Prop Eyez

Prop Eyez in use

Prop Eyez in a pair of Lindburg Skulls

Eyeballs can have a number of great uses in Halloween props. Giving eyes to some props like skulls and ground-breakers can add that “creep factor” that you just might be looking for. They can also be useful in any number of other props and decorations. A candy dish full of eyeballs for your Halloween party; a jar of eyes to adorn your witch’s arsenal of potion ingredients – the possibilities are aplenty. 

Real eyeballs are not so easily obtainable, and I’d imagine that the red tape one might have to cut through for a single pair would be far beyond the worth. I’d also be willing to bet that they would be pretty hard to work with, and likely wouldn’t last very long. With that in mind, I have discovered a budget friendly solution that will give your props that optical enhancement that they so deserve. Inspired by Easy Eyes from the Haunters Hangout website, I use a slightly different method to create my eyeballs. I’ve also created my own set of high detail printable irises (see link at bottom of page) for use with this method. In this tutorial, I’m going to share the process I use to create the eyeballs that I use in my props. 

To get started on this project, you will need the Following: 

  • 1″ wooden balls
  • White Acrylic hobby paint
  • Red Acrylic hobby paint (any dark red will work)
  • 1 sheet of Prop Eyez printable irises
  • Glue Stick
  • Modge Podge Gloss sealer
  • Scissors
  • 1/4″ broad tip hobby paintbrush
  • Fine tip hobby paintbrush
  • Drying rack (see below)
  • Electric drill w/ small drill bit (same size as posts on drying rack)

A handy tool for this project is the drying rack for the eyes. I made mine from two 4″ pieces of wire coat hanger and a small flat piece of scrap wood. Just drill two appropriately sized holes in the wood, cut two straight pieces of wire coat hanger and insert them in the holes. You will need to make sure that the drill bit is the same diameter as the coat hanger to ensure a tight fit. For the record, I used a thin wire hanger and a 47 gauge (0.0785″) drill bit. This will allow you work around the eyes completely without getting your fingers in the paint, and to set them aside to dry on your work surface. 

 With the drying rack ready, and all your supplies in place, it’s time to get started. The first step is to drill a small hole about halfway into each of the wooden balls. These holes will need to match the diameter of the coat hanger used on the drying rack. Once the holes are drilled, mount the balls on the rack. 

Paint each of the balls white. 2 or 3 light even coats will work much better than 1 heavy coat, and will probably take much less time to dry. 

Adding the red paintOnce the white paint is dry, you may choose to paint the backsides of the eyes red. If your eyes will be mounted in a prop where the backs will not be visible, you’ll probably want to skip this step. Using a piece of sponge, lightly drybrush the backs of the eyes with red paint about halfway around. The color should fade into the white gradually. 

Once your wooden balls are painted to your liking and dry, it’ll be time to add the Irises. Choose the desired color and pupil size from the printed Prop Eyez sheet and cut them out. When cutting out the iris, you should leave a small amount of white around the edge. This helps keep the iris’ shape and blends the color into the sclera (whites of the eye) more naturally. 

With the iris cut out, make a few (4-5) slits inward to the pupil around the iris. Don’t cut too far in, just cut to the edge of the pupil. This will help the printed iris mold over the rounded surface of the eye without rippling. 

Using a glue stick, apply a liberal coat of glue to the back of the printed iris, and press the iris into place. Then roll the eyeball (iris facing down) on a table or other smooth hard surface. That will help smooth out the printed iris and any thicker spots of glue underneath. 

Blood VesselsOnce the iris is in place on each of your eyeballs, you may choose to add some blood vessels to the Sclera. There are several ways of doing this, and any of them work well. I just paint them in with a fine tipped hobby brush. Some folks use tooth picks to drag lines from a droplet of paint, and others have said they use red Sweater lint. Do whatever works best for you, or use your imagination and come up with a new way. 

The final step is to seal everything up. Coat each eye with 2 coats of Modge Podge Gloss, and then another 2 coats of the Modge Podge Gloss thinned down a bit with water. The second two (thinned down) coats help make for a nice glassy finish, which gives them a wet, realistic look. 

Tip: For a hazy, dead look, try adding paint to your final modge podge mixture. On the last coat(s) of Modge Podge, mix a drop or two of acrylic hobby paint, in the color of the haze you want, into your thinned out Modge Podge. Pale yellow works well for a Jaundace look, gray or white for a dead haze. When doing a haze, a little bit of paint goes a long way, so mix sparingly and test it out before you put it on the eyes.

The completed eye

The completed eye.

That’s all there is to it. Once dry, you have yourself a nice, realistic set of eyeballs that can be added to any number of Halloween props and party ideas. 

Prop Eyez

Click image for the Prop Eyes printable iris sheet

Hitchin’ a ride

The other day, I was chatting with a few of the officers after work (for those of you who don’t know, I work in the Communications div for our local Police dept) and the suggestion came up that I should have one of my Skeletons riding shotgun in my personal vehicle. My sister had recently sent me a photo from a local Walmart of a similar scene, and I had thought to myself at the time, “how cool is that”. Since I have a spare Bucky hanging around waiting to be corpsed, I figured why not. The next afternoon, I strapped him in, gave him some eyeballs and a hat, and set off for work.

The stunt was well received by the guys, and we all had a few good laughs about it, but for me, that just wasn’t enough. In efforts to catch the reactions of passersby while driving, I decided to leave him strapped in for a while. That was a week ago.

My kids all love the idea, and graciously take a back seat for “Bubba”, a name he earned from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. hat that he dons. They love checking the reactions of people on the street as we drive by.

The best part of this story came when I returned to work yesterday after a 3 day weekend. I was informed of a call to the Police dept, received a few days prior, from a concerned citizen. The caller was reporting a black 4 door sedan with a human skeleton riding in the passenger seat.

Looks like Bubba will have to spend a few more weeks in the car. :)

Gravedigger – update #3


All painted up and ready for the latex

Ive now made it to the point in this project where I’ve chosen to stray from my comfort zone. The Gravedigger is all constructed, with several coats of paper mache applied and a coat of exterior Latex Paint added to seal up the mache. Now it’s time to play with the liquid Latex and Cotton. For the record, I am sceptical of doing this, as I am not completely confident that this will look as good as I hope it will. Nonetheless, I feel I must give it a shot. I have used the Liquid Latex once before as can be seen here, but this time it will be on a much larger scale.

The Gravedigger is now the biggest halloween project undertaking I have made to date. Not so by overall size (my past scarecrows took that category) but definately by the work involved. So far, I’m pleased with the progress and have high hopes for the final outcome. Here is one last look at the gravedigger before I start with the latex & cotton. One coat of light brown Exterior Latex, with a dry brushing of dark brown. The bright white areas, which will be toned down with a brown wash, are where I plan to have exposed bone, though some of the white will be covered up with latex as well.

The Gravedigger's Eyes

The Gravedigger's Eyes

Another new direction that I have chosen to take with this proect is the addition of the eyes. The eyes, inspired by Haunters Hangout’s “Easy Eyes“, were created with 1″ wooden balls purchased at Michaels – The Arts & Crafts Store. The balls were painted with white and red acrylic hobby paint, then Haunters Hangout’s printable Irises were added. Gloss Modge Podge was used to give the eyes a “wet” look. Once in place, the eyeballs were held in place with a paper mache clay made from Scott’s TP, water, Elmers Glue-all, and a few drops of red acrylic hobby paint. Once dry, a pale light yellow was drybrushed on and then sealed with the Gloss Modge Podge.

Well that’s enough babbling from me. Latex and cotton process starts today!

Corpse Eyes

with and without eyes

One of my '09 Groundbreakers with and without eyeballs.

Ive decided that, despite my previous position on the subject, I am becomming more receptive the look of eyeballs in corpses. I used to think that, for the sake of realism, eyeballs had no place in a well rotted corpse. As a corpse begins to rot, eyeballs would be one of the first thing to go; so why put them in a ground-breaker, right? Well, maybe not.

Throughout my life, I have always been a bit OCD, and quite the perfectionist when it comes to my art. I was the kid who was never good at cartoons and caricatures, but could make a pencil portrait look like a black and white photograph. Creating surreal works posed a problem, not because I couldnt do it, but rather that my brain kept telling me that it just didnt look “right”.  

In recent years, I have slowly allowed more of the surreal to creep its way into my work, and as I do, I realize that I really enjoy it. I am beginning to accept the fact that realism is not always the best option; that “unreal” can be so much more expressive. This holds especially true in the area of Halloween props. Fine details and realism are often lost to the dimly lit atmospheres that we create, and more often than not, our guests are not permitted to get close enough to the props to appreciate the detail. It is the exaggerated details that often fetch that “creep factor” that we, as home haunters, seek to achieve.


Different eye positions can alter the mood or attitude of your prop

So, back to the topic here. Do we add eyeballs to our corpses? I say sure, if the situation is right. Sometimes an eyeball or two can give something to your corpse that it might otherwise be lacking. And sometimes they can lend themselves to the atmosphere you are trying to create. Simple positioning of the eyeballs can have a drastic impact on the mood or attitude portrayed by your prop, which in turn can help set or enhance the atmosphere of your haunt.

Potion Jars

Our Potion/Ingredient/ Spice Jars

Our Potion/Ingredient/ Spice Jars

Our Potion & Spice Jars are a great little decoration that are perfect for giving your home that “witchy” feel during the Halloween season. Spread throughout your house they can add to the ambience of any Halloween party. A few of these lined up in an otherwise empty window on your front porch could be just what you need to add the finishing touches to your Haunt. This project is perfect for anyone old enough to use a hot glue gun. It takes only a few minutes, and cost very little. All you need is an empty jar with a lid, black paint, some jute twine, a hot glue gun, and a (permanent) glue stick. 

The first step is to prepare your jar and lid. Find an odd shaped jar or bottle fitting of the contents you wish to display (ie. bottles for potions and tonics, jars for most others). Take the lid, wash it well, and paint the entire outside of it black. You may also want to go over it lightly with a fine sandpaper or wire brush before painting, which will help keep the paint from chipping off. Set that aside and let it dry. Thoroughly clean the old label and glue from the jar. Hot water, dish detergent and a scratch pad work well for this. Once clean, set this aside also.

The next step is to prepare your label. While we have printable jar labels available for download, you can also make your own by simply writing the contents name in black permanent marker onto an appropriately sized piece of paper with torn edges. Take your label and crumple it up nice and tight, then carefully unfold it. Do this once or twice more, until the paper has a softer feel and very crumpled look. Now take and smooth the label back out with your fingers on a hard surface. You will need to stain the label to give it that nice aged look. There a few different ways of doing this. Some use coffee grounds, some use tea bags, I prefer to use a small amount of black paint mixed with water. Simply dab your paint/water mixture onto the label with a sponge or crumpled paper towel. You may want to test out your mixture, and your dabbing skills on a blank piece of paper first so that you don’t ruin your label. Save your left over staining mixture, as you will need some a bit later. Once that’s complete, set the label aside to dry and go grab your (hopefully dry by now) Jar and lid.

If you want to add an actual content to your jar, now is the time to do it. Be creative, and be thrifty. I used a bag of Slimy Eyeballs I found at a local party store for the “Eye of Newt”, and black maple leaves chopped up in my wife’s blender (she wasn’t too happy about that) for the “Deadly Nightshade”. The bottom line here is, you can find all kinds of stuff that will work as content without spending a lot of, if any money. Just don’t add anything that will rot, just in case that jar accidentally gets broken six years from now. Eeeewwwww!

Okay, back to business. Now we need to seal up the container. Here you will need the hot glue gun (so get that plugged in if you haven’t already), and several feet of your jute twine. Starting just below the lid, hot glue the end of your jute to the glass jar. I like to add a loop here, just for decorative purposes, but this loop can also be used for attaching Tag style labeling as well. Now wrap the jute around the jar, just below the lid, and then continue on up around the side of the lid. Once you’re near the top, with about 1 wrap left, stop wrapping the jute, apply a small bead of hot glue around the top, and continue with the last wrap of jute. Cut off the remaining jute and go grab that left over staining mixture. Dab the stain around the jute to give it an aged look to match the label.

The last step is to apply the label to your crafty new jar or bottle. Apply a liberal amount of glue from that (permanent) glue stick to the back of your label, and slap that label onto the jar. Don’t be too particular about lining it up straight. A crooked label just adds to the look.

So there you have it. That was quick, relatively painless (as long as you didn’t stick your fingers in the hot glue) and easy on the wallet. And to top it all off, you probably have plenty of materials left over to make several more, so have at. Until next, Happy Haunting.