Forgotten Dolls

an encyclopedia of dolls and doll collecting

How to change doll eyes


Changing doll eyes

Proper eye setting in a doll can make all the difference in photos, yet often the stock placement is slapdash and simply doesn’t look right. If your doll’s eyes seem out of alignment, you will need to open your doll’s head and reset the eyes in a more appropriate position.

For a new hobbyist, it may seem daunting to change the eyes on your doll, but it’s really not that difficult. All you need is your doll, a pair of eyes of your choice, and some eye putty.


I usually use the Scotch brand mounting putty because it doesn’t stain, but I believe 3M and similar companies will have a product that will work for you if you can’t find the Scotch brand one. It’s about $3 a packet.

A single packet is enough for the eyes of several dolls such as a ball jointed doll. This putty is reusable when removed from a doll.

Opening the head

Changing bjd eyes The first order of business is to open the head. Remove the doll’s wig, and you should see a seam line around the head. Pop that open. Most newer ball jointed have a magnet system keeping the head closed, so give a tug to the removable part (headcap or face-plate).

If your doll still has their default eyes installed, they will need to be removed. The eyes on a factory-standard doll are usually held in with hard putty or hot glued. Putty needs to be chiseled out (tedious!). Hot glue can be pried out with a blunt knife.

Tip: Applying either low heat or cold can sometimes help with the glue removal. If you’re lucky, they will be held in with the same kind of putty I am using here, which can simply be pulled out with the eyes.

Once they’re out, switch in the new eyes. The important thing to keep in mind when setting eyes to go slow and ensure the eyes are set properly.

Positioning the eyes: common errors

Contrary to new collector belief, you really shouldn’t just chuck the eyes into the head and hope for the best. The eyes are the very first thing that will be noticed about your doll, so position them properly.

Changing bjd eyes
You don’t want your doll to have eyes going off in different directions.
  Changing bjd eyes
Or worse, to have the dreaded forward blank stare. This is common for factory-default dolls.
Changing bjd eyes
There is also the ever-popular look of “eyes rolled back into the head”. Unless your doll is dead or insane, please don’t do this.
  Changing bjd eyes
Some collectors somehow manage to have their doll’s eyes positioned too far down. This likewise looks bad.

If your doll’s eyes look like any of these common errors, take the time to correct it.

Positioning the eyes: the right way

The goal of proper eye positioning is both to have an expression in keeping with the personality of your doll and to have both eyes track properly. Choose an position that suits your doll’s character.

Don’t be afraid to try out different positions -- looking to one side or the other, perhaps.

Changing bjd eyes
If you can’t find something you like, a slightly cross-eyed and upward-tilted position is cute and endearing for most dolls.
  Changing bjd eyes
Take a small section of putty and roll it into a loose ball shape. Squish it around the back of the eye to form a ring at the “horizon line” of the eye.
Then position the eyes, one at a time, to your liking. Ensure that the pupils line up and there is an equal amount of white space around both eyes. Squish the putty into place so it holds. Close up the head and put the wig back on.   Changing bjd eyes

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