How to make eyes for a polymer clay doll
Making eyes for your doll
They say that eyes are the window to the soul. Though a polymer clay figure lacks a soul , the eyes are a key point to a perfect doll.It's the first thing people will notice and you know what they say about first impressions. With this lens I plan to share with you an easy -and inexpensive- way to make eyes for your dolls, how to paint them and how to add that finishing touch. This method is relatively quick and easy and will not cost you a fortune. Making realistic eyes can't get any easier than this!
(intro image credited to www.whattheffacts.com/our-eyes-are-always-the-same-size-from-birth)
Learn the basics
The eye is the organ that helps us see things, by collecting the light waves they either radiate or reflect. It's more or less a globe in shape and on the front we find the colored disc of the iris, the black "hole" which is the pupil , and the white surface which is called sclera. The only thing that is not constant in dimensions is the pupil, which changes in diameter (in expense of the iris inner diameter) due to varying light conditions, drugs, emotions e.t.c. This is a hint which you later on will discover can have an effect on our doll's temperament and the effect we want to achieve.
There is an abundance of anatomical details but the aforementioned are the only ones that we will need for our doll.
(photo on the right credited to www.edoctoronline.com )
Get your stuff in time
The basic ingredients and tools
that you will need
1)white and translucent polymer clay
I use Fimo soft but you can use any polymer clay brand you're comfortable working with.
Preferably along with an oven thermometer, to check on the actual temperature.
3)a sharp blade
The one you probably have for cutting raw clay will do just fine.
4)gloss varnish for polymer clay
Conditioning and mixing the clay
Start by mixing one part translucent clay with three parts white. Use a roller, your hands ,or a pasta machine to achieve a uniform mass of clay. The reason why I add the translucent clay is to add to the realism and mimic real eyes as close as possible. You can add more translucent clay if you like ,to a maximum of 50/50 ratio to white. For a more sparkling look add some pearl white to the mixture and you will be amazed by the result.
Take extra care to work on a clean surface, free of lint and dust, and with clean hands, since even the tiniest dirt will show on the white clay.
The overall quantity is entirely up to you, I like to create many eyes for future needs and keep them safe in a small jar.
If your clay is hard to work with try warming it for a while between your hands or add a couple of drops of clay softener/conditioner. Don't overdo it though, as you'll end up with a semi-liquid clay..
Step 2 - Make some tiny spheres
Once you have your clay conditioned and mixed properly and thoroughly , it's time to make the basic shape of the eye. Knead with circular motions tiny portions of clay between your thumb and index finger to create small spheres and set them on a baking paper. Try to get the shape as spherical as it gets. Make lots of spheres , varying the size slightly. Make at least 20 or more, since you will have more options to choose from later on and also some can be discarded if they don't suit your taste.
Step 3 - Bake the spheres
Now that you have your tiny spheres ready, you can bake them. Take note that you will have to use a slightly lower temperature than you use for your usual polymer clay projects and a shorter duration. 15-20 minutes in 125-130 degrees celsius is just about fine. Any longer or hotter and the eyeballs will start turning brown (they'll get scorched).
If you are not sure of your oven's power, try baking only a few balls at first to see what is the best time to take them out. If they turn out with a brown hue, lower the temperature by 10 degrees and try again with some new balls.
Step 4 - One sphere=2 hemispheres!
Let the eyeballs cool down completely. Use a cutting mat, if possible, and with the blade carefully cut them in half (mind your fingers!). Take care since due to their size and shape the little balls can move around . You now have a pair of eyes from each little sphere, ideally same sized.
Tip: cut only one sphere at a time when making a doll so as not to mix hemispheres from different balls. Each ball is statistically different in size so you'll end up searching for the matching pair of eyes.. (ask me how I know this..).
Tips for eye-catching eyes:
1)Of the same size
3)Looking in the same direction
4)With pupils centered on the iris
Step 5 - Time to paint the iris and the pupil
Place a pair of eyes (hemispheres) on a double sided sticking tape. The reason we're doing this is because any movement of the eyes during painting will be disastrous.
Pick your colors!
You will need to use acrylic paints that aren't too thick or too watery. You will use two shades of a color, for example light green and dark green, light blue and dark blue e.t.c. The darker shade will be visible on the outer edge of the iris.
The iris should be about half the eye width. Smaller iris will make your doll look older and more serious minded, whereas larger iris will give it a more cartoon style .
Take a steel hook crochet or a screw with a flat end, with a diameter approximately half the eye width. Dip it into the darker shade of your color to cover it in paint but don't pick up too much paint otherwise it will start running on the eye. Carefully and with a steady hand touch the paint (not the hook or crew) in the center of the eye completely vertically ,WITHOUT moving it on the horizontal plane and remove it. You should now have a nice round circle of paint. WAIT UNTIL IT IS FULLY DRY!!!
Repeat the process with the lighter shade but now remove your hand sooner before the new coat of paint reaches the rim of the previous coat. This way you will have a disc of your lighter shade with an outer rim of the darker one.Again ,be patient and let it rest until COMPLETELY dry.
And now for the pupil:
Take a smaller hook or a pin with a round head, dip it in black and in the same manner as before, paint the pupil. You're almost there!
Resist the urge to fix any mishaps, chances are that in this scale you'll probably make things worst. It may be better to start fresh with a new set of eyes.
The size of the pupil will define the personality of your doll. When we like something or someone our pupils dilate so this gives off a positive signal. When we are agitated or in bright light pupils turn small as a dot. Dolls with small pupils will look more serious and strict. Whatever you decide, don't overdo it!
Time to vote, people!
What's your favorite eye color?
Step 6 - Finishing touches
Now that all the layers are fully dry, you can apply the varnish, which is needed to both protect the layers of our paint and to give that sparkling lifelike appearance.
Use only varnish that is specific for polymer clay as these are oven proof. Any other varnish may become bubbly or runny when heat is applied (when you bake the head) or turn yellow.
Apply a thin coat, let it dry and then apply a second one. Each coat must be thin with no apparent pools , as these might wrinkle later on if pressure is applied to the eye (when inserting in the eye socket).
As a final touch, you can add a tiny blot of white in the outer edge of the pupil, to mimic light bouncing off.
There you have it, a nice pair of eyes ready for use!
What's your eye color? Mine are green with bits of honey-brown near the pupil.