Monday, January 4, 2010

Urban Repaints!

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 5 openings for trolling and repaint services. I can be reached at  or directly through the contact page of my website.


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 has been listed on ebay.



  1. WOW ... now those are beautiful dolls - extremely striking.

  2. Impressive indeed! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wonderful job from a very creative artist! nice interview

  4. These dolls are beautiful! Thanks for introducing us to such a talented artist:)

  5. Wow! All of repaints are awesome and the Avatar doll is simply amazing. What talent!

  6. Great repaints, Twoonia! I've seen your work around OSW and maybe MWD dolls...but seeing your larger customs makes me realize your work inspired me to do some trolling on my sixthscale figures. I recognize some of your pics from the flikr pages of the Flying Ewe.

    Loving your Neytiri, btw!

  7. Lovely site. Such beautiful dolls! If you don't mind, would you please e-mail me? I have a question to ask about a particular section of your text. Thanks in advance!

  8. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  9. Hi Debbie your love of black dolls has inspired me in more ways than one. I would like to present you with an Inspired Blog Badge. I give them to blogs that have inspired me in some way or simply made me smile. You can read your featured post here: and please send me your email and I will forward you the badge to feature on your site. email me at vineofwords(at) I looked forward to speaking to you. Plus could I have a few images of yourself and your dolls for the post Thank You.

  10. Oh my goodness, Janet. I am very touched and almost speechless after reading your comment about my blog and how much you've been inspired by my passion for collecting black dolls. Black dolls truly do renew my spirit.

    I will contact you via private email regarding your requests shortly. Thank you again for allowing me to inspire you and for taking the time to let me know.

    As my mother often says, "Give people their flowers while they can still smell them." Thank you for the beautiful, fragrant bouquet!

    Peace and blessings,


  11. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  12. Where can I buy formerly Esme, but with brown eyes? She has hair like mine and I want to give this doll to my daughter

  13. Hello "Test"

    The doll shown as "Formerly Esme" is a manufactured doll by Robert Tonner that was styled by a doll repaint artist. The eyes were painted, hair added, and other special touches done to transform the doll into a one of a kind doll. If you provide you real email address, I can forward it to the repaint artist for you to discuss the possibilities of having her customize a doll for you.



Thank you! Your comments are appreciated!