As I teach others how to make a puppet, I’ve noticed the hardest part for my students is where to put the eyes. And I have to admit, even I struggle with that one. Through the years of making puppets, I’ve discovered that the eye placement is crucial as to how professional the puppet will look.
The most common error is trying to put the eyes where you think they should be – realistically placed. When they are placed realistically, the eyes aren’t looking at the audience.
From the side, this puppet looks more realistic.
But when his head is turned, he isn’t looking at the audience. For this puppet, I wanted a more realistic look. And he looked extremely weird to put his eyes on the front of his face. So I sacrificed him not looking at the audience for a more realistic look.
After spending hours pouring over pics of the Muppets, I noticed that the eyes are also very close to the mouth. And it dawned on me that in order to get the puppet to “look” at the audience, the eyes need to be very close together and the pupils need to be more towards the bottom of the white of the eye. In fact, they need to be almost cross-eyed.
This is where I originally put the eyes on this cow. As you can see, she is looking at the sky. The eyes are high. To make her look at the audience the puppeteer would really have to crank his hand down in a very uncomfortable position.
My wrist and hands hurt from just looking at this pic of how the puppeteer has to hold her hand to get the cow to look at the audience.
Here is a shot from the front. Even with her hand in such a painful position, the cow still isn’t looking right, the eyes are too far apart to give the illusion of looking at you.
I took off the eyes and pupils, moved the eyes closer to the muzzle and sewed the pupils more towards the bottom of the white of the eye and cross eyed. In fact, in this close up pic, the cow does look cross eyed, but when she is performing, she looks like she is looking at the audience. Most importantly, the puppeteer can actually “perform” since her wrist and hands aren’t dying.
In this pic of two triceratops, the yellow one’s eyes actually look like they are looking straight off to the side of the camera. The green one looks like each eye is off looking in a different direction.
Again, I moved the eyes closer together and sewed the pupils close to the bottom of the white of the eye and made him look more cross eyed. This gives the illusion of the puppet looking at you.
Sometimes you may want your “character” to be a little crazy eyed. This is a character from our Pirate Show. We wanted the effect of uneven eyes to match the personality of the character.
Have fun and play around with the position of the eyes to get the effect that you want for your puppets. If at first, you don’t succeed, try again. That’s why I hand sew everything and not use a glue gun.
Now that you know the secret to eye placement you can sew these adorable puppets and more! Patterns available as immediate digital downloads.