Making Your Sculpture Symmetrical – Two Easy Tricks

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Sculpting Eyes Symmetrically This is a short video to show you some tips for making your sculptures the same on both sides.

The biggest problem I have when doing an animal sculpture is getting both eyes in the same place, the same size, and looking in the same direction. (Is that three problems?)

I used these tricks today to help me with my goat’s eyes. When I looked at her face from the front, I knew the eyes weren’t quite the same. But what, exactly, was different? How could I fix it? That isn’t always easy to tell.

After using the first tip in this video, I’m much happier with my goat sculpture, and I thought it might help you, if you have this problem, too.

The ‘acetate alternative‘ trick would work just as well if you have an empty picture frame with a piece of glass. It is a bit fiddly – you draw on the shapes with your dry erase marker while keeping your head absolutely still, and when you flip it over and look at the other side you’ll need to move your head around to get the drawing lined up with the sculpture.

This was especially tricky when I worked from the front of the goat. I held my right eye shut while I drew the edges of the sculpture onto the clear plastic, and made sure to mark the center line. Then I flipped the plastic over, lined up the drawing’s center line with the sculpture, and closed my left eye so I could see how the outside edges were different on the sculpture and the drawing.

Like I said – it’s a little tricky, but it was worth the extra effort.

I do sometimes us a mirror, too. It’s the trick to start with because it’s easier, and sometimes it’s all you need. For my goat problem, it didn’t really help much and I had to move on to the clear plastic in a frame.

I also sometimes take a photo of my sculpture from both sides, flip one of them in my editing program, and then superimpose one image over the other one, with the top image set at a lower opacity so I can see through it. That should help, but I usually give it up after messing with it for way too long, because just a very minor difference in where the camera is held can change the image enough to keep them from lining up correctly. The acetate trick looks like more work, but it seems to help me more. Your results may vary.

Please let us know if you have any tricks that help you get your sculpted eyes in the right place and the right shape.

24 thoughts on “Making Your Sculpture Symmetrical – Two Easy Tricks”

  1. IN the background on the wall is a bull of some kind. Sorry, I’m on my phone can’t see real well. What did you use for the mane/fur? It looks amazing.

    • Hi Kelly. That’s a Highland cow, and the long hair was made with a skein of yarn I found in the house. I don’t know the brand, but I’m sure I bought it at our local Walmart. You can see the video of me making it here. I had a lot of fun making it, and it’s still one of my favorites.

  2. Hi Jonni
    I absolutely love your work. Your animals look like they could speak. I am really anxious to see the finished project of the goat
    You have inspired me to try my hand at sculpting. Never done it before. This is a whole new field for so so my 1st attempt was this turtle (a leatherback) once I got it done, I didn’t know what to do with it so I came up with this shadowbox & then I had to make a octupis to go on top


    • Linda, did you try to show us a photo of your turtle? I really want to see it – the shadowbox idea sounds really nice – and that octopus… If you have a photo, please share! The image does have to be smaller than 250K, so you might need to use one of the links at the top of this page to make it small enough to upload.

  3. Thanks so much Rex! I love your sarcasm, heehee. I think as with all artists, our work is never good enough for us so I was disappointed with these because I have owned and loved desert tortoises on and off for years so I really wanted to get the pattern on the shell correct but I didn’t plan well so just hurriedly added some similar lines.
    What is your medium to use? I am new so I am not familiar with everyone. Are you a sculptor? Sculpting isn’t my main medium but as I get older and love animals so much I am leaning in that direction. Jonni may become my muse. I love what she does. The WC painting is of my tortie Ernie.

    • Gina, I’m so lost that I’m not sure who has replied to who/what at this point. You’re water color of Ernie and the turtle sculptures you posted on Jan. 19 are beautiful. Sorry if I’ve already stated the obvious.

  4. Hi Jonni,
    It’s funny, I made a comment on your video last night and it never made it to the comment section! Never mind, I will comment again on how instructional your video was. It is so difficult to get things symmetrical and I like your tip. I also liked John’s pipe cleaner tip but I imagine that would only work with a larger sculpture.
    Another tip is to look at your piece backwards through a mirror like you would do if you want to see the back of your head in a mirror. It is amazing how different it looks viewing it backwards. It is a right brain/left brain sort of thing. You are viewing it using the opposite side of the brain than you used to make the piece. Does that make sense? It also works with painting or drawing. I use it for both- it is the last thing I do before I decide the piece is “done”. Nice video.

    • Good ideas, Eileen. Thanks. I often turn a sculpture upside down or look at it from behind, and that helps a lot, too.

      I don’t know what happened to your other comment – I looked for it but couldn’t find it. Thanks for writing it again.

  5. Jonni, I am so glad I don’t have this problem. (You will, of course, note the sarcasm.) This is a great idea. I appreciate not only the placement issue but the thickness issues. Thanks so much. I brought a frame in from the garage with glass in it about five months ago and it has leaned against my desk. Now I’ve found a use for it. I really love this presentation.

  6. Thanks Jonni,
    It’s been a difficult couple of years for me so I really enjoy your postings and they do help spur me on.
    I will be watching for your next one!

  7. Love your lessons.
    I tend to do more human faces (in clay) and resign myself to the fact that humans are never really symmetrical.
    I wonder if a quick and easy way to make sure the features are in the same spot on both sides of the head might be to make a pipe-cleaner grid. Pipe-cleaners are easy to work with and inexpensive. Pattern them after the layout lines ones uses to draw faces. Start with a vertical one from the nose to the chin. Add three horizontals at the level of the eyes, nose and mouth. They could be adjusted for the species.
    Thanks again for sharing your art.

  8. Great tips, thanks! I often have that problem too.
    I am working on a chihuahua right now using your pattern. Really fun.
    BTW, how do you like the Aves sculpting product?
    I am anxious to see the boar goat finished. I used to live near some folks who raised them. I love goats anyway, so fun to own. Goats are so funny.

      • I will for sure show you pix of the chi when I finish it. I have used apoxy sculpt a lot and also like the one you recommended called free form sculpt. I think the Apoxy sculpt allows you to use more detail if you wait for it to cure a bit after adding larger areas before you add details like eyes etc. Otherwise I always end up getting my fingers in it and mess up what I just did.
        The photo is a tortoise made with free form sculpt. I inda just threw it together but it was fun. The baby is left over clay.

          • Here it is. I just kind of threw him together because I was just testing the free form sculpt for the first time. She is about 4″ long.

            My muse has left me for a while. Trying to get her back.

            • Okay, Gina, I’m going to throw together a couple of these and will post them tomorrow. (There must be something in the weather to bring out my sarcasm!) At first I thought one was real and the other one you threw together. Then I couldn’t guess which one was real, so I went back and re-read your comment. Stunning.

              I know about the muse thing. My brother, who was a good writer and poet, lived in fear that he would never have another idea. I’m sure she’ll be back to bother you again.

              I am really just stunned by these. Totally awesome. For the record, I tried to make a turtle once about four years ago, and I haven’t had the courage to face it again. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

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