Wednesday, September 5, 2012

From the Archives: Urban Repaints

This was originally published on January 10, 2010.  For the benefit of new subscribers who may have missed the original post, I have decided to re-post this interview with Twoonia Sykes whose has now resumed her doll repainting skills.  With the exception of a few minor edits and contact updates, the interview reads as it originally read in January 2010.

Formerly Esme

Last week after reading a brief introduction of new Black Doll-E-Zine Yahoo! Group subscriber, Twoonia Sykes, and viewing pictures of her work, I wanted to know what inspired her entrance into the world of repainting and trolling. The results of my inquiry follow:

DBG: What inspired you to become a repaint artist and how long have you been doing this?

TS: A lot of things inspire me to be creative, but repainting is something I discovered by accident. Being a stay at home mother I have a lot free time on my hands. I have always had a fascination with dolls, dating back to when I was a little girl. One day I was shopping on eBay for Christmas gifts and I saw these dolls that I had never seen in stores or advertised for purchase anywhere. I noticed that these were dolls created by different people who were artistic. So I did my research and said, "hmmm I can do that," and I have been repainting dolls ever since, on and off for the past 6 years.

DBG: Please explain the term trolling, and without divulging your personal style or technique, also share a few steps of the repainting and trolling processes?

TS: In the world of repainting, "trolling" means the removal of all factory rooted hair and re-applying some sort of fiber that resembles hair; it could be yarn (spun wool), mohair, or any type of fiber that can easily be hot glued with a glue gun to a vinyl doll’s head, which sounds easy, but it takes practice to get it right.

The obvious first step in the trolling process is removal of all factory hair (you'll need scissors for cutting and tweezers for plucking the smaller portions out). Once done, you’re pretty much left with a head with tons of tiny holes in it. You will need a small hot glue gun, a hot glue stick or Aleene’s Tacky Glue for beginners. If you want the hair to stay, the hot glue gun process is better. After deciding what type fiber you'd like to use to troll the head, apply it around the crown of the head in a circular manner, making sure the hair faces outward, and continue going around the head until it's complete. If this is something you'd like to try, I suggest you use a smaller doll’s head for practice because you can easily burn your fingers and get hot glue everywhere in the process.

There are step-by-step instructions online for novices, which are easy to follow. Once you get the hang of it, substitute the white glue for hot glue for a permanent fix.

For repainting I use artist grade liquid acrylic paints and sealers with a matte finish, such as Golden and Liquitex paints. I also use Folk Art and Americana Liquid acrylic paints. I also use Flow-Aid to thin my paints and prevent it from drying out so fast. I use sable hair paint brushes, sizes 3/0 round, 0/2 round, and 0/0 round. You'll need 100% acetone nail polish remover and Q-Tips to remove the factory face paint from your doll’s face. A baking soda and water concoction rinse after paint removal prevents damage to the vinyl.

There is no specific destination on where to begin when repainting. Sometimes, I start on the lips and then the eyes or I'll start with the eyebrows. I bounce around a lot when I am repainting, but I always try to apply three layers of paint. Once it dries, apply one coat of matte varnish. After it dries you can move on to the hair, which you can either leave factory, cut and style, or troll. I always do the hair last. For a great walk-through on the art of repainting, I suggest purchasing Laurie Leigh’s DVD.

DBG: Which doll was your last repaint/trolling candidate?

TS: My last repaint and trolling combination was a Tonner Jac doll that I transformed into my version of Rihanna [inspired by this photo of the real Rihanna].

Tonner's Jac D'Argent (before repainting and trolling)

Jac as Rihanna, after repainting and trolling

My last repaint was Tonner’s Twilight Saga doll, Bella Swan.

DBG: Your transformations are phenomenal. After viewing your "Lisa Bonet," I viewed an online image of the real Lisa Bonet.   This is another superb transformation.  Were your intentions to transform Tonner's Jac D'Argent into Lisa Bonet or did the doll transform itself?

Jac as Lisa Bonet

TS: Thanks! During the time that repaint was done, Lisa Bonet had just done a spread in a magazine and I happened to come across the pictures online. I’ve always thought she was a gorgeous girl. I hadn't seen too many African American repaints at the time. Tonner’s Jac was only one of two African American sculpts available then and the idea was born to create her in dolly form. Lisa was my first trolling job.

DBG: Again, I’m impressed! What's next for you and how can those interested in your services contact you?

TS: Next up for me… I will attempt something I have never tried before which involves sculpting along with the repaint and trolling processes. If you have seen the movie, Avatar, then you'll know what I am talking about. I think it’s a great movie. I will be creating the Na'vi peoples’ deity or Goddess Ewya. Stay tuned.

My commission book currently has 4 openings for trolling and repaint services. I can be reached at, directly through the contact page of my website, and on facebook.

Update:  I have now formed a new doll forum, Black Dolls of All Kinds.  This board is for collectors of all types of dolls, but the focus is African American or Black dolls of all types. Posting pictures and sharing your collection is heavily encouraged. All are welcome. 


Thank you, Twoonia, for sharing such in-depth information about repainting and trolling.  Remarkable, creative genius like yours present in the doll community needs to be fully tapped for the world to appreciate!

The above OOAK Female Humanoid Alien Repaint Art Doll was one of Twoonia's repainting, sculpting, and trolling projects at the time this interview was originally published in January 2010, 


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  1. Very appropriate this repost,Debbie!!
    I had not the chance to read it before.
    I remember the images,but just now I read it!
    And Awesome Styling Dolls!!

  2. Wow, I missed the original post. She does incredible work. Simply amazing! Just the other day I ran across her name. I can't remember where, but I didn't know she was a repaint artist. Thanks again for sharing.

  3. This post is totally relevant to my interests! Thank you so much for the repost and the link. I'm bookmarking both for future projects.

  4. Jorge, Vanessa, and Muff - I'm glad this repost interested you. Twoonia's work is amazing.



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