How to Make OOAK Dolls

OOAK stands for One Of A Kind. OOAK dolls are dolls that are only produced in single units, most commonly by artists who customize an existing commercial toy doll such as Barbie® or Gene® for sale to doll collectors. To make a doll OOAK, you start with a nude base doll, then change the hair either by restyling or rerooting, apply custom face makeup if you like, and dress the doll in custom designed handmade clothing that appears on no other doll available for sale or collecting.

Custom OOAK Fashion Doll

Things You'll Need

  • Nude fashion doll

  • Doll hair for rerooting (optional)

  • Several plastic drinking straws cut into 1" pieces

  • Small strips of paper towel about 1"x3"

  • Non-rust straight pins

  • Bowl

  • Boiling water

  • Non-acetone nail polish remover for face repainting (optional)

  • Fine paint brushes (optional)

  • Artist-grade acrylic (water-based) paints (optional)

  • Hairspray or shaping gel

  • Small elastics, bows or other doll hair accessories

  • Scissors

  • Handmade custom clothing

  • Doll stand

Step 1

Wash the doll with general hand soap in a sink of warm water to remove any marks from the body and face. Don't worry about marks on arms and legs if they'll be covered by the clothing. If you plan to reroot the doll's hair see the Resources section for a link on how to add new hair to the doll before continuing to the next step.

Step 2

Wash the doll's hair with hand soap or shampoo and apply fabric softener or regular hair conditioner to smooth out the tangles. If the hair is in good shape and pretty clean, just wet it.

Step 3

Comb the doll's hair with a fine-tooth comb to remove knots. Trim the ends of the hair if they are particularly frizzy. You want it damp and smooth to work with.

Step 4

Doll with hair rolled for the "boil perm"

Divide the doll's hair into small sections. Taking each section in turn working from bottom to top, fold a strip of paper towel around the section for an end paper, and pull it down to cover the hair ends. Starting with the paper, roll the section of hair onto a straw. When you get to the scalp, use a straight pin to anchor the straw to the head for drying. Repeat until the entire head is in rollers.

Step 5

Boil a pot of water and position the doll's head over a bowl that is deep enough so you can leave the doll's hair submerged for a long period of time. Think of it as a wash sink like you see at a salon where just the head goes in the bowl.

Step 6

Pour the boiling water over the hair, being careful not to get it on the doll or the soft vinyl face. Leave the doll's hair covered in the hot water until the water cools. Remove the doll and set her somewhere to dry before moving to the next step.

Step 7

OOAK Doll In Ball Gown

Remove the current doll makeup with a non-acetone nail polish remover if you want to do a complete repaint, then use a fine paint brush and acrylic paints to recreate the face paint. Repainting requires a steady hand, attention to detail, and artistic talent. If you're new to OOAK dolls or face repaints, start small and only change a little bit of the face, such as painting the lips a different color.

Step 8

OOAK Doll with Hair Styled Using the Straw Rollers

Remove the pins, straws and paper towels from the doll's hair and style using small elastics, pins or other hair accessories. Apply extra-hold hairspray or shaping gel to keep the new style in place.

Step 9

OOAK Angel Doll

Hold the doll up to a light afterward and look for stray strands of hair sticking up. Clip them with a sharp pair of scissors.

Step 10

Dress the doll in the custom clothing you've created for it. Doll clothing can be knit, crocheted or sewn using patterns from the Internet, books, and craft or sewing stores. You could also design your own pattern and have an outfit that is truly yours alone. Place the finished doll on a doll stand for all to admire.


An alternative to repainting, which isn't necessary to create a OOAK doll, is to seek out dolls with unusual face paint from the manufacturer that fits with your design vision. For example, if you stumble upon a Barbie at a garage sale with beautiful violet eyes that will be perfect for the violet gown you designed, use her as she is, maybe with a new hairdo, and she's immediately OOAK without resorting to more drastic customization.

These same steps can be applied to larger dolls and baby dolls, but you'll want to use small regular rollers instead of straws to curl the hair.