Painting a Reborn Doll’s Fingernails and Toenails

Reborn Doll Arm and Fingernail

Reborn Doll Arm and Fingernail

Serious doll artists will want to take the time to make every feature on their reborn's look realistic, including the fingernails and toenails. After all, it's the small details that bring the appearance of a reborn doll together, transforming it from a traditional toy doll into a true piece of art. The only problem is that making mistake when painting the nails could do more harm than good by making your doll look less realistic. Here we'll take a closer look at the proper way to paint a reborn doll's fingernails and toenails in a way that looks completely natural.

Even though it creates a more realistic doll, some reborners still prefer to skip over this step. If you are working with a tight deadline or simply don't have access to the necessary supplies, not painting your reborn's nails is perfectly acceptable. In fact, even well-painted nails will only have a minimal effect on your doll as whole. On the other hand, though, perfectionists like myself will have the longing desire to paint their nails in a more realistic, natural-looking tone.

What You'll Need For Painting Fingernails and Toenails

It's important to note that some reborners will have their own preferred method for painting the fingernails and toenails. As you gain some experience with reborning dolls, chances are you'll come up with your unique methods and ways to go about doing it. The method listed here is the one I've been using for several years, and it's actually quite easy compared to other ways. Take a look at the necessary supplies below to get started...

Here's a list of the supplies you'll need to paint your reborn doll's fingernails and toenails:

  • Several different flesh tone paints along with a basic white paint (both heat-set or air-dry paints will).
  • A plastic paint palette to keep your paints separated.
  • Ultra-thin, hard-bristle paintbrush.
  • Ultra-thin, medium-bristle paintbrush.
  • Toothpicks.
  • Paper towels.
  • Bottle or can of clear matte varnish.
Reborn Doll With Painted Nails

Reborn Doll With Painted Nails

Reborn Nail Painting - Where To Start

Once you've acquired all of the supplies previously mentioned, it's time to put them to use. Some people may attempt to paint the nails while the doll is still together, but I recommending disassembling the doll first. This will give you more freedom and room to work with by allowing you to move each individual hand or foot around. Also, if you intend on using heat-set paints, you'll have to disassemble the doll first.

Hopefully, you have a workstation where you can sit down and comfortably work on your reborn dolls. Go ahead and lay out all of your tools and fill up the palette with some of flesh tone paints. The trick to painting lifelike nails on a reborn doll is to make it a slightly darker color than the rest of their body, so you'll want to fill up your paint palette with a couple of these shades. Try to avoid painting the nails in the same color as the rest of your doll's body, as this will simply make it blend in (which is bad). Instead, closely examine your doll's body and use a color that's just a shade or two darker.

Note: Depending on the type of paint you are using, you may need to add some water or odorless paint thinner to give it a more liquid texture. Smearing huge globs of paint on your reborn doll's nails simply isn't going to work. If it's too clumpy, mix in some distilled water or a tiny amount of paint thinner to help balance it out.

Reborn Doll Fingernails

Reborn Doll Fingernails

Painting The Nails

Okay, now it's time for the fun to begin. Take your reborn doll's arm (assuming it's detached from the body) and place it down in front of you. Next, dip your medium-bristle paintbrush in a small amount of the flesh-tone paint and slowly apply it to the surface of your reborn doll's fingernails. As you apply the paint, try to make very short strokes to cover the base and then tilt your brush to get the corners. Try your best to avoid getting paint on anywhere other than the fingernails. If you do, however, get it on their fingers or anywhere else, use a clean paper towel to dab it up immediately. Allowing air-dry paints to sit on your doll will eventually cause them to set, and that could force you to go back and repaint your doll all over again.

Unlike the actual body and limbs, you don't need to apply half a dozen or more layers of paint on your reborn doll's fingernails. In fact, it's usually best to apply the thinnest layer of paint possible to achieve a realistic effect. Once you are able to visibly see the flesh color paint stand out against the contrasting lighter body color, then you know the nails are good. Just avoid applying too much paint, as it will take away from your doll's realism.

Here's a little tip for painting your reborn doll's nails - rub the corners using a toothpick where the nail meets the finger. This will help define the edges while removing any excess paint. Toothpicks are the perfect tool for the job because they are fine enough to get down into the very narrow edges bordering a doll's fingernails.

When you are finished painting your reborn doll's fingernails (on both hands), place the arms off to the side and move on the to the toenails. I'm not going to go into some long, drawn out guide for painting your doll's toenails simply because the steps are the exact same. After all, your toenails and fingernails are the same color, right? (let's hope so at least). Continue painting the toenails using the same procedure previously mentioned and then move on the finishing touches.

Making The Finishing Touches...

Your reborn doll's nails are almost complete, but there are still a couple of things that need to be done. For starters, the paint needs to be set and dry so there's no chance of it smearing off. If you painted the nails with air-dry paints, it's probably already dry from being exposed to the air. However, Genesis heat-set paints require heating in a convection oven to dry. At first glance, you might think this is just another unnecessary step, but it's actually beneficial because the paints don't dry out as you are working with them.

Once the paint has set, you can then go back over the nails to make moons (the white arches at the base). To create them, dab the ultra-thin, hard-bristle paintbrush in white paint and gently apply to the base of the nails while making an arch at the top. If you need an example of how to shape it, just look down at your fingernails. See how they have white arches? Well, your goal is to make similar ones using the white paint on your doll's fingernails and toenails. When you are finished, go back around the area with a toothpick to better define the edges.

Lastly, place your doll's arms and legs back in the convection oven one last time to set the paint. After taking them out, you should be left with a nicely painted nails on your reborn doll. For an added layer or protection, you can paint on a coating of matte varnish to help seal in the nail paint. Genesis offers a special matte varnish to use with their heat-set paints, or you can use a basic matte varnish sold at most arts and crafts stores.

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