Judging the best eye positions for amigurumi is a skill that doesn’t come easily to most people. I know from talking to my customers that it can be very frustrating when you’ve worked hard to make an amigurumi but it ends up with an unusual looking face and you’re not quite sure why…
Examples of eye positions for a realistic amigurumi dog
Before you permanently attach amigurumi eyes, as well as checking that the eyes are level with each other and not wonky, it’s also worth playing with them to make sure they are in the position you like best. In my patterns, I give guidelines for positioning the facial features to look right for each animal, but I thought I’d give a little lesson today in facial proportion that will give you a place to start for any animal (including humans).
Tip: If you’re having problems with the eye positions for an animal with a separate muzzle, it can be helpful to attach the muzzle before positioning the eyes, or at least hold the muzzle up to the face so you can judge the eye placement more carefully. As you’ll see below, the muzzle and eye positions are often closely related.
Here are my rule-of-thumb guidelines for positioning eyes on your amigurumi animals to give a realistic result. They aren’t 100% accurate for every animal, but are generally a good starting point. This is useful to know even if you aren’t looking to create realistic animals: once you know what the realistic position should be, you can easily modify it to make your animal cuter in a cartoony or kawaii way.
The number one mistake that most people instinctively make is to place the eyes too high (see examples 1 and 3 above). In children’s drawings of people, the eyes are usually drawn about a third of the way down the head, and this perception generally carries through into adulthood unless you’ve studied art or anatomy. Here are some rules-of-thumb to remember:
- Place the eyes roughly halfway up the head, or very slightly higher.
- If the animal has a muzzle, place the eyes level with the top of the muzzle.
Let’s look at these principles in action with photos of myself and my helpful assistant Maui, and then see how they look in amigurumi:
The top and bottom blue lines mark the top and bottom of the head. The middle blue line is halfway between them. You can see that the eyes are always at, or slightly above, the middle blue line, and the top of the muzzle (or ‘nose’ in my case!) is also at that same level.
This is more variable: some animals have forward-facing eyes, while others have sideways-facing eyes. A pattern should tell you if you need to place the eyes on either side of the head (i.e. facing out to each side), like these:
In these cases, the exact positioning is less critical, but, as you can’t easily see both eyes at once, check your animal from both the front and the top to make sure the eyes are level both horizontally and vertically before you commit to attaching the backs of your safety eyes.
If the eyes aren’t sideways-facing, there’s more chance of a positioning error. Here are the rules-of-thumb to avoid spacing problems:
- The most common mistake is to place the eyes too close together (see examples 2 and 3 at the top of this post) – this will give your animal a confused or cross-eyed look, which doesn’t (usually) look cute. The centres of the eyes should always be separated by at least half the width of the face.
- If the animal has a muzzle, place the eyes approximately level with each edge of the muzzle.
Let’s see some examples of these principles too:
Here the blue lines show the centre of each eye, and the green lines show the edges of the face. Note the spacing between the eyes (the distance between the blue lines) is never less than half the width of the face (the distance between the green lines).
Here the blue lines show the approximate eye spacing, which is also equal to the width of the muzzle. (I obviously don’t have a muzzle, but my eyes are spaced apart by the width of my nose, so the principle still applies!)
Of course, you don’t have to aim for the most realistic result – you can modify the general principles to give your animals a cuter, more cartoony look. The simplest way to go from realistic to extra-cute is to use larger eyes than recommended. You can also try positioning the eyes a little lower and/or the nose a little higher. (Taking this to extremes, the Japanese ‘kawaii’ look often places the nose higher than the eyes, but you don’t have to go that far to get a cute result!)
Go and Play!
Just to be clear: it’s never wrong if you choose to make your ami differently; it’s only a problem if you’re not happy with the end result. Avoiding unhappiness is what I’m trying to achieve with these ‘rules’, but, as I said at the start, they’re only general guidelines. If a pattern has different instructions for eye placement, you should follow those instead. And, of course, if you prefer the look of the eyes in a different position, you should always feel free to do things differently.
Eyes are so important to the look of the finished amigurumi – they give it expression and personality. Positioning the eyes so their animals look their best can be tricky, and I hope the guidelines in this post will help reduce that frustration. If you haven’t been happy with your amigurumis’ faces in the past, hopefully you’ll now have an idea where you may have been going wrong, so you can try a different eye placement next time.
Take an extra minute to make sure you’re happy with your ami’s eyes before you commit to the placement: it can make all the difference between an ami that’s just not quite right and one you can be proud of!