How to turn your Tonner Doll into a changeable eye doll 

Instructions for painted eye and inset eye dolls 

Banner Image, Ellowyne "Invisible Ink". 14mm Glib eyes and applied lashes. 

Below, same Ellowyne "Invisible Ink", original painted eye, left, 14mm Secrist 'Real Eyes' with applied eyelashes, right.

 Below I show my preferred cutting tool, X-acto knife size #1, with  size #11 blades.  Clean the blade with alcohol before using to remove any oil. Make sure you are always working with a sharp blade to get a clean cut.  A surgical scalpel may be used.


 First you will open the pate.  If your doll is a wigged doll, this is straight forward. Simply cut a pate under the area that will be covered by the wig, forming a notch on either side of the head to hold the pate in place.  If you are uncertain of your cutting skills, use a push pin (for bulletin board) to make a dotted outline and then connect the dots with your cutting tool.


Remember to put notches on both sides of the head. Peter Pevensie has his new eyes already but you can see the notches  on either side of the pate. The pate merely slides into place.


  If your doll is a rooted hair doll, it is also possible, it just requires a few additional steps.  Below is Ellowyne "Invisible Ink" showing off her new pate.  I used a tooth pick to find a path between the hair rootings in the pate area gathering up the center portion in a clip.  I then followed the path with the knife held at a slight angle, as though I were carving the cap to a jack-o-lantern, forming a notched pattern to help hold the pate in place. If possible, smaller 'tabs' may hold the pate in place without any additional requirements.  With Invisible Ink, below, the rootings were very thick so I made the choice not to use small tabs to avoid cutting through any hair.  To close the pate, a few carefully placed dots of hot glue will hold it in place until the next eye change.  If you are a frequent eye changer, a tiny piece of cello tape is all you need to hold the pate in place.  I did add a bit of hot glue to the underside of the pate and around the inside edge of the cut edge of the pate as a precaution to insure the hair rootings would remain in place.  

Note:  I know some doll artists remove the heads to do eye insertions through the neck opening.  This requires heating the vinyl.  This method is not advised for changeable eye dolls as it would require repeated heating of neck vinyl/ repeated removal of the head.  From my experience with other vinyl dolls this could lead to cracking , stretching or other malformation of the neck vinyl such that the head would not fit properly on the body.  Heat can also damage the hair and eyelashes and must be used with caution.




Carve the eye area.   I prefer to begin at the inside corner of the eye making a tiny vertical cut along the edge of the lacrimal caruncle.

I then remove the knife and reinsert it cutting towards the outer corner of the eye well above the lower lid.  I remove the knife again and reinsert cutting toward the inner corner of the eye, well away from the upper lid. Look closely and you can see the cuts I have made:


You can see below the size of the wedge of vinyl that I removed.   


I then carefully remove thin layers working toward the eyelids and angling the blade to begin the beveling process: 


Always helps to check progress along the way.


When you have a pretty good fit for the look you want to achieve it is time to get out your eye bevelers.   


I have found it helpful to work with multiple size bevelers, especially if you wish change eyes and wish to use different brand and size eyes in your doll.


 Periodically check your fit. You can get a general idea by observing the fit of the eye beveler, especially when matching the two eyes (which I do later for this demo doll), but you also need to check the fit with the eyes you wish to use.

Remember to check the other sizes and brand eyes that you would like to use. Different manufactures eye shapes and sizes vary so you must check each type eye. Above, Ellowyne is modeling a 12mm Secrist 'Real Eyes.'  Below, she is modeling the Secrist eye on the right/top and Glib 12mm eye on the bottom.


A few helpful tools for holding the eyes. 

From top to bottom: hemostat (the curved versions especially), tweezers, eye holder (the wire on the eye holder may be bent near the handle to make the angle you need)



If you are using eyes with stems and you don't own a holder make one with a pipe cleaner. 



 Above, Elowyne is trying a Glib 10mm eye.  Play around with placement of the iris.  Will your doll ever be looking off to the side or rolling her eyes?  The shape of the top of the eye will affect the fit if you wish to explore these fun possibilities.


Once you are happy with your beveling, a little finish sanding with micromesh will smooth the eyelids.




Seal the cut areas of the vinyl with acrylic matt medium and allow to dry. 

For guy dolls I leave the eyelids natural color and let the eye and lashes cast their natural shadows.  These Tonner 'Peter Pevensie' guys are wearing 14mm Secrist 'Real Eyes' for these photos.  Notice the different eye sculpts on these two guys.  The eyes were shaped to accomodate a larger eye for a more 'anime' appearance to go well with the Ellowyne characters.

For the girls, I like to paint the inner eyelids in a shadow color.  For this Ellowyne, I chose a dark skin tone color that has green undertones to coordinate with the gold eye shadow and the green and gold eyes I wished to use.



Once the paint is dry  you can seal it with a bit of matt sealer and once dry she is ready for her new eyes and lashes. 

Here is our demo doll with both eye sockets even and ready for eyes and lashes:

 Eyes can be held in place with eye putty or a convenient substitute such as soft silicone earplugs or sticky tack...just use a colorless version. For more durable but still changeable insertion, use hot glue.


Cut off a couple small pieces your eye putty and roll them into  'worms'.  Then stick them to the inside edges of your eye openings.


Here you can see a stemless eye resting in the eye putty.  The putty can be molded around the eye.  To insert the stemless eye I merely pressed it into the end of my finger and pressed it into place.  For eyes with stems you can grab the stem with a hemostat or use an eye holder which you can purchase or make from wire or pipecleaners.  


With eye putty, once the eye is in place you can move it to position it and then mold the putty around the eye to hold it in place.  

With hot glue application, you must determine your positioning first, apply the hot glue to the eye (I use two drops at the top and bottom of the iris) and insert the eye firmly looking at the dolls face so you can see the position.  Once both eyes are tacked in this manner you can add a bit more hot glue through the pate to hold them in place firmly.  An inexpensive 'detailers' hot glue gun with a narrow glue tip will help you to have good control over application of the hot glue.  



Above, Ellowyne looks lovely in the Glib 12mm eye, and below in a Secrist 12mm eye, even without applied lashes.

 Now you can add eyelashes if you would like.  I prefer eyelashes with a soft natural curl.  For this doll I will use black eyelash strips:

I cut the lashes to the desired length and then apply them with a tiny bit of water soluble tacky glue (white that dries invisible).  Squeeze a drop of the glue onto a work surface and use a toothpick to pick up a tiny amount to apply just to the edge of the eyelid. Place the lash on the dolls face and slide it into the glue and into position on the eyelid.  I use a combination of my fingernails and toothpicks to get the eyelashes aligned properly. I do this while the eye is in place... taking care not to glue the lash to the eye.  That way the eyes can be changed without having to reapply the lashes.  Sorry I couldn't photo the details... with the small amount of glue I use it dries too quickly to photograph. 


In the above photo eyelashes have been added only to the right side. The applied lash does give an added dimension/ depth to the eyes.

In the below photo both sides have eyelashes.  The left side needs a bit of a trim with one lash noticeably longer than the others.  Notice how a bit of eye putty has moved along with the right eye by the lower lid when I moved the eyes to change the glance. That I will remove with a toothpick.



Above is a side view of the soft natural curl of this eyelash. 

Here she is after lash trimming, 12mm Glib eye:



10mm Glib eye (above, this frame and below).


12mm Glib eye, this photo and next.



14mm Glib eye


14mm Glib eye in Rufus (new eye socket sculpt).


Hummm...something's caught Rufus's eye!


14mm Glib eye in Rufus compared to Amber 14mm factory eye.



Above, 12mm Glib eye. Below, 14mm Secrist Real Eyes


Below, 12mm Glib eye.  Needs a bit more beveling for the eye to fit well... especially for glances other than straightforward.  



Glib 14mm eye above, Secrist 'Real Eyes' 14mm, below.


Rufus's very secure pate opening.  Multiple small notches hold pate tightly.  This was possible because his rootings were not as dense as Invisible Ink Ellowyne.



Now it is Amber's turn:

In the photo one factory eye has been removed.  Amber's factory eyes are Pabol 14mm eyes.  Glib 14mm eyes snap gently into place once the eye pocket is removed.



Above you can see one factory eye removed and the second almost ready to be removed.

I removed the vinyl of the eye pocket in two stages, first cutting a smaller circle from the center so I could see what was happening, followed by cutting just inside the outer upper edge of the eye pocket.  Be very careful near the outer sides of the eye pockets which are very close to the face.  I made sure to position the blade to cut away from the sides of the face just in case the blade slipped. 

Above, you can see the clear acrylic outer part of the eye.  A bit of vinyl still needs to be removed where it is still overlapping the clear acrylic.  Once you can see the acrylic all around the eye, gentle pressure from a cotton swab will pop out the eye.




A couple comments on eye sizes for the inset eye dolls.  Since the eye pocket is already preformed, you are limited to using the factory size and one size under.  Two sizes under factory size left gaps showing.  Using the same size as the factory eyes you have a limited ability to position the eye... enough movement is possible to get a good alignment and certainly enough to correct the 'wonky-eye syndrome' of some factory eye dolls.  To get the side glancing eyes, however, you must drop down a size to allow sufficient movement and then hold the eye in place with eye putty or hot glue.  Amber's eyes are larger than Ellowyne and Prudence.  I expect that the factory eyes in those dolls are 12mm or 10mm. 


14mm Pabol (Factory eye) on left, 14mm Glib eye on right


14mm Pabol (Factory eye) left, 12mm Glib eye right


Same 12mm Glib eye on right, showing range of movement.