DIY Custom Resin Eyes Tutorial
Various kinds of custom eyes can be bought in many places these days. Not least of which are Etsy and ebay. You can get them in glass, plastic, resin, silicon and possibly enven more now. But if you have something special in mind that you can't find out there, or if need a lot of them and this would be a more economical option, here's what I can tell you:
I experimented for some time making my own eyes so I could try out various different kinds of effects and thought I could share what I've learned for those who are similarly adventurous.
First, let me mention some options before we get into this:.
1. Glass and acrylic BJD eyes aren't particularly expensive usually and there are a great number of options out there on various selling sites.
2. You can buy blank eyes that come with irises.
3. You can buy blank eyes that don't come with irises.
4. Print textures to glue on the backs of cabochons.
(Note: Types 2 and 3 only have a bit of space in the scelara where the texture goes and then the clear dome on top. It's better to adhere the texture to the clear dome first, then insert it into the scelara so avoid visible bubbles. UV resin is good for this since it is an excellent glue and it dries quickly under a UV lamp.
5. You can buy a silicon eye mold, UV resin, UV drying lamp and opaque white coloring to create the base for eye molds, and whatever materials you want to use to color them.
The blank eyes are pretty self-explanatory, but the molded eyes have many options for uses.
Materials you need for molded eyes:
- UV cure resin (unless you are very patient and have a lot of time to wait for drying...) There are so many resin brands available now, it's difficult to figure out which ones are good. The best luck Ive had so far is a brand called Kryya. I get the least amount of bubbles, best clarity, least tacky finish and it domes better and runs less in my experience. Though it does seem to get more bubbles if the room is too cold, which is what you see in the fuschia eyes in my above pictures T_T
- UV drying lamp. The higher the wattage the better. I don't think it's possible to overcure. I have a 280W lamp myself that was only $20. Often after just 30 seconds or so resin is solid, but an extra minute or 2 can make extra sure.
- Whatever you want to use for visual effect. Any dry products like glitters, mica powder, gold leaf, shapes and findings. You can also use water based pigments and I think alcohol inks. Be sure not to have too great a ratio of wet media to resin because it can inhibit curing. Likely oil based products won't cure either.
- Half dome pearls for pupils (optional). Personally I have a bit of difficulty making both pupils exactly the same size and sometimes it's difficult to keep the perfectly circular shape if there are littel grooves or something in the molded eye. So these little half domes are very convenient for perfectly matching pupils every time. They also add to the 3D effect of the eyes.
Let us Begin!
Process tutorial, following the illustrations below:
Step 1: Mix opaque white coloring with some UV cure resin. Pour into the eye molds and use the UV lamp to cure.
step 1.5 You have to make a decision here before continuing. The molds leave a perfectly curved indentation, so to some that might actually create TOO much depth to the eye and cause unpleasant visual distortions depending on how light gets bent by the thickness and shape of the covering dome. If it's too much distortion, you may want to add a bit of resin in the bottom of the eyes first to make the resivoir a little more shallow and/or flat. Of course dry that so you have a solid surface to work on for the next step.
Step 2. Add your coloring. There are options beyond count here, but you can work in layers if you are going for specific kinds of detail. Let it dry, or if this involves resin, give them a few quick seconds under the UV lamp to set, then if you chose to go with half bead irises, position them.
Step 3. Carefully add UV resin, being careful not to let it overflow. Different brands have different surface tensions so some can dome more than others on the first pour. Ere on the side of caution, because it's easier to add more than it is to clean up excess. You can scoop out some bubbles and make sure your pupils didn't get moved around during all this because the resin won't dry till you use the lamp. It is a think of beauty!
Step 4. Dry under the UV lamp. At this point you can pretty much tell if they turned out the way you wanted or not. If you don't like them, you may as well not waste the extra resin to finish doming the eyes. But...
Step 5. If you are happy with the results, finish off the shape of the eyes by doming them. My personal process for this is to pour some of the resin into a little dixie cup or disposable shot glass (even a paper plate is fine since it's not much), then use a toothpick to scoop up a drop's worth at a time to drip on the eyes and spread it evenly. If it seems too runny to you, do it in multiple layers, drying with the UV lamp as you go.
Step 5.5 Actually, I guess it's worth mentioning that it's usually good to just let the eyes air out for an hour or 2 to make sure they have time to fully lose any residual tackiness and won't get smudgey or retain a finger print when you touch the surface.
Step 6 or For mass produced dolls that have shaped eye inserts, you will have to carve the vinyl out around the insides of the eye sockets. I know it sounds scary! But it's really not as complicated as it sounds. You can use hot water, or a hair dryer to warm the head enough so that you can pop the eyes out. I dont' advise using a heat gun, because it's too easy to accidentally melt hair and eyelashes with them. You may be clever enough to finangle the eyes in place without cutting the back of the head open, but it's much easier if you cut open a hatch-like hole on the back of the head between the lines of hair rooting. This gives you much more control, rather than being like building a ship in a bottle hehe. Before closing, make sure to dab and dry a little UV resin on the ends of the hair anchors that would have have been cut in the process. Since many dolls these days use a latch-hook method for rooting and no glue, just one unsecured plug could cause entire lines of hair to fall out from brushing. The hole is quickly and easily reasealed with more of the UV resin.
I tried to replicate the specific eyes that I had for Emi, but as you can see they aren't quite as nice. I think for one I needed the room to be above 70 degrees, but also I don't think I made the center dot dark enough. I'll try them again later.