Reborn baby dolls are enhanced vinyl dolls that look a lot like a human baby - to the point where police once broke a car window to rescue a child, only to find out it was a doll! The process of making one of these dolls, either from doll parts or from an existing toy, is called reborning. It's a relatively new art, but one that's getting a lot of attention.
Reborning dolls usually involves removing factory paint, if present, washing each part with color to make the skin tone more realistic, and adding minute details. The finished product looks like a real infant, with real human hair or mohair individually rooted, a soft stuffed body, and other details. It should be remembered that once they've been finished, reborn dolls aren't appropriate for children to play with.
Of course, like any other art, there are some who are better at this and some who are worse. Purchasing a reborn doll requires you to look at the appearance and quality of the item. Good photos will help you decide if the look is realistic and attractive enough, but quality is a bigger question. There are also a number of factors that can be affected by personal preferences.
One of the first things you'll need to think about is the type of vinyl used. Some dolls are quite hard, while others are extremely soft. Silicone may be involved in certain reborn dolls' manufacture. Realism is the most important thing, which means that a softer vinyl is usually preferred. However, people who only want to display their dolls may not mind a harder doll. Some vinyls are translucent, allowing internal tinting to show through, just like human skin.
The way the doll has been colored is important, too. Reborn artists use inks, heat set paints, oils, and even makeup to get their effects. What's been used will affect the durability and life of the doll. Look for paints that don't wear off, rub off or wash off, like Genesis heat set paints - considered top of the line. These paints don't come off or migrate through vinyl, unlike some, which can eventually show through and cause a bruised look.
The new body for the doll will also be important. Most artists make a new soft body using plush fabrics like suedecloth. There are joined and non jointed bodies available, and a few artists will leave the original vinyl body on the doll, or create body plates to attach to a soft body. Cloth bodies are cuddlier, and are often preferred.
You can choose between full and quarter limbs for a reborn doll, depending on your priority. Full limbs allow for greater costume options, while quarter limbs make a cuddlier doll. Remember to pay attention to the weighting on the doll, as well. Sand has been used, but the bags containing it may leak and create a mess. Sand weighted dolls may also have trouble with customs. Glass beads or poly pellets are usually a better choice.
Pay attention to the way the hair is done, as well. The quality of the hair makes the difference between a doll that looks real and one that doesn't. Wigs are less realistic than hand rooting, but are less expensive, and some are nicer than others. Other artists root hair by hand, usually using mohair. Look closely at pictures of the hair to see if it looks natural, and check out all accessories your doll comes with. Not everything you see in the photos will be included!
When in doubt, ask the seller questions in order to get more details on the doll you're looking to purchase. Reborn dolls are not cheap little play dolls and you want to make sure you get what you pay for and desire so it will give you plenty of joy for years to come.