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Painting Eyes

By Anthony Karl Erdelji


The eyes on a miniature can either make a good paint job great or it can make a great paint job look terrible. When painting 25mm and 28mm miniatures you should not bother to paint in the iris (the colored part) of the eye. At that scale the iris is too small to be seen and the eyes will look unrealistic with any color other than black. There are two methods I use for painting eyes.

Method #1 (The Easy way): After painting the face, give the eye sockets a dark ink wash, Brown ink is good for human flesh. Then paint the entire socket Black. Then add a tiny drop of Gray in both corners on both eyes. Tada! You're done! If your results leave a "bug eyed" look, add more Gray in the corners to shrink the size on the pupil. Some people may want to use White instead of Gray, which is fine, but I feel the eyes look too cartoon like with White.  Which color to use is up to you.

Method #2 (The Better way): After painting the face, give the eye sockets a dark ink wash. Again, Brown ink is good for human flesh. Then paint the entire socket Gray. Take your smallest brush; 20/0 works the best, and get a tiny drop of slightly thinned Black and paint in the pupil. The positioning of it is most important. The pupil should be partially covered by the upper lid and just touching the lower lid. It should also be a bit off-center, closer to the nose than the other end. It takes a bit of practice, but its well worth it.

Which either method you use, brushing on some gloss coat onto the eyes after sealing the finish model with your flat coat brings a nice sheen to the eyes.

The eyes of this necromancer were painting with the second method and took only about 5 minutes to paint.

On occasion you may have to paint very large eyes and need to paint in the iris along with the pupil. Painting an iris is not much harder than painting smaller eyes. Paint the white of the eye. Since the eyes are larger, white or off-white will look better than gray. Then use some very thinned red ink and lightly paint a thin line around where the eye meets the lids. You can use the same diluted red to carefully paint in some red veins. 

Paint in the area of the iris black. If your painting freehanded, get it as round and perfect as you can. It will be your template for the next step. Choose an eye color, brown, blue, green, etc. use a medium shade and a 20/0 brush CAREFULLY paint lines from the center of the edges of the iris to the center of the pupil. Go look in a mirror if you don't understand what I'm talking about. Next mix up your highlight and repeat the process. Paint the pupil and the edges of the iris black and your done. 

These zombie eyes were painted with a dull green, then highlight by adding white. I painted more red around the eyes than I would of if this were a "living" creature.

Non-Human Eyes


One of the reasons I like to paint other worldly creatures such as Daemons, Orks, or Aliens, is for the chance I get to paint interesting eyeballs. The color I usually paint eyes like these are either Red or Yellow, but this works with almost any other color. I'm using Red for this example: Start by painting the socket white. This gives the eye a good palette for adding your main color. Paint the socket in with Red, then give it a deep, dark wash of a mix of Red-Brown ink (or Orange ink for Yellow eyes). Highlight first with Red, and then add a little Yellow and highlight again. Now here's the part that really makes the model. Instead of adding a Black pupil, try using White. You're done!

This dragon's eyes were painted red and highlighted all the way to yellow in the center. Instead of painting a pupil, the eyes were painted to look like they were glowing from within.