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Friday, September 16, 2011

Wenchkin's Guide to Painting Toys (Part 1 of 3)

Union Riveter Wenchkin starts off her weekly Friday posts with a BANG! A ton of people have been asking what her method for painting and modifying toys. This will be a 3 part series. We look forward to hearing from Wenchkin every Friday, she is not only an amazing artist (she is the creator of our MR logo!), but also a huge wealth of information about art, techniques, and social networking. To be honest,we cannot think of one other single person that does social networking as well as she does!

Hello everyone, some of you know I draw but on occasion I also paint and mod toys. So I am here today to give you a run down on tips I think are useful when painting toys to get the best results.


One of the first things I learned is that not all surfaces are ready to be painted as is. I use acrylic paint which is water based and often pulls away and pools up on greasy surfaces. So to save myself any hassle I clean all toys prior to painting.

If I am dealing with a Barbie, My Little Pony or something with hair I first wash and condition the hair then tie it back and bag it so it will be out of my way while painting. Conditioning it often helps nappy doll hair come back to life plus it makes it smell nice.

I then take a cotton ball and denatured alcohol and clean the whole toy really well. I use q-tips for smaller harder to get areas. Ponies also come with a little design on their hip, I remove this with an emery board or some sand paper and clean that area again.

Every now and then I get a toy that still seems to oil/greasy even after cleaning. When I sit down to paint I run a test line first that is not an important one and wait for it to dry to see that everything is cool. If it starts to pool up I wipe it off then I give the toy a light coat of matte clear coat that I buy for about 3 bucks a shaker can from Home Depot. I will get back to clear coating later.

multiple ponies in progress
with different base coats
Let it dry completely and then I begin to paint. This has always worked for me. I also have a rack setup outside for spraying as this should be done outside or in a well ventilated area if you care to keep the brain cells you currently have. The rack also helps me dangle a toy for a more even coat and allows it to dry without touching anything. Sometimes instead of clear coating it I will give the whole toy a basecoat of a matte colored spray paint. Do not do this if you are not good with spray paint, you will have a drippy mess on your hands. You can also use gesso if you so desire.


I myself use cheap acrylic paint, Apple Barrel, Americana..... you know, the stuff you can find at any Wal Mart or Hobby Lobby. If will take two coats to get a nice solid color out of it on your toy but that does not bother me considering the price, array of colors and ease of being able to not go all the way to the art store. Someone has asked me the best way to get nice clean lines, first off you need a steady hand. If you do not have one you might consider using a slightly smaller brush then you need and under-painting it. Since you will need two coats anyway I use the second coat to fix and define lines so it is not the end of the world if your line is not so clean the first time, you can go back over it.

I was asked what the safest paint was for kids who may want to do this. Most of my acrylics come with a little black circular logo on them that states they are non toxic. This is another reason I used them. But I would also say pick up and read the labels of anything you hand to your kids in general and they should not be anywhere near clear coat, that is a parent only outside kinda thing. Apple Barrel paints are made by Plaid and you can see the non toxic logo and some info about their paint here.

Other materials, I will mention this just to do it.I have yet to meet a pen that did not smear when trying to draw on a vinyl toy. I only ever pen on lines knowing I am going to paint back over them.
Markers, I did a skeletal pony in sharpie, when I clear coated it, the spray reacted to the sharpie and the lines bled out. Unhappy results.

Someone had asked for suggestions on how to mod out a pony if you can not paint. I thought hard about this one and the best idea I could come up with is Inkjet Water Slide Decals. Some boys will probably know what these are as they are the kind of decal that usually comes in a model kit. You can print your own, backing is clear, cut it out, dip it in water and slide it on to the toy. A friend of mine customized all his own hot wheels like this.


ponies with rock hard painted hair
Pony hair is a nightmare to dye and deal with. if you paint it, it becomes hard and unbrushable. It will not hold real hair dye, it rinses out having done nothing. Best case scenario I redye the hair with a sharpie but then I have to use hair spray over it as the doll hair seeps the sharpie out as it just does not want to stick to it. My best advice, pick your doll my the hair color you want first or learn to re-root, something I know nothing about.


zombie pony had purple hair before I used a
whole sharpie to color it black then used
hairspray to seal the ink into the hair
Do yourself a favor and buy some halfway descent detail brushes. Sometimes in hobby lobby I walk past the regular brushes and find the best ones for this are the ones sold with model kits or for pin stripping. My all time favorite little tiny brush I could not live without is made for painting Warhammer Miniatures, the Army Painter Insane Detail Brush, less then 3 bucks and my local dork stop.


You do not have to seal your toys. I do just to help protect the paint job. As I said earlier I use a 3 buck spray can of matte clear coat and give everything two light coats, the first that day, then I leave it over night, then one in the morning. Or wind allowing at least 8 hours apart. I do not use a specific clear coat I simple learned the cheap stuff does not give me the results I want, the expensive stuff I can't tell the difference between it and the medium priced stuff so I buy the medium priced stuff. I use matte and on occasion a satin purely out of personal preference. If I want something shiny I usually paint it in metallics. This does not mean you can not pick up a lacquer or shiny sealant if you so desire, it is just not the look I personally like. If you do not know the difference, matte is not shiny, satin is kinda shiny, gloss or varnish is hella shiny. I currently use this one.

Be sure to join me for my next installment where I will go over more difficult mods and making accessories.
Happy Painting.

Wenchkin resides in Albuquerque with artist Scott Krichau and her tripod Jack Russell Terrier P. She will be featured regularly on Fridays here on Modern Rosies. Follow Wenchkin on Facebook, or shop her store on Artfire.

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