Sunday, April 22, 2012

Realistic Doll Eyes tutorial #2

Hello out there in blog land! I've finally put together another method for making realistic "glass like" eyes for your dolls and clay sculptures. I'm sure I missed covering some of the things from the first tutorial, so be sure to refer that post for more details

I am just tickled that the first eye tutorial is THE most visited post on my blog! I've loved seeing the eyes you've made using it, so many talented artists around the world. *Waving at all my visitors from the BJD and Pullips forums* I've read quite a few mentions "but it's in English"..don't forget to use the translator on my blog ;)

I'll try to keep this one shorter, it's mainly just some updates in technique to make my life easier and I hope it will give you another option and new ideas. Some of the biggest changes were:
- Instead of Liquid Fimo Gel I now use Gel Du Soleil UV Resin (credit: Thanks to Marina's Eye Tutorial , more ideas here!)
- I found plastic/Saran wrap to be MUCH easier and faster to work with than the baby powder or corn starch to keep tools from sticking.

I LOVE the Gel Du Soleil UV Resin, it is a one part resin, so no mixing two parts together (creating more air bubbles). It can also be baked. I've baked the eyes I made with this method in my clay sculptures multiple times for 30 minutes at 275 degrees Fahrenheit. (I'm not sure about using the heat gun on them, I haven't been brave enough to try it since the temperature can't be regulated) They do not melt, they don't turn yellow, and they don't get cloudy. Simply wipe off any raw clay that has gotten on the resin while sculpting with a dry cloth or brush before baking. One warning: Do NOT use Sculpey Smoothing oil on the cured resin, it WILL make them dull and cloudy. This is the only resin that I know of that can be baked at the temperatures required for curing the clay. I've heard of people using the clear resin that is used on fake finger nails. Even the best nail resin can yellow, that is why people who use tanning beds apply a UV protection polish. That's all I'll say about that ;) I put my Gel du Soleil eyes outside for a week and no yellowing. If you are making them for BJDs or Air Dry clay dolls that don't need to be baked, I'm sure there are other resin options out there if you can't find Gel Du Soleil. I buy mine here . It is the cheapest I've found if you buy 3 or more bottles. They also sell a large bottle, but honestly I'm still on my first tiny bottle after making a TON of eyes and experiments. Oh..and use in a well ventilated area..this stuff smells!  Ok so here we go!

I use a clay extruder to make noodles. The size of the noodle will be the size of the iris. 

Measure the hole in your extruder disk. This one is 3mm so it will be used to make a 6mm eye. I use half the total measurement. IE: 4mm Iris for 8mm total eye width, 5mm Iris for 10mm eye etc.

If you don't have a clay extruder, you can use a flat piece of glass or plastic. Put stacks of playing cards or  tiles etc, anything you have that is the thickness you want the noodle to be, at each end of the flat surface. Place the clay in the center and roll it out, keeping the glass, plastic etc. parallel to the work surface. You want the noodle to be an even thickness.

Now I bake the clay noodles. I place them in an oven safe dish with a layer of Polyfil, covered with a piece of thin cloth. This prevents any flat spots. Once they have baked, (for the type of clay I'm using I baked 15 mins at 275 degrees F) I lower the temp to 200 to keep them hot. In the next step we will be slicing the noodles, and they are much easier to slice when they are hot. You will be able to tell when they cool down too much, they lose their "rubbery" feel and your blade snaps down harder, making ruff edges on the slices. 

Here is my slicing blade, nothing fancy, just a pack of blades from the hardware store. I put tape on the dull side so I know which side to grab when I pick it up ;)

Now start slicing thin dots from the noodles. I can get about half way through cutting a noodle this size before it cools down too much, then I just toss it back into the oven and grab another piece. I find it easier to place one side of the blade on the tile, using it as a pivot point. Also if you look straight down from above it helps to get nice flat slices. You can discard the ends or any spots with air bubbles (you'll hear them when using a clay extruder).

Chop chop chop until you have a bunch of iris confetti :)

This part makes life a whole lot easier. Get some double stick tape (it says permanent but it's not really) and some cards, or..ahem, those little laminate counter top samples from the hardware store :)

Now stick the tape to a card, and the confetti dots in pairs to the tape. Now they're ready to paint, and wont go anywhere! The above photo is from when I made my noodles out of colored clay. This is an easier route if you don't want to paint the actual eye color, just put a dot of black paint in the center for a pupil. I found I like using white, and painting the pupil first. The contrast allows me to see if the pupil is centered and the same size as it's partner. I also prefer to paint on a lighter background and build up layers of detail. Experiment and find which way works best for you. 

Tiny detail artist paint brushes are expensive. I buy "Nail Art Detail Brushes". The one above is a pen style. I have since found some with even shorter bristles. I got several packs cheap on ebay, size "0000" is my favorite for painting small eyes. They seem to last me just as long as the expensive one, maybe even longer. 

Paint: You can use craft acrylics, artist acrylics, watercolors, whatever you prefer. I was so thrilled when I found fine tip Sharpies in a rainbow of colors, but guess what..they're not quite as permanent as they claim to be. They leached into the whites of the eyes badly. Bummer! Guess I'll have to use those on another art project :)

Using a paintbrush, I put a thin layer of Gel du Soleil on the irises. This seals the paint. Do be careful with green paint, and let them sit a day or two before using them in a sculpt to make sure there is no leaching. That is why this step is important. Since green is made up of blue and yellow, sometimes they separate and I've found the yellow leaching into the whites if I didn't pay extra attention in this sealing step, or I painted over the edge and didn't seal the edges. I put a couple drops of Gel du Soleil on a glazed tile and use the paintbrush to apply. Clean your brush with alcohol when done. Since it is a UV curing resin, I clean the brush immediately so my "realistic light" bulbs or Ott lights don't cure the resin. This would take hours..but better safe than sorry. 

I cure the resin in a 9w nail light for 15 minutes. You can find these pretty cheap on ebay too. The resin will cure in direct sunlight also. See how nicely the card fits into the light? :)

While the resin is curing I start making up the whites. I'm using Pat Moulton's Eye Tools, I love them! You could also make a mold by pressing a marble or bead half way into the clay in the size you need. Experiment :)

See how nice the plastic wrap works? Just place it between the clay and the tool and voila!

Once my irises have cured, I pluck them off of the tape and center them onto the whites. Then I place the plastic wrap over the top, and press down with the tool again. 

Check from the sides to make sure the iris is level, and clean up the extra clay around the edges. I use a toothpick. If you have any wrinkles in the whites from the plastic, smooth them out with a soft dry paint brush, a gentle "petting" motion works well. You can use a TINY bit of smoothing oil, just be sure to keep it on the whites and not the irises with the resin. Now bake according to your clay's instructions.

If you baked on something that wont fit into your UV light (like I did!) you can pop them off the tile and place them back onto the taped card (or smaller tile, whatever you have) You can see my little laminate sample in the background :D Now we're going to add more resin to form the dome. 

Side view. I choose to only do the iris and not the entire eye. First, the resin acts like oil on water and tries to bead up or run off the sides, I kept patching the "bald spots". I tried it over Liquid Sculpey, I tried cleaning with alcohol first, no luck. So I finally decided I like this way better anyway. This allows you paint details on your finished sculpt, like shadows, veining, tear ducts, etc that would likely not want to stick if the whites were covered in resin.  You can also gloss the whites after baking with a glaze, but in every photo of sculptures I've seen, the reflection is only showing on the iris, even on all glass eyes.

If you end up doing a few different sizes, save your sanity and organize the irises *grin* This is from the colored noodles. I now have containers of all white in different sizes. This way I can easily see the sizes I have without worrying about having each color in each size. Have fun making realistic glass like eyes for your dolls and sculptures!

Happy Creating!


  1. Thankyou Aimee for your wonderfull tut!!
    Just wanted to add that if you're in the UK )like i am)you can buy Gel du soleil at!
    Mine's on order and i'll let you know how it goes Aimee!!
    Thanks again!
    Jennie ♥♥♥

    1. I'm so glad you liked it Jennie :) I am in the USA but I will pass that along to my UK friends, thanks so much!

  2. Brilliant tutorial, thanks for sharing it.

  3. Hi! New follower here :) I love your eye tutorials! Hmm, I'm trying to figure out the best way to make eyes while not having to buy a ton of supplies. I have clay already, so maybe I can just buy the UV light, the resin gel, and the perfect eye tools? Do the perfect eye tools make the round shape of the eye?

    1. Hi Bethany and welcome! Yes the tools make a half dome shape. You could also make a mold using scrap clay over a marble or glass bead in the size you want the eye to be (anything that can be baked).
      Happy Creating!

  4. Wow! I love the tutorial. I have everything I need to make these already. So here we go..

  5. I like this , I also wanted to let you know there is another uv resin out there called Lisa Pavelka Magic gloss. Also does not smell it works just like the one you use. I roll white raw clay then put a multi color clay log slice then work in with a round tool to add indent then put pupil then resin. set resin once that's done. {this is all attached to the un sculpted head then I apply 3d deco to the un baked eye to hold in place then I sculpted around the unbaked eye. then attach to unbaked doll. works very well with out all the punching and baking and slicing much shorter version of what you do. But I will try your way maybe I will like better LOL.Just wanted to let you know about the other resin. This does not yellow either. same stuff different name. no smell.

    1. I might just have to give Magic gloss a try! I had read an article comparing a bunch of different resins and there was something about it that had a downside...I just can't remember what it was or where the article is now LOL. I may have to give it another look ;) Sometimes I'm in "eye making mode", other times I just want to sculpt an not worry about dealing with them so I tend to make big batches at once. Also helpful when I'm using them in paperclay sculpts that don't get baked, and even cloth sculpts. Thanks for the tip!

  6. Hey there, I love your tutorial and want to use it for my next project. I was just wondering, if you put the eyes in a face, and you have to bake this face with the eyes in it again, maybe two more times, won't the liquid fimo get burned or become dull again? please help!

    1. Hi Myra, thank you! I have baked my sculpts several times without the eyes burning or getting cloudy. Just make sure when you insert them that you have absolutely no raw clay residue on your hands, that does make baked fimo cloudy. I had a hard time avoiding this so I now stick to the UV resin, I like the results much better :-)

  7. Hi there, love this tut of yours. Can you tell me what those clear boxes are called and where you got them from? The ones in the last photo with the brown and green irises in them.
    I have 2 of those, got them from someone clearing out craft stuff, but I can't find them anywhere and don't know what they are called so it's hard to search for them. Can you help?

    By the way, have you tried Kato liquid clay for this? I don't have any Fimo, but I do have Kato clear liquid.

    1. Hi Fran, thanks so much! The little boxes in the photo are from a bead/finding organization system, but really they are just fancy Tic-Tac boxes :)
      For some reason I didn't have any luck with Kato, but I don't know if I just had an old or bad bottle, it was very watery and hard to make the dome with. I love working with the UV resin now, much better than Fimo, especially now that Fimo had gotten so hard to find.

  8. Hi, Aimee,

    I'm very glad I've found your tutorial for doll's eyes <3

    I just ordered Gel duSoleil and I'm in contact with Pat for her tools.

    Can you please tell me if it would be wise to make entire eyes (iris, resin, clay, baking.... ) and save them in containers until using them on dolls?

    Thank you,
    regards, Mojca

    1. Thanks so much Mojca!

      Absolutely! In fact when I make eyes I try to make a bunch of different sizes and colors so I have them ready to use in my sculpts. I usually just store them on little cards with double sided tape and write the size on the card so I can identify them easy without measuring (8mm, 6mm etc.)

  9. Hi Aimee
    i am just tickled pink to have found this tutorial been wondering how to make eyes for my jewelry pieces thanks your the greatest of course with our name we all are

  10. I used Liza Pavelkas uv gloss and its domed perfectly and dried hard as a rock it doesnt spill over the edge of the iris either and it can be put on the whites if you want she (Lisa ) even has her light box that is perfect for 2 playing cards if you lap them just a bit. Love your tutorials they have helped tremendously! I cook the whites with the iris in them an then when cooled put gloss on an put under light tada done thank you so much


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