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Make Miniature Doll Eyes and Eyeballs from Polymer Clay Cane Sections
Small scale eyes suitable for miniature dollhouse dolls, animals and figures can be hard to find. You can make detailed eyes in very small scales using a simple caning technique and polymer clay blends. The eyes shown in the photo on this page are all smaller than the brown glass eye which is 2mm, one of the smallest glass eye sizes available.
The eyes can be made with or without whites, and with round or other shaped pupils and iris's for various fantasy figures. The size of the eyes you are... able to make will depend a bit on the plasticity and caning ability of your particular brand of polymer clay. You can read how well various brands perform in canes in the information on the basics of polymer clay or in the article comparing brands of polymer and air dry clays. The eyes can be made in any color. If you want fairly realistic miniature eyes, remember that blue, green and grey eyes are usually fairly pale in color.
See the next slide for how to mix polymer clay colors for miniature eyes.Continue to 2 of 11 below.
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Mix The Polymer Clay Colors To Make Realistic Miniature Eyes
The miniature eyes in this tutorial are made by shaping them from a standard, although very small, polymer clay cane. This is an easy first cane to make as it is round. To make the cane work well for eyes, it should be made from polymer clay which tends to stiffen when it is cool. Clays which stay soft will not hold their shape and may 'smudge' when cut. You should also consider if the colors of your clay darken when baked. You want to be able to mix realistic colors which will stay... close to the color you have blended when baked in very small amounts. Finally, you want to make sure the polymer clay you choose does not easily 'bleed' into white. Some very soft polymer clays will leach some color from darker clays. You want your clay colors to stay sharply defined in the tiny amounts you will need to make sets of miniature eyes.
Method - the tiny canes for eyes are made from very thin layers of polymer clay or very thin rolls of clay. All rolls should be made as fine as you can work them at the start, and rolled with a piece of acrylic (a stamp support block) or a clear ruler, or in a pinch, the back of a clay blade. Using a stiff block to shape the rolls will allow you to work them very thin, yet keep them a uniform width, important for making matching eyes.
Color Blends You Will Need To Make Miniature Eyes From Polymer Clay
To make canes for miniature eyes, you will need white, translucent, black and your choice of iris color polymer clays. If you have some, a small amount of pearl colored clay works well for the iris's.
- Eyewhite Mixture - The eyewhites are blended from a mix of 2/3 translucent and 1/3 white clay. White clay has a tendency to crumble easily so make sure you mix it thoroughly.
- Pupils - The eye pupils are made from a very thin roll of pure black polymer clay.
- Iris - The colored section of the eye or iris, is made using a minimum of six very thin rolls of colored clay, three light rolls of the iris color you choose, and three medium toned rolls. The rolls are laid out alternately to make a very thin set of fine stripes. Pearl clay can be added to the light colored clay to give it a bit of a reflective shine, or you can add in a bit of Jacquard Mica Powder in a pearl tone. To make the colored rolls for the iris, the basic clay color for the mid tone, is combined half and half with translucent clay. The mid tone mix (including the translucent) is combined with pearl colored clay or white clay to make a noticeably lighter tone of the color.
- Outer Iris Ring - The outer ring of the eye is made with a very thin layer of mid iris color, to which a tiny bit of black has been added. This will make a dark highlight of the main iris color.
Tools You Will Need - Other tools and materials you will need will be:
- Tile, or foil pan - to bake the finished eyes on.
- Clay Blade or safety razor blade to cut sections of your clay cane
- Clay Shaper Tool - or rounded toothpick to blend the edges of the eyeball to shape.
- Gloss acrylic glaze - or tar gel or pva glue, to make a clear coating for the eyes after they are cured.
The next slide shows how to make bloodshot miniature eyes for special effects. Skip to the following step to see how to begin rolling the polymer clay cane for the eyes.Continue to 3 of 11 below.
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Materials Needed to Make Bloodshot Miniature Eyes from Polymer Clay
To make bloodshot miniature eyes you will need the same materials as shown in the previous step, but in addition you will need either fine red flocking powder or fine thread to make flocking powder from.
To Make Your Own Flocking Powder - If you have colorfast red sewing or embroidery thread you can easily make your own flock for bloodshot eyeballs, by teasing apart the threads into separated fibers with the end of a fine pin or needle, then cutting short lengths of the fibers (under 1/16 inch or... 1mm).
To make the eyewhite mixture appear bloodshot, flatten out a section of your mixed white and translucent eye white mixture (see previous page) and sprinkle a thin layer of flocking fibers over the flattened polymer clay. Blend the fibers into the mix thoroughly. Keep some extra fibers separate (well away from your working surface) in case you want to blend in some extra blood lines on your finished eyeballs.
The next step shows how to begin making detailed iris canes for the miniature eye centers.Continue to 4 of 11 below.
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Prepare the Start of the Iris Section of the Eye Cane
Roll the Pupil - To begin shaping the miniature eye cane, start by rolling a thin roll of black for the pupil of the eye. For your first miniature eyes, roll the pupil as small as you can, using a flat block or the back of a clay blade. The finer you can make the roll at the start, the less the shapes in the cane are likely to shift as you add layers. You can make ten to twelve eyeballs sized for a dollhouse doll from a length of cane roughly one inch long. Remember that your first attempts will... be a practise. It may take you several different trials of slightly different methods to find one that works for your working situation and temperature, and your type of clay. Have alcohol wipes handy to clean your hands between colors, especially when working with darker shades.
Prepare the Iris - The iris is made more realistic by rolling very fine thin rolls of light and mid colors, alternating them, flattening them to a thin layer, and then rolling the striped colored layer around the pupil. Start by rolling two or three fine rolls of each of your light and mid iris colors. Lay the rolls alongside each other and gently flatten them together with a roller or a smooth jar.
Build the Iris Section of the Clay Cane. Use a clay blade to straighten one edge of the striped flattened color band of clay for the iris. Lay the roll for your eye pupil on the iris color, so that the roll lays in the direction of the stripes. It is okay to cut your sections so that you build just a one inch long roll at a time to make it easier to manage.
The next step shows how to roll the polymer clay cane to shape the iris.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Start Shaping The Iris of the Eye Cane From Polymer Clay
Gently roll the colored iris section over the pupil, covering the pupil entirely. Use your clay blade to cut away any extra iris material so that the pupil will have an even coating of color. Roll your cane gently, to set the covering of iris colors tightly against the pupil in the center. Take care to roll with an even pressure so you don't distort the shape of your pupil in the center of your cane. Allow the cane to stiffen before you proceed to the next step (put it in the refrigerator if... necessary).
The next step shows how to add the final outer layer to the eye iris cane.Continue to 6 of 11 below.
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Add the Outer Dark Layer to the Iris Cane
Take your darkest iris color and flatten it to a very thin layer. Lay the iris cane you made in the previous step on top of the thin layer of dark iris color, and cover your iris cane with the darker color, the same way you wrapped the pupil with the stripes in the previous step. Try to trim the coating layer so that your cane has an even layer of color all around the inner layers.
Roll the cane under a flat surface to lengthen it and stretch it out evenly to the size you want for the colored... section of your miniature eyes.
At this point if you wish to make animal eyes, you can allow the cane to harden, and cut sections for colored animal eyes which do not have any eye white.
Follow the rest of the steps through to make eyeballs around your miniature iris. If you have difficulty with your clay, or your clay blade distorting the pupil or the shape of your iris in the next steps, you may want to assemble your cane in baked layers. You can bake the roll for the pupil, then wrap it after it is cured with the iris colors to keep the pupils evenly round, if you have a problem with that. You can also bake the entire assembled iris cane to cure it, then go on to work with the eye white. Try to make the full cane without curing or baking it first, as a test to see how your clay performs. You can always revise your technique for your next practise run if the first method of straight caning doesn't work for you.
The next step shows how to cut and check the shape of your iris canes for miniature eyes.Continue to 7 of 11 below.
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Checking the Shape of Your Completed Iris Cane
When you have finished shaping your iris cane so that it is the right dimension, (for dollhouse scale dolls it should be the diameter of the head of a small pin), and allowed it to rest and firm up, you can carefully cut through it to check that the pupil and the iris are in the correct proportions. Use a very sharp clay blade or safety razor blade (one sided) and cut through the cane, cutting gently as you roll so that you do not flatten your cane as you cut.
Look carefully at the cut ends of... your cane. Is the pupil too large for the layer of iris color? - Perhaps you rolled the iris too thin, or started with a layer that was too thin. Is the pupil evenly round? - Perhaps you need to allow the roll to set up longer before you cut through it, or set it in the refrigerator to harden before you attempt to cut it. Or you made need a sharper cutting blade.
If your iris roll isn't right, try a new one, adjusting your method to create a roll which will work for the size of eyes you want to make.
Note: If you find it easy to make iris canes, but hard to shape eyeball in the next step, and you want your eyes for miniature dolls and figures, you may want to bake the iris canes, and cut fine slices which you can inset into eyes set into a miniature doll's head. You can use a coating of glaze to round the surface of the eye to make it match the white of an uncured eyeball after you have cured the doll's head.
The next step shows how to add eye whites to the miniature eye cane.Continue to 8 of 11 below.
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Add the Eye White to the Miniature Eye Cane and Cut Sections for Eyes
To make eyes with whites for miniature dolls and figures, or to make eyeballs for Halloween scenes, roll the eyewhite or bloodshot eye mixture you made in the beginning into a layer roughly the same diameter as the iris cane you made in the previous steps. Carefully trim and wrap the eye white layer around your iris cane, and roll the cane gently and evenly with an acrylic stamping block or other hard surface to set the white layer firmly against the colored iris cane. Set the eye cane aside to... firm up.
When the cane is firm enough to cut, lay it out on a clear ruler and cut even sections from the cane, under 1/16 inch for 1/12 scale dollhouse doll eyes. Roll the cane as you cut, applying very gently pressure so that you do not distort the cane. If the cane does distort, leave it to set overnight in a cool place.
Try to make all sections you cut from your eye cane the same size, so that your eyes will be easier to match as to size and shape.
The next step shows you how to shape sections of your polymer clay cane into miniature eyeballsContinue to 9 of 11 below.
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Shape The Eye Cane Into Miniature Eyeballs
To shape the sections of eye cane into miniature eyeballs, take the rounded edge of a toothpick or a cone shaped silicone clay shaper tool and roll the flat surface of the eye white back away from the iris to start shaping a miniature eyeball. Work carefully all around the edge of the eye white. When you have a rough ball shape, with an undistorted pupil and iris, gently roll the eyeball on a tile to finish shaping it. Set the eyeball aside. If you wish, you can mount the eyeball on a pin or a... thin piece of wire to allow you to set it into a felted animal. These eyes will need to be glued to the wire after the final baking.
If you run into problems keeping the pupil or iris in shape on the rough eyeball, use the clay shaper tool or rounded toothpick to gently guide the iris back into shape. Slight distortions will not be noticed once the eyes are glazed. If you want to make the eyes and pupils slant like a cat's, press down on the eye to flatten the pupil and iris slightly as you shape the eyeball.
If you are making bloodshot eyeballs, and you cannot see many blood vessels, roll the sides of the eyeball into a few loose bits of red flocking to add blood vessels to the surface of the eye, away from the iris and pupil.
If your eyeball becomes too long at the back as you shape it, use your clay blade to trim off the excess white and roll the back of the eyeball to shape.
When your eyes are evenly rolled, so they match one another in size, bake them according to the directions for your particular clay. Take care that they don't get over baked, as they are very tiny.
The next step shows how to get realistic eye 'fluid' effects for your miniature eyeballs.Continue to 10 of 11 below.
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Finish the Miniature Eyeballs and Eyes With a Coat of Clear Glaze
To finish your miniature eyes, add a drop of clear glaze over the pupil and iris and leave to dry. When the drop of glaze has dried, coat the entire eyeball or eye with a coat of clear glaze to mimic the liquid on the surface of the eye. If you want the effect of milky cataracts on old eyes, mix a tiny amount of white acrylic paint into the glaze you dab over the pupil.
In the photo shown here you can see slices from the iris cane which can be set into beads, or set into eyeballs in a dolls head... to create realistic miniature eyes, without the necessity of applying paint. Even flat slices of eyes will resemble proper eye corneas when they are glazed with a clear coat allowed to make a raised bump over the iris surface.
Bloodshot eyes may need extra coats of clear glaze to cover any extra flocking you added to the surface. Remember that polymer clay eyes can be sanded with fine sandpaper or micro mesh sanding pads after they have been cured and before glazing, if you need to polish them or smooth them off before using them.
Experiment with different colors and working methods to find a method of making eyes from polymer clay canes that works for your needs. The spares can always go into tiny glass jars for the apothecary shelves or witches lair.
View the next step for a list of some miniature projects which use the eyballs made by this methodContinue to 11 of 11 below.
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Projects That Use The Miniature Eyes Made From Polymer Clay
You can use the miniature eyeballs made with this technique for a variety of other miniature projects. Here are links to projects where they can be used:
- Make a Witch's Stew
- Make a Miniature Needlefelt Cat
- Make a Miniature Needlefelt Dog
- Make a Miniature Needlefelt Raccoon
- Make Miniature Dolls and Figures