How can I dye the skin of a cheap plastic doll?
October 26, 2013 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Warning: Crazy offensive Halloween costume description inside.

I need two dead babies for my Halloween costume. I bought two cheap plastic dolls at Target and now need to get their skin a greyish greenish to make them look dead. Google turned up conflicting advice on what type of dye plastic would take. The plastic is not completely hard but has a little give. The ingredients just say plastic pellets, and it is from Mattel/Fisher Price. Does anyone have experience doing this successfully? Thanks. P.S. I am supposed to have drowned them if anyone has further advice on how to achieve that specific effect.
posted by unannihilated to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just paint them. The paint only has to last one night.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:23 AM on October 26, 2013

You'll probably have better luck just painting them.

Try googling for tutorials on doll and toy "modding" or "customization" -- My Little Ponies, Barbies, that sort of thing.

Here's a comprehensive tutorial for the "Monster High" dolls -- there are specific instructions about how to paint the hard plastic of the bodies, which is probably similar to what you're dealing with. This particular artist recommends spray paint, specifically Krylon Fusion, but there's lots more info at the link.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:24 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, I don't want/need to put a ton of effort into this. I'm throwing them away after tonight. I thought about marker but I thought the color would look too dark/solid/fake.
posted by unannihilated at 8:36 AM on October 26, 2013

The big thing with drowning would be to give them blue lips and finger/toenails, maybe some froth by the mouth. Depending how this drowning was supposed to have occurred, some victims would be bloated and/or covered in sores etc. You could add some water plants. I'd try some simple tests at home like grape juice, lime jello, various nasty Kool-Aids. I think my largest concern would be that whatever you could get to dye them would also rub off on you over the course of the night.
posted by jessamyn at 8:45 AM on October 26, 2013

I'd just try one of the cheap Halloween costume make-up kits they sell for people. It'll probably smudge a bit, but if you're looking for cheap/easy, that's probably your best bet.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:46 AM on October 26, 2013

Krylon Fusion brand spray paint is ideal for plastics; unlike other paints, it sinks a little way into the plastic, so it doesn't peel off immediately. A kind of spray paint called vinyl dye, sold in automotive stores, also works on plastics. Avoid other types of paint. You don't want to use anything water-soluble, such as food coloring, because it will roll right off of the plastic. (Boiling nylon-based plastic in food coloring works great, but it's unlikely these dolls are made of nylon.)

You can also use certain permanent markers. A green or blue Sharpie marker will be too dark in itself, but if you can smear it around with a rag and a solvent such as rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover, the result might be appropriately ghastly. If part of the dolls will be covered, do your testing on that part.

You don't want to bother to get into dyeing plastic, because you'd have to mail-order a special dye for synthetics called disperse dye, and then boil the dolls in the dye, which is a lot of trouble.
posted by Ery at 8:58 AM on October 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

Rit dye dyed my plastic stirring spoon really well. It came out REALLY dark though, so be careful. Like I just dipped it into to hot dye bath and it turned the color of the box. I dye things on the stove with almost boiling water.
posted by artychoke at 9:00 AM on October 26, 2013

I bet PAAS easter egg dye would work, but I don't know where you can buy it this time of year.... Or, yeah -- RIT would work too. Just go really light on the dye/water ratio in light of what artychoke said.
posted by kestrel251 at 10:01 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try Koolaid, cheap, easy and it work on hair and tongues. Plastic dolls take dye well, so start with diluted solution.
posted by theora55 at 10:12 AM on October 26, 2013

Yeah, my first thought was trying a very dilute Koolaid solution. It basically acts as an acid dye, and as lots of my tomato-stained containers can attest, those can certainly work at least to some degree on plastic. If you just want a certain tinge of color, I could see it working.
posted by Sequence at 10:23 AM on October 26, 2013

I'd try painting on bleach with a brush. It won't get grayish - but the patchiness could work well.
posted by colin_l at 1:33 PM on October 26, 2013

I painted a plastic doll for a decoration years ago, and just used not very special acrylic paint. It adhered very well with good coverage, and lasted very well (after kicking around boxes for years, my daughter found it and dragged it around for months until I finally got sick of the sight of it and threw it out). Just cheap tubes, a few dollars a piece.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 3:26 AM on October 27, 2013

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