Painting eyes on ceramic figures can be tricky…but good results are attainable. In this post, we’ll take you step by step through the process of painting a decent set of eyes on a large garden gnome. Like most approaches, there are pluses and minuses, and there is no one right way to do anything. At the end of the day, if it works, its right, if it doesn’t, you find another way.
Paint the Eyeballs
Staring out, I would say, paint the rest of the piece first and leave the eyes for last. When your ready, gather all the tools you’ll need to complete the eyes. We’ll be using a small flat brush, a short liner brush and a dot tool. For colors, we have white, a blue and black. We’ll work in layers, first paint one or two coats of white over each of the two whole eyeballs.
Add the Pupils
The next step, as we are doing it here, is to paint the black pupil. To make the pupil, we are going to dip the dot tool into a little bit of black paint and then dab it on the eye. The dot took is handy and has four different sized dots you can use but just about anything round will do. The back of a paint brush, a toothpick or a pencil eraser will work just as well. Take a minute and practice making a couple of pupils on your palette or the table first. The trick is to make the pupils as close to the same size as possible, if one is bigger than the other, you tend to get a dazed, far-out looking stare. You also may want to avoid placing the pupils directly in the center of the eyeballs. Doing so tends to make for a blank stare. Eyes are expressive, even on ceramic figurines, and where the pupils are placed goes a long way toward giving your figure its character.
Add a Little Color
At this point, we could stop here if we wanted to and the eyes would look just fine. Less is often more. But, if we wanted to add some color, now would be the time. For this example, we’ll paint the gnome’s iris blue. Squeeze a little blue onto your pallet, grab your short liner brush and then dip it into some clean water. Dab the water next to your blue squirt and then pull some of the blue paint into the water. The idea here is to thin the paint a little so it flows off the brush. A good consistency to shoot for is to make the paint the same as India ink. You want the paint to flow but not so thin that it runs. Now very carefully, paint a little blue around each of the pupils. It doesn’t have to be very thick, just enough to add some color around the eyes.
Another way to do this would be to paint the iris part first and add the pupils afterward. I tend to paint the iris around the pupil more often though. Doing it this way gives me some flexibility to add more color to one part of the eye then the other leading to different expressions. In the end, the best way is the way to go is the way that works the best for you.
Remember, you can stop in at Your Creation Station any time to practice. There are plenty of pieces to practice with, start small and work your way up.