Different Types of 3d Anime Eyes

There are basically two different ways of making eyes for 3d anime figures.  One way is to model a true spherical 3d eye like you would have on any other 3d character, but just attempt to shape and style it like an eye you would find in anime.  The other way is to have a mostly flat surface on the face in an attempt to more closely simulate the 2D stylization of an eye that is so common in anime.  Some figures have used one of these methods and some the other.  Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages.  I will attempt to compare and contrast the approaches and how to deal with the disparity.

The first type of 3d anime eye is the type used by the DAZ original figures, i.e. Aiko and Hiro.  These figures have truly 3d modeled eyes.  The eyeballs are spherical and they even have corneas.  Moving the eyes means actually rotating the eyeballs.  DAZ has done a fantastic job on making these “real” eyes look like anime eyes.  They are the right shape and can assume a variety of typical anime shapes via morphs.  Of course you can also apply any texture you wish to change their appearance.

These sort of eyes look more natural in photorealistic renderings than the flat eyes, because everything in the environment is 3d and looks like a 3d object.  The flat eyes can still work, but it gives a kind of strange mixed signal in my opinion.  The flat eyes are so obviously not real that it makes the figure look like a toy, or at least gives a wink to the audience saying “this is just a cartoon.”  The real 3d eyes also have the ability to reflect genuine highlights, so you don’t necessarily have to paint on anime eye highlights via the texture.

{jumi [*4]}Flat anime eyes can be modeled in more than one way.  They might just be a flattened part of the face or they might be discs whose curve is way too shallow to be a part of a spherical eye.  The iris could be a separate object from the white, or it could be just a texture painted onto the eye.  The flat anime eyes can also have morphs to change their shape, move the iris and pupil, and move the eyelids.  The movement is not realistic like the real 3d eyes, though.  It is more like moving the pieces around or morphing their shape such that the iris and pupil change position in the area of the face where they are visible. This form of eye is used by Bel Bel, Near Me, and Anime Doll.

The flat eye is better at emulating a hand drawn 2d anime eye, because it is very much like a 2d eye painted onto a 3d head.  This makes it especially good for cel-shading.  This type of eye gives certain artistic freedom to the artist that the 3d eye cannot.  In a way, the 3d eye is limited by its realism.  The ability to stylize is limited by a certain amount of geometric constraints.  With the flat eye, there is nearly as much artistic control as with a hand drawn character.

In my opinion, both approaches are valid especially since one may be better for certain applications than the other.  This does present a dilemma for the user of a Poser content library, though.  Can figures with different types of eye construction be used in the same animation?  I think if the animation is photorealistic, then the answer should probably be “no.”  The two styles of eyes just look too different to work together.  It would be as if two artists with completely different styles divided up the characters between them and drew them in those two styles throughout the animation.  In a photorealistic rendering, the inconsistency would just be too obvious.  However, in a cel-shaded rendering, the story is a little different.  The flat eyes in 3d are obviously flat, but the 3d eyes flattened via cel-shading are not obviously 3d.  Therefore I think you can get away with mixing them in a cel-shaded animation.

Not being able to mix them presents a problem.  The only child anime figures that I am aware of use the flat eyes.  So, what do you do for a child figure with 3d modeled eyes?  Perhaps there are full body morphs for Aiko and Hiro to make them childeren.  I don’t currently know.  We either need this, or we need a whole new model.  The opposite problem is not as bad, since Bel Bel, Anime Doll, Anime Boy, and NearMe pretty much cover the bases of age and gender.  It is, however, a problem that there is not a flat-eye head for Hiro 3 like Bel Bel is for Aiko 3.  Obviously there are some obstacles to overcome, but that is part of what this website is for.  The more people are interested, the more content will be available.  Even as it stands now, though, a great deal can be done with what we have.  

This concludes my analysis of the different anime eye types and the issues surrounding them.  Even though it can produce some complication, its nice to have some variety in design, so we have more choices.  I hope this is helpful in your art and animation!