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Feature Focus: Sculpting Eyes


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 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Eyes are organs that detect light. Different kinds of light-sensitive organs are found in a variety of animals. The simplest "eyes", in even unicellular organisms, do nothing but detect whether the surroundings are light or dark, which is sufficient
  • Evolution: Library: Evolution of the Eye
    Zoologist Dan-Erik Nilsson demonstrates how the complex human eye could have evolved through natural selection acting on small variations. Starting with a simple patch of light sensitive cells, Nilsson's model "evolves" until a clear image is produce
    Anatomical basis of facial expression learning tool.
  • Evolution of the eye - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The evolution of the eye has been a subject of significant study, as a distinctive example of a homologous organ present in a wide variety of taxa. The development of the eye is considered by some experts to be monophyletic; that is, all modern eyes,
  • The Mammal Eye and Vision in Mammals
    An introduction to the mammalian eye and the ways that mammals see the world

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

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Plastic Eyes

Handmade eyes

Glass beads


Ball bearings

Resources for Sculpting Eyes

Mark Alfrey's Sculpting the Human Head DVD

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.

Resources for Making Eyes

Videos On Making Artificial Eyes

Places to Buy Eyes

Leave a Comment

djroll on September 02, 2012:

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 on June 17, 2011:

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.

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