If this is your first time eye-swapping an American Girl doll or using our Beautifully Custom exclusive doll eyes, here is a quick tutorial to show you how! This tutorial can also be applied to eye-swaps using AG eyes.
Before we begin…
Our Beautifully Custom doll eyes are designed to fit 18″ dolls with small eye sockets (like AG). Their unique slim-fit design makes insertion and adjustment easier. They may appear loose inside the eye socket at first, but when the heated doll head cools completely, the vinyl will harden around the eyes and lock them into place. If you are using our eyes on an 18″ doll that has larger eye sockets than standard AG dolls, please see our doll eye sizing page for instructions on how to make our eyes fit in your doll.
Changing your doll’s eyes is a pretty simple procedure, though it can be a little challenging at first. We are offering this tutorial with some tips and tricks to help make the process as easy as possible. With practice, eye-swapping 18″ vinyl dolls can become quite easy–and even fun!
Please note that there is always a risk of damaging the eyes and/or doll’s head when performing an eye-swap. Our tutorial is here to make the experience as easy as possible for you; however, we are not able to guarantee results and we are in no way liable for damages or injury that may occur as a result of using this tutorial. Please be cautious of the sharp tools and hot water used during the procedure. Eye-swaps should not be performed by young children. Anyone under the age of 18 should have the direct supervision of an adult.
Now, let’s swap eyes!
IMPORTANT: Our written tutorial below includes tips and information not shown in the video. We recommend reviewing both before proceeding with your eye swap!
STEP ONE (Heating the head). Removing your doll’s original eyes requires heating the head to soften the vinyl. This will make the doll’s head very squishy and the vinyl skin stretchy, which is essential for eye removal and insertion.
Prepare your doll’s head for heating by removing the doll’s head from the body. Simply untie the string at the neck. You can use tweezers or pliers to loosen the knot. Then the head will pop right off.
Tip: Some dolls have zip-ties holding their head in place rather than a string. You will need to clip the threads at the back of the neck and the zip-tie closure holding the head on. To reattach the head later, you can restring with another zip-tie or with string.
Next, line a small bowl with a washcloth or small towel, and place the head upside-down in the bowl.
Tip: Before your proceed, check for holes on the head. If the doll’s ears are pierced, make sure she has earrings in to plug the holes. If she has a random hole on the top of her head (some dolls do) or if she has rooted hair rather than a wig (this will mean she has many holes all over the head), you will need to line the inside of her head with a durable thin plastic bag.
Next, bring some water to a boil. We like to use an electric hot pot so it is easy to pour. The water should reach about 210° F. As soon as it reaches the boiling point, turn the heat off, let it sit for just a few seconds, and then pour the water right into the doll’s head. Fill it to the top. Be careful, the water is very hot!
Tip: If you had to insert a bag into the doll’s head to line any holes, pour the water directly into the bag opening inside the head.
Quickly cover the head with a washcloth or small towel. Allow the head to sit enclosed in the towels for 2 minutes.
IMPORTANT: Vinyl thickness and consistency will vary from doll to doll, including dolls made by the same brand. Some dolls will become adequately hot, squishy and pliable after only 2 minutes. Some harder/thicker dolls may take up to 5 minutes (possibly longer). It is crucial to start checking at 2 minutes and check every minute afterwards to ensure that you do not heat the head any longer than necessary. Leaving hot water inside the head for a longer duration than it takes to initially make the vinyl pliable can cause the eyes inside the head to permanently melt and deform.
You will know when your doll is ready by squishing her cheeks together. If her skin is hot and her head squishes easily, she is ready.
After heating the head, speed is key. You will want to preform the rest of the eye-swap quickly so the head does not cool. If it does become too cold and begins to harden at any point during the eye-swap, you can reheat the head by retracing the steps above.
STEP TWO (Removing the eyes). Now it’s time to remove the original eyes. Carefully pour the hot water out of your doll’s head. Place your doll’s head on a soft table surface or on your lap, and turn the head face up so you can see her eyes. Next, insert the small end of a sturdy wooden spoon into her head. Remove the eyes one at a time by pressing firmly on the back of the eye sockets with your spoon. You may need to use a lot of force and persistence to pop them out.
Tip: If you don’t have a durable wooden spoon, you can also try using another kitchen utensil, a wooden dowel, or your fingers.
Tip: Be cautious where you “aim” the head, as the eyes can literally shoot across the room when they pop out!
STEP THREE (Inserting the eyes). Now that the eyes have been removed from your doll’s head, it’s time to quickly insert the new ones before the head gets too cold.
Tip: If you are using Beautifully Custom eyes, make sure all packaging and adhesives are removed from the eyes before inserting them.
First, place one of the eyes over the empty eye socket. Turn the eye up on it’s side so that it looks down her face toward her chin. This position allows for the easiest insertion and least amount of risk for the eye.
Holding the doll’s head firmly with one hand, press on the eye hard with the thumb of your other hand until it pops into the socket. This may take several attempts. It may help to pinch the cheeks together a little, or insert a finger or two into the head to offer some counter-resistance on the front of the face while you’re pushing the eye in.
Tip: In the event that your eye insertion caused shine marks, scratches or nicks to the vinyl surrounding the eyes (a fairly common occurrence regardless of what type of eye or doll you are using), you can use little pieces of micro mesh or model sanding sponges to buff or smooth the skin surrounding the eyes.
STEP FOUR (Adjusting the eyes). Once you’ve inserted the eyes, take a deep breath and don’t panic. They will most likely be out of alignment, and the eyelashes may be caught underneath the lip of the eye socket. It’s okay! Now you will align the eye using a small tool. Some options are thin tweezers, the hooked end of a nail filer or clipper, the tip of a nail dotting pen, or the small end of a citrus peeler.
First, insert the tool carefully just under the lip of the metal eye casing surrounding the eyeball. Pull or push the metal casing until it aligns properly with the edges of the eye socket. If the lashes were stuck, they will pop out during this process. Next, rotate the eye by inserting the tool at the corners of the eye and spinning the eye gently.
Tip: Ideally, you only want to move the eye by adjusting the eye casing and not the actual eyeball itself. If your tool touches the eyelid or eyeball, it may scratch or damage it.
When the eyes are in place, allow the head to cool upright with eyes open (this helps to keep the eyes in place while it cools). We recommend leaving the head to sit for 12 hours to fully harden before moving it. Then, turn the head on its side so it can properly ventilate and dry out. When the head is completely cool and dry, reattach the head to the body.
Enjoy your doll’s new look!
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