Painted safety eyes add a unique touch to amigurumi. And painting safety eyes yourself is a great way to add a little more “you” into every project.
They are like Frosty the Snowman’s magic hat – painted safety eyes bring something to life that was inanimate before. When I am working on an amigurumi design and I place the safety eyes for the first time, I immediately start talking to the once-lifeless yarn. After safety eyes, the item becomes Beau, or Steve, or Bernadette, and suddenly, I have a made a friend.
Finding clear safety eyes is as easy as going to www.glasseyesonline.com. They have clear eyes in all different sizes and pupil shapes. This is my favorite place to get them. I have not found them at big box stores, but you can always check your local craft stores.
I have experimented with several different methods for painting safety eyes. After trying several different things, I find that acrylic paints are by far superior to the nail polish method, even for glitter.
Immobilize the Eye
Then, you need to immobilize the eyes so you can paint. I use Play-Doh.
You can squish it flat and then press the eyes into the Play-Doh deep enough to sink the round part of the eye into the dough. Don’t let the dough overlap the edge, but make sure it covers all the way. And don’t be afraid to get paint on the Play-Doh; it’s there to catch the extra brush strokes without getting paint on the front of the eye.
If you can find white Play-Doh, you’re a rock star, but I usually just get whatever they have at the dollar store. When I’m lucky, it’s white. J The white Play-Doh just makes it easier to see if you need extra coats when painting safety eyes.
I use all acrylic paints for painting safety eyes. Don’t be afraid to splurge on quality. The last thing you want is for your paint to chip or the color to be watered down. I like Michael’s Craft Smart paints for glitter because they use a clear base with colored glitter. I like Folk Art Multi-Surface paints for solid and metallic colors.
Get a paint brush that is small and flat that can hold a lot of paint. Thick layers are useful and will cut down on the streaks in the eye.
Occasionally, check the top of your eye and wipe off any excess paint that might sneak around the edge. Catch it between coats while it’s still wet. If there is paint on the top, you may want to re-form your Play-Doh.
Work From the Top Layer Down
The first layer you will be painting will be the one closest to the front of the eye, meaning you have to think backwards when painting. If you want the eye to have glitter on top of a color, you need to paint the glitter first. Same with if you want to add a “glisten,” or a small white spot in the corner to make it look more animated.
Tip: Wait at least 20 minutes between coats! Wait at least 30 minutes after your last coat before putting your painted safety eyes on your amigurumi.
Make sure you put on enough coats that you can’t see any Play-Doh color through the eye. Thin or bare places are magnified because of the shape of the eye, so make sure you cover to the edge.
Once the painted safety eye is dry, insert the eye into the piece you are making. Tada! You have made matching safety eyes for your favorite new amigurumi!
Kati is the designer behind Hooked by Kati. With thousands of patterns sold around the world, Kati prides herself in creating innovative, easy-to-follow amigurumi patterns. She has designed for several publications, including Crochet!, Crochet World, Simply Crochet, and I Like Crochet. Kati finds her inspiration in science fiction, video games, and numerous visits to the zoo — all passions she shares with her husband and two boys.