorta the official end, but almost inevitably you will have to do: 

Step 8: Touch ups 

Until you've done this a few times, you'll probably have to fix a few spots here and there in the joints. Maybe a spot wasn't carved enough, or maybe something got snagged during masking, or any number of other possibilities. Doesn't matter. Here's how you deal with it: 


First check all the joints, bending each of them both ways to see how many spots you will need to patch up. You can eyeball it and see if it looks like there wasn't enough space and if you need to a bit more trimming. 

Just take your spray paint and a small disposable container. Point the head of the spray can in the container and cover the rest of the opening with your hand so the paint doesn't spray out. I haven't done a ton of spray jobs, but with the ones I have done, in small puddles the paint stays mobile enough to be used with a brush for quite some time, so you don't need to rush. It may start to settle after a while and you can use a toothpick to stir it. 

In any case, use that to re-paint on in any bald spots. They should dry quickly. 

Now, take out that UV cure resin. I love this stuff! It is soooo strong! Just brush a thin layer of it over the paint that you repaired and use your UV lamp to cure it. You have to do it patch by patch, because the resin won't dry on its own, but it WILL run if it's in the wrong position while you're drying another spot. So, better to take it slow, checking and rechecking as you go. 

I just use the resin in the troublesome tough spots, not in all the joints. But I suppose you could do otherwise if you so choose. 



The end! 

Hope this helps some people out. Happy spraying! 

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