Getting Garrus’ Eyes Right

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The previous post, Garrus Mask Neck Building, covered how I made the neck on my Garrus mask. This one is entirely about eyes.

As many artists will tell you, the eyes of a character are one of the most crucial things to get right in a painting. This holds true with costuming as well! I knew from the start that Garrus wouldn’t look the way I wanted if I used my own eyes, partially because of the position of the head and neck, and partially because human eyes look nothing like turian eyes.

To that end, I designed the mask with the idea that I would be making false eyes. This turned out to be a challenge to get right.

This was my first attempt, made from some 20mm glass cabochons that I happened to have on hand from the glass charms I was making at the time. The pupil was a circle of polymer clay, and the rest of the eye was painted in with acrylic. I wasn’t happy with how these turned out, aside from the fact that they were much too large!

The second set was a pair of 16mm cabochons, this time purchased from a vendor on Etsy. Lovely eyes, but they once again turned out to be too large and wrong in color.

At this point, I ordered a whole bunch of cabochons from Fire Mountain Gems to play around with and to figure out exactly what size I needed!

To make the perfect eyes, I decided to pull an image directly from a screenshot of Garrus. I painted over it a bit to bring the resolution up to what I needed to print the eyes out, and then made a sheet with a whole bunch of eyes on it! I made several different variations in brightness and two different sizes. I was pretty sure 14mm would be the right size, but I printed some 12mm eyes too.

To look a bit less weird to our friendly neighborhood printers, I filled the rest of the page with some of our pinback button designs. (Woo, plug!)

Here’s the easiest way I found to attach the printed eye to the cabochon. Put a dot of Diamond Glaze in the center of the printout, and then press the cabochon right down on top of it, making sure to keep it centered. The pressure spreads the glaze out and squeezes out any air bubbles. The Diamond Glaze dries nice and clear. I do have some tips:

  • Your printouts MUST be done on a laser printer. If you do this with an inkjet printout, the ink will smear all over the place.
  • If you mess up, drop the cabochon in water for a few minutes. The Diamond Glaze will come loose from the glass. You’ll lose the printed eye, but that’s why it’s good to print extras!
  • The surface I’m working on is wax paper, which keeps the Diamond Glaze from sticking to it.

Here, I compared the 14mm eyes to the 16mm ones and then switched tnem out. They’re close… but they’re still too big.

Turians have really tiny eyes!

I admit, there’s a good chance I would’ve stopped here, except for my husband and one of my workmates, both of whom wanted to make sure this costume was done right as much as I did! So, back into the fray we go.

I dropped the size once more, down to my 12mm cabochons. I ended up needing to adjust and re-print the 12mm eyes I had, because of how much the highly domed 12mm cabochons magnified the pupil. The photo above shows how tiny I had to make the pupil (left) so it would appear correct once magnified by the cabochon (right). Sorry that picture isn’t so great, but I felt this was important to show.

I also decided that the structure holding the eyes needed to be a bit less solid, allowing me more vision points in the mask. The eyes I’m holding are the older 14mm set, the ones on the table are the newer 12mm set.

Yep, there’s an eye blink – shhh. However, like the mandibles, I don’t have a way to activate it while wearing the mask. Not yet, anyway. I’m researching solutions to that. 🙂

The eyelids are made from strips of cotton spandex, same stuff as the neck. Here, you can see how they’re attached on. The spandex serves the dual purpose of forming the actual eyelid “skin”, and also has the elasticity to hold the eyes in the “open” position.

Here, I’ve formed some Apoxie Sculpt around the eye structure to give it strength and to form the lower, non-moving eyelids. I’ve left as much of it open as I could get away with, for additional vision from within the mask. The Apoxie was then painted black before I added the eyes to the costume.

Okay, now we’re getting close, but there’s still a problem. I had brightened the eyes to help them stand out, but between that and the glass cabochon picking up extra light, they stood out too much! They had also lost some of their color. Time for one last adjustment.

Here are all five iterations the eyes went through before they finally looked right! Seriously, tiny eyes.

This is the upper mask with the final set of eyes in place. They might not look too different from the fourth set of eyes, but they made a huge amount of difference in how he looked in photographs!

Okay, one last thing. I had a bunch of people ask how I saw out of the mask. Hopefully this gives a bit of an idea. I had made myself several vision points – through the dark areas around the eyes, through the nose, and down past the mandibles on either side. If I needed to see better, I could also open the mouth and look through it.

The green areas show all of the main vision points I had. The red areas are a little trickier to explain, but they helped me see too. I could see through the left red area with my right eye, and the right one with my left eye. It simply doesn’t show in a photo like this.

Forward vision was actually very good. With the mask on, I was able to focus on points outside of it and see quite well. However, I did have a bit of trouble with peripheral vision, something I’m working on fixing.

So… that’s it for the mask! The next blog, Building Carapace Armor for Garrus, starts on the armor. I hope you find these helpful and, hopefully, inspiring as well!

View all Garrus costume blog posts