Making Miniature Eyes

Painting eyes in tiny dolls can be very difficult. If you cure and paint the eyes and insert them into the doll head as you begin sculpting, the eyelids will have the proper form to lay over, the face will have an expression as you sculpt, and you won't have to struggle to paint around tiny eyelids when the doll is cured.

Finding tiny glass eyes is difficult and for beginning doll-makers like me, well-made glass eyes are too expensive for my poor little attempts. With this translucent mixture, you will have a convincing glass look at a much lower cost. Make a few dozen eyes for yourself and if they don't work out for you, what have you lost? A quarter-ounce of clay, a few drops of paint.

The small pictures here lead to large pictures which show the steps.
Just click on your back button to return to this page.
Tools and Materials

Toothpicks, scrap clay, Aleene's Tack It Over and Over Glue, Kato Polyclay in white, flesh and translucent, pasta machine, smallest Kemper circle cutter, small double-ended stylus, acrylic paints, acrylic extender, x-acto knife with new blade, Lumiere pearl paints, "Flecto" varathane (water-based indoor type)

Tips and Tricks

If you need to make smaller eyes, roll the mixture at a thinner setting on your pasta machine and use the same tiny circle cutter. One circle cut from a #3 thickness yields a 3mm eye and one cut from a #2 thickness, a 3.5mm eye. You can make larger and intermediate sizes with this trick, as well.

Make a stand for your eyes with some scrap clay and cure it. Cut toothpicks in half and dip them into Aleene's Tack it Over and Over.

Apply a second coat of the Tack it Over and Over glue after the first coat is dry. Let the glue dry overnight. It will remain extremely sticky.

Kato does not amber in the oven even with repeated curings, which is why I am using this particular brand.

You still get a nice white, but not that stark, shocking white you sometimes see in dolls - when cured, it's a translucent peachy white.

Roll the mixture on the thickest setting of your pasta machine. Cover with paper and roll with brayer to stick the clay to your surface.

Cut out the clay with the smallest Kemper circle cutter and pull away the scrap.

One circle makes a 4mm eyeball, two make a 5mm, three for a 6mm and four for a 7mm. Roll the circles into smooth spheres.

I follow up the rolling with an acrylic square to remove fingerprints. Make tiny circles with the acrylic, barely using any pressure on the eyeballs.

Lift the eyeball off the surface with a tissue blade and drop it into a bowl of cornstarch. Cure at 275° for ten minutes. Dump the cornstarch into a sieve to remove the eyes. Rinse in cold water and dry.

Take one of the eyeballs and stick it to the glued end of one of the little handles you made. You'll be holding on to the bead and the toothpick at times, so just pull your fingers away from the glue when they stick.

Take the large end of the small ball stylus and dip the lower half of the ball into the color you're going to use. In a spiraling motion, draw a tiny circle onto the eyeball with the ball stylus.

You're starting with a tiny dot and gradually increasing the size of the circle (iris) keeping the shape as uniformly circular as you can. When you're happy with the shape, stick the handle into your stand.

Mix some white into the iris color and with a dry brush, scribble or pounce the lighter color onto the iris area.

Don't worry if they're not pretty. This is just the under-coat of color.

Using the small end of the stylus, paint a black dot in the center of the iris for the pupil and a small white dot for a highlight.

Again, these don't need to be perfect - let them dry.

Clean up the edges of the iris by scraping the eyeball with a new x-acto blade. Start where the edge of the iris should be, and scrape down with the side of the blade onto the eyeball. Turn the eye and scrape all around to bring back that nice round iris.

The pink lines in the enlarged picture show how you would neaten up the edge of the iris and clear away imperfections. Scrape lightly, a tiny bit at a time. Go slowly and it'll be fine.

Mix a drop of pearlized acrylic paint (I like Lumieres) into a drop of acrylic extender to make a watery glaze. You can use the toothpick to mix and to apply the paint.

For green eyes, you can overpaint with gold, green, blue-green or even copper. For blue eyes, try blue, blue and silver, silver alone, pearl white. For brown eyes, try gold, copper, green.

Apply the paint over the iris - don't worry if you don't cover it all the way. The paint should be thin and transparent.

Gently blot the paint with a clean fingertip, twice if necessary. You want to remove enough of the pearl paint that you can see the pupil, again.

Re-apply the pupil and if you like the strong highlight look, re-apply the highlight, too. Let the eyes sit and dry several hours or overnight.

Dip the eye into the varathane gloss, almost to where the glue is touching the eyeball.

Wipe the eyeball against the lip of the jar so that the excess will flow back into the jar. Hold it there for a second or two.

Turn the eyes up and put them back into the stand as you complete them. Several hours later, you can dip them the second time.

Let them dry overnight, sort into pairs, and remove from handles. Trim off excess glue/varathane from the backs.

You now have at least a few pairs of creditable eyeballs which are pretty good glass stand-ins.

The pearl paint actually makes the eyes appear to move as the light shifts around them, but you can omit the pearl layer. Just mix two or three lighter colors for the second stage of painting and apply it more meticulously with a fine liner brush.