Whenever a forensic artist does a 3d clay facial approximation, one of the questions they are faced with is: “what do I do about the eyes?” Of course many artists choose to use glass eyes; that’s what we were all taught, and we usually choose brown eyes because that’s the most common eye color out there.
But, when you have no earthly idea what the eye color is, is that necessarily the wisest choice? Will someone recognize their blue-eyed sister, if they see your sculpture with brown eyes? Why take the chance? The sculptures you see in museums don’t have glass eyes, they are sculpted to be a neutral color, so let’s do the same.
Of course, setting the eye in the orbit correctly is crucial, and you can lose that placement if you sculpt the eye with clay. So instead, we’re going to make hard, neutral color eyeballs that won’t lose their shape, look completely natural with the clay sculpture, and cost pennies to make.
Here are the supplies you need below; 1″ wooden dowel caps (sku# 165613—I got mine at Hobby Lobby ; I nearly did a dance in the aisle when I discovered them!), Sculpey, spray paint, and either a paintbrush, or something else with a rounded end.
These dowel caps are 1″ in diameter, with a ½” hole drilled inside. That equals a 25mm eyeball, and 12mm iris. Perfect!
So, the first step is to fill the hole in the dowel cap with Sculpey, making a concave indentation to replicate the iris. Then, make an indentation dead center with the appropriate sized end of a paintbrush to replicate the pupil.
When you are happy with how they look, bake the eyeballs for 15 minutes in a 275 degree oven. I promise they won’t explode or catch fire. (These are directions you will only hear in a forensic artist’s house!)
Let them cool, and now the Sculpey has hardened. Then, give them a quick spritz with spray paint to match the color of the clay you are using. I used “natural” Kleen Klay, and “almond” spray paint by Rustoleum. Don’t spray too much, or it will puddle inside the hole you made for the pupil.
Here is a little diagram to show you what’s going on….
And another picture of them used within a sculpture:
And an added bonus: remember the end of the paintbrush that you used to make the pupil? Use that to pivot the eyeball in the socket. Once you place the eyeball, if you need to make tiny adjustments, put the end of the paintbrush back in the pupil, and rotate it where you want it. If you decide the pupil is too deep, then just fill it in with a tiny bit of clay. The shallower the clay, the lighter it appears.
There are many other types of irises you can make, this is just one that in my mind, does the job, and looks believable. It may take you a little bit of practice to get them how you want, but the Sculpey won’t harden until you bake it, so go ahead and experiment!