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Painting Delightful Eyeball Ornaments

January 11, 2014

A few years ago my mother sent me a set of beautiful hand painted (glass) eyeball Christmas ornaments.

It had never occurred to me before receiving that gift how easy it would be to transform a simple white ornament into an awesome eyeball, and ever since those eyeballs arrived in the mail I’ve been painting my own.

Below I have outlined the step by step procedure I use to paint my eyeball ornaments with simple acrylic paints. The process can be simplified to become a fun craft to do with children or it can be made more complex depending on your skill level and purpose.


White spherical Christmas ornaments

Acrylic paints

Paint Brushes

Paper Towels





Tiny rhinestones (optional)

I got my shatter proof (plastic) ornaments from the pound shop last year. In fact, I got two more sets after Christmas because I plan to make even more for next year. You can also get ornaments from Amazon if they’re out of season.  This can be a really fun Halloween project or a fun activity for a Nightmare Before Christmas party… there are many creative applications!


The first thing you need to do is  make a couple of templates in paper. I like to use paper for this because it will contour to the ornament for tracing purposes easily. Just find a couple of circular things from around the house in the proportions you like and trace them.

Next cut them out and use the templates to trace the circles onto the ornament.


Now that the ornament is ready for paint you should take a moment to think about eyeballs, specifically, the iris. Look at your own eyes in the mirror. The iris is not a flat color with straight lines radiating out of the center, it actually consists of lots of different hues of the same color or sometimes different colors brought together in a radiating starburst. I don’t go out of my way to make my eyeballs super realistic but I do like to take advantage of using many different hues to bring the iris together.

If you are doing this project with children then you may want to go with the flat color approach however if you’re doing this yourself you may find it more rewarding to do it my way.

The first layer of paint on the iris should be a a color somewhere in the middle of your darks and lights and the pupil is of course black. I used burnt sienna for the iris.

Allow this layer to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.


Next, using brush strokes radiating from the edge of the iris to the pupil add in a darker color and once you’ve been around the whole iris take a lighter color and stroke outward from the pupil all around defining the highlights within the eye.

One of the great things about acrylic paint is that it’s really forgiving so if you don’t like the look of what you’ve done, let it dry and paint right over it! The way it’s not forgiving is if you paint on the white part of the ornament, you will struggle to tidy it up depending on the surface of the ornament so if you do accidentally make a wobbly edge on your iris just go around the whole thing again carefully and expand the outer border until it is circular again.

Allow to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.


Next define the outer rim of the iris with a very dark color and add in any additional highlights. I used burnt umber for the outside and a metallic red copper color for the final highlights.

The last finishing touch is to put a blob of white inside the pupil. I also stuck a clear rhinestone into the white paint as an optional embellishment because it makes the eye look more striking when you walk by with that little sparkle. (Though I must add it doesn’t photograph well)

Another thing that you could do which I chose not to do with this particular batch of ornaments is add in tiny red veins with either an extremely fine paintbrush or fine tipped sharpie pen for a bloodshot look.


Then repeat with different color themes. The set I bought contained 8 ornaments but one was broken beyond repair so I only ended up with 7. Instead of using boring ornament hooks or stringy loops I made hanging extensions for each ornament with chain, wire and natural stone tumbled chips. You don’t have to go to that extent of course but the chain really does look nice!



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