How to Customize Tonner Dolls

Written by caroline adams
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How to Customize Tonner Dolls
Create a one-of-a-kind doll with some carefully placed paint strokes. (puppe4 image by Markus Luigs from

Among doll collectibles are the OOAK "One of a Kind" dolls. These are usually fashion dolls that have been creatively repainted and customised. Among the most popular dolls chosen for customisation are the Robert Tonner dolls. Doll artists have transformed Tonner dolls into famous people like Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie as well as movie characters from the "Twilight" movies. Tonner dolls have also been transformed into mythical characters such as angels, mermaids and elegant vampires. The customisation of a Tonner doll and the final OOAK look is up to the doll artist doing the repaint.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Acetone
  • Soft cloth
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton swabs
  • Acrylic paints, variety of colours
  • Small artist paint brushes, variety
  • Mirror
  • Acrylic varnish, glossy finish
  • Watercolour pencils, pink, plum, red or coral (for lips)
  • Acrylic varnish, matt finsh
  • Isopropyl alcohol

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  1. 1

    Choose the doll to be repainted and a clean brightly lit area in which to work.

  2. 2

    Remove original paint from the Tonner doll face by applying acetone with a soft cloth. Use acetone on a cotton ball or cotton swab to get into the tight spaces around the eyes and lips. Avoid getting acetone on the vinyl body, as this will ruin the vinyl. Allow the face to dry completely before beginning to paint.

  3. 3

    Choose a small brush with a very fine point and an acrylic paint for the eyebrows. Paint eyebrows with very tiny strokes to mimic fine hairs.

  4. 4

    Outline the eyes. Add the whites of the eyes and include shading and tear ducts for realism. Choose acrylic paints for the colour of the eyes. Add the pupil with black paint. Check that the eyes are looking in the same direction by looking at the doll's face in a mirror. Add tiny, pinpoint-sized highlights of white and other colours to add depth to the pupils.

  5. 5

    Add "eye shadow" by mixing acrylic paint and water into a light wash. Add additional coats of this wash to deepen the colour as desired. Add eyeliner around the entire eye. Paint a thin line made from a light brown and water wash under the lower eye to add a "skin shadow" and to make the eye area look less flat.

  6. 6

    Paint lashes by using a fine tipped brush to achieve lashes that are a consistent length and thickness.

  7. 7

    Outline the lips with a slightly darker shade of paint to give depth. Apply several coats of wash to achieve the desired colour. Apply glossy acrylic varnish to add dimension to the lips.

  8. 8

    Add blush to the cheeks with watercolour pencils in either pink, plum, red or coral. Blend colour carefully with a soft cloth to achieve a seamless finish.

  9. 9

    Seal the entire Tonner doll repainted face with acrylic matt finish varnish if satisfied with the outcome. Remove acrylic paint if not pleased with the new face. Wash the doll's face with isopropyl alcohol and a soft cloth and begin again.

Tips and warnings

  • Repainting takes practice and skill, so consider choosing a cheaper doll if this is your first project.
  • Good light is essential to seeing each tiny brushstroke. Consider purchasing a 5X magnifying lens visor. It will improve the quality of the painting while reducing eye strain.
  • Craft brushes are good, but for a little extra money, purchase artist's brushes. They come in a variety of sizes with very fine tips. If cleaned and stored properly, they will last a long time.
  • If removing all of the face paint is too much for a beginner, paint over the existing factory-produced face. Customise the eyes, lips and blush for your first attempt at repainting.
  • You can change the doll's look by changing the hair. Hair can be changed by styling, replacing the wig or rerooting. Rerooting is a very tedious process but it provides a real opportunity to customise a Tonner doll.

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