Fixing vinyl wear

If you're like me, and live in an area where heat and humidity are high, it's probable that any vinyl-suited figure that you've bought has suffered some form of weathering in the form of shredding, flaking or peeling. My Hasbro 14" electronic Vader was the victim of such a condition recently, and I had to come up with some way to fix him. This is what I did, and while it isn't a 100% return to brand new condition, it's an improvement over having him peeling all over like a bad rash.

As you can see, the peeling occurs close to the areas where the vinyl material is stressed. The vulnerable areas are places where the material is scrunged up due to the contours of the figure (eg, joints), or over surfaces which are stretched tightly, such as in tight-fitting outfits. Vinyl fabrics are made up of 2 layers: the pvc material, and a cloth-like base. Over time, the difference in expansion/contraction rates can cause the vinyl to become overstressed, and it will "burst", resulting in what you see here. Regular checks should be able to prevent the peeling from becoming too extreme.


You'll be needing tweezers, a soft paintbrush, preferably a very good quality one that doesn't shed its hairs easily, and a bit of puffy fabric paint. I used PLAID's Black Shiny dimensional paint, to match the glossy sheen of Vader's outfit, but feel free to choose whatever matches your busted material.  Be sure to get the type of paint that puffs up when dry, not the brush-on version.

The next step is to STRIP away the portion that has been affected, as much as possible. Using the tweezers, slowly peel away the dangling portions of vinyl until you have a relatively "clean" portion of fabric, without overpeeling so that it reaches into unaffected areas. Take off anything that appears to be ready to drop, or flake until you get to a good area, whereby try to peel as close as you can, leaving only a slight border of "loose" vinyl around the open wound. For Vader, this is easier because you can peel horizontally until you get to a stitch, and use that stitch as a margin to stop.

Be sure to have a clean area. Leaving little bits of rogue vinyl in the middle will result in very rough surfacing later. (right)

Once your stripping is done to your satisfaction, glob some of the puffy paint onto a test area. Here I used Vader's back, since it would be covered by his cape eventually.

For your first coat, use the brush and go over the entire stripped area, and don't worry about how awful it looks. The idea is to create as much coverage as possible, as this first layer will act as a "skin" over the exposed fabric that you can build the rest up on.

Using the brush nib, squeeze some of the paint under the edges of your peeled areas, to use as a glue to hold them down to they won't continue peeling any further. Go over the edges with the brush so that the paint gets onto the good areas as well. Always brush inwards towards the affected area so your brush doesn't pull up more of the vinyl.

Once you're done, let dry (see your paint bottle for how long it takes). This first layer should be thin, and when dry, will look like you just varnished the fabric. Excellent. Now brush on more paint thickly but evenly and let dry again. After 3 coats you should get a pretty good vinyl-like surface. Go thin on your next coat, and brush well onto the good areas as well. This not only helps to prevent any future peeling, but it blends your paint texture with that of the original vinyl. As you can see, there is a slight difference between the paint and Vader's pants.

Worry not about covering up the stitch lines on the outfit; once the paint dries it will deflate slightly and adhere to the contours.

When you're satisfied that the colours match relatively well, and that the paint works as you would like, go on and work on the rest of the outfit. Go thicker where there are joints, such as at the crotch or knees. Remember to stretch the parts with joints to their fullest before painting, so that the paint won't tear when you move the part later. You can do this by moving the limb/joint until the outfit prevents it from moving any further.

For areas that will be masked behind armour or other add-ons, a thin coat to prevent peeling is good enough. And you don't have to bother with being very clean about them. But for exposed areas like the arms and legs, you might even want to consider doing an almost full peel, like I did.

When you're done with your paint layers, heat up the dried paint with a hair dryer. This helps adherence as well as getting some of it to puff up slightly. 


Bad vs Good peeling affects results. Note that the stitching shows up after drying.


And the final result: Voila!

As good as new. Well, almost.