When I was in Tokyo last month, I adopted a beautiful Dollfie Dream Shino (that I’ve renamed Hinata). While I was taking photos of her, I noticed that one of her eyes was misaligned, so when I came home I decided to remove her default eyes and install some different ones just for fun. Changing a doll’s eyes is a very quick and easy way to personalize her and give them a whole new look.
I’ve since become quite comfortable with changing DD eyes, but I still remember the first time I did it for Aerie and how nervous I was.I decided to take step-by-step photos of the process of removing default eyes in case any of you decide you would like to do it.
Here’s Hinata still wearing her default eyes. Notice how the one on the left is dark and doesn’t catch the light? It’s actually positioned 2mm lower the the one on the right so that pretty honey colour in the iris doesn’t even show, and it’s angled downwards!
So, the first step is to remove her head from the body. It’s much easier to handle the head alone. To remove the DD head from the body: grasp the top of the neck in one hand and feel for the “ball” that’s inside at the top of the neck, press it tightly and with the other hand, grasp the head and pull straight up. Don’t twist – just pull straight.
Next you need to take off the top of the headcap. For Hinata it was quite easy, but some of my DD heads are very difficult to open. Be gentle and patient, squeeze the head and try to remove the cap. If you’re having a lot of resistance, try heating the vinyl head up for a few seconds with a hair dryer to soften the vinyl a bit. For Volks DD’s released after Airy and Neris (after May 2011) they will be made of the softer vinyl and the head caps will be squishy and very easy to open.
When you have the head open, have a look inside. It will look like this – the animetic eyes are glued in with a low-temperature hot glue that’s still a little bit tacky to the touch and looks very messy inside.
To remove the eyes, I gently push through the eye socket from the front and ease the eyes out. They should actually pop out quite easily. Make sure your hands are clean and try to avoid touching the face-up! If you have white gloves to wear while handling the head, that’s even better!
If you’re having trouble, you can try putting the head in the freezer for 10 minutes before trying again. The cold makes the glue more brittle so it’s easier to push the eyes out.
Once the eyes are out, you’ll still have all the glue left inside of the head. You can leave it in, but I prefer to remove it since it can sometimes affect how a new pair of eyes will fit inside the head. Gently pick at the edges of the glue around the eye socket from the outside edge of the glue (to avoid damaging the face-up). Volks sells a really useful tool for this task, but mine is still in the mail, so I used a metal nail cuticule pushing tool and it worked just fine. I was able the remove the glue in 3 neat chunks – the “ring” of glue around one eye came out in one piece, and the glue around the other came out in 2 pieces.
I’ve seen some other tutorials that suggest using paint thinner to dissolve the glue and make it easier to remove. I’ve never had to do this, for any of my doll heads and I don’t recommend it. The reason being that if you accidentally get paint thinner onto the doll’s faceup (it could drip through the eye socket) it will be ruined. If you plan to scrub the head and repaint her anyhow, then this doesn’t matter but to accidentally ruin a limited doll’s head would be very upsetting.
With the new vinyl (doll released after May 2011) the glue comes out much more easily. If you squeeze the head with firm but gentle force, and gently push at the glue with your tool, the glue will start to lift and eventually it will be very easy to pull out. The glue in my DD Airy’s head came out in one neat “pair of glasses.”
I got most of the glue out of the inside of Hinata’s head. There’s a bit of residue left inside, but it doesn’t bother me and it won’t affect the look of her new eyes. Do you see how tiny her eye sockets are? DD Shino’s default eyes are only 20mm! Since most of the eyes in my collection are 22mm and 24mm it will be interesting to see how these eyes will fit in her tiny head.
When I install custom eyes, I like to use clear silicone ear plugs instead of conventional eye putty. I find that it has more “tack” to it, making it easier to stick to the inside of the vinyl head and also to the eyes themselves. To use the silicone ear plugs as eye putty, take one of them and roll it out into a long “snake” and wrap it around the outside edge of the eye. Position the eye and putty into the head and press the putty down against the inside of the head to secure the eye. It will look like this on the inside –
If you’re in the US you can find Mack’s silicone ear plugs at CVS or other pharmacies or online. If you’re in Canada, you can find Life Brand ones at Shopper’s Drug Mart and if you’re in the UK, Boots sells them too in very light pink which also works nicely. The silicone ear plugs are safe to use on acrylic and resin eyes, but won’t stick to urethane eyes. Since most animetic eyes are either acrylic plastic or resin they are great!
Sometimes holding the head at an arm’s reach and staring at it helps with the alignment of the eyes. Depending on the style of the animetic eye, positioning can be tricking to make sure they are symmetrical, but not cross-eyed or derpy looking. Once you’re happy with the positioning, give the head a good shake to make sure that the eyes are secured! If they don’t move, you’re done; otherwise add more putty!
I tried out several different styles of eyes on Hinata before deciding on which ones to have her wear. These are 22mm A-types from Twin Snow. They are very pretty but I’m not sure that this shade of green flatters the wig I’ve chosen for her or her makeup. (Note: these are older eyes from Twin Snow. All their eyes after May 2012 are metallic)
Maybe it’s the shade of green that’s too bright. Let’s try a more olive-toned green. These are 22mm “Type 6” eyes from Ronronshuka that I bought while was at Dolpa 27.
Nope, the olive green isn’t working for me either. I think it actually washes her out. Let’s try something in a whole other direction.
These are 22mm “Type 7” eyes fro Ronronshuka. The look really pretty on Hinata. I really like this light aqua blue – and they photograph bluer than they are in person.
These are 24mm Kurokami eyes that I also bought in the dealers room at Dolpa 27. The colour is so vibrant, but the 24mm size is too large for her face and makes her look bug-eyed.
I do like the metallic look of the Kurokami eyes so let’s try them in 22mm. These seafoam green eyes are quite striking, don’t you think?
I think I like the style of those Kurokami eyes, but liked the bluer shade of the Ronronshuka eyes – so I think these light aqua Kurokami eyes are perfect!
It may seem a bit intimidating at first if you’ve never done it before, but it’s really not hard to change Dollfie Dream eyes. It’s an easy, non-permanent way to give your doll a very different look if you are feeling like switching things up. ^__^”
One final thought – on rare occasions, default eyes can crack when being pushed out of the glue. I don’t think it’s damage from the actual removal process, but more likely the cracks occurred during the installation process (due to the heat from the hot glue possibly)? However, there’s no way to tell if the eyes are cracked unless you remove them. If you like the default eyes, have no reason to remove them and don’t want to take the small chance that they might crack, then don’t bother to remove them.
If you have any questions or anything to add, please feel free to leave me a comment. ^__~”
Update: August 29, 2012
I made a real time video showing the removal of DD Rise Kujikawa’s default eyes. As much as photos are written descriptions help, seeing it makes it seem much less daunting!
Update: February 18, 2013
New, clearer video showing the removal of DD Sakura Matou’s eyes. She’s an older doll with the hard vinyl head cap.
– ♥ Archangeli