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Feature Focus: Sculpting Eyes

Updated on February 9, 2017

The Windows to the Soul

Welcome to the first in a series of lenses about sculpting specific features. Eyes portray much of the emotion in a sculpture and are where you first focus when looking at a face. So come learn about the anatomy of the eye, sculpting, using glass eyes, and more.

Introduction to Sculpting Eyes

Eyes are such a big part of the expression of the face but they can be very difficult to sculpt. This lens gives an overview of various techniques for sculpting eyes in clay figures.

Here's a handy chart I put together on the size of eyes for various species of animals (including humans) and those sizes converted to common sculpting scales: 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/6, 1/8, and 1/12.

Eye Size Chart

To the right is a chart of the parts of the eyeball.

I know it's a little icky but it's important to understand the anatomy of the eye and the muscles which surround it.

Eye Anatomy Video - Warning: It's a disection so it's a little icky.

Drawing Eyes

It's hard to find tutorials on sculpting eyes but there's plenty of resources around for drawing and painting eyes and those can be a great help.

Sculpting Eyes

You have two options when sculpting eyes in clay, sculpt them directly in clay or use an artificial eyeball and sculpt the eyelids around it.

Sculpting the Eye Directly in Clay

Typically either the eye area is sculpted and then the eye carved and modeled in that are or a ball of clay if pushed into a scooped out eye socket and more clay is layered over the ball as eyelids. How the eyeball is finished is up to the sculptor but common options are a smooth ball, scribed lines indicating the outline of the iris and/or pupil, carved out pupils with or without indication of the iris, carved out iris and pupil.

Using an Artificial Eye

Another popular way t sculpt eyes is to use a hard artificial eye instead of attempting to sculpt a smooth sphere in soft clay. The eyeball is inserted into a scooped out eye socket and the eyelids built up around it in clay. Care needs to be taken that each eye socket is of the same depth, on the same horizontal line, and equal distance away from the center line of the face, otherwise the eyes will be uneven and harder to correct than when sculpting directly in clay.

Options for eyes:

Glass eyes

Plastic Eyes

Handmade eyes

Glass beads


Ball bearings

Mark Alfrey's Sculpting the Human Head DVD

Mark Alfrey's Sculpting the Human Head
Mark Alfrey's Sculpting the Human Head

Wonderful video showing the process of sculpting an old man's face. Mark Alfrey does a great job explaining how he works.


Sculpting Videos

Portrait Sculpting: Anatomy and Expressions in Clay DVD

Anatomy and Expressions in Clay is one of the most complete and comprehensive sources on modeling the portrait in clay you'll find for the beginner and more advanced student. For the beginner, the step-by-step method provides a means to achieve fast results, as well as a solid foundation in the knowledge of anatomy. For the advanced artist, there is a wealth of information on such topics as the aging process, mechanics of expression, and advanced rubber mold making. Philippe shares his step-by-step method of construction, as well as a guide to catch and correct common mistakes in clay. This 89-minute DVD is for beginners, but it is complete enough to keep the interest of the most experienced sculptor.

Videos On Making Artificial Eyes

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    • profile image

      djroll 5 years ago

      I pinned this lens today so I can share it with others and refer back to it. Thanks for sharing this easy to understand guide.

    • Laniann profile image

      Laniann 6 years ago

      Very good instructions for sculpting eyes. Have to admit that I couldn't watch the first video about the cow's eye dissection. I would have liked to see the second part of MY EYEBALL PROCESS PART 1.