I first saw a version of this back when Martha Stewart Living was the only decorating show on television. That particular Halloween-themed episode showed a bunch of costume-clad children frolicking around a yard with giant stability balls painted to look like eyeballs. It was so kooky, the kids looked like they were having, well, a ball, and I thought someday I’d try making those giant rubber eyes.
Somewhere between the late 90s and a few years ago when I actually made a set, I thought it would be funny to attach the eyes to a tree for some added quirk. After a few failed attempts that involved me chasing giant eyeballs rolling down the street in a gusty wind, I finally figured out how to make them hilarious and stable. Now they stay put no matter where I stick them.
Estimated cost: about $25
Estimated time to make: 30 minutes of actual painting, 2-4 hours of waiting for paint to dry.
Step 1: Assemble the Materials
(Note: I found it best to gather this stuff ahead of time so that on Painting Day you can get get right to it, instead wasting hours trying to hunt down a paint brush you thought you had somewhere.)
You will need:
2 Kid-size bouncy rider balls
1 quart of glossy white paint (not semi-gloss or anything else)
Black acrylic paint
Other color acrylic paint like blue, brown, or green.
Small plate as circle template
2-3 paint brushes. Foam or small roller
Something to prop the globe up while it dries, like a box or 5-gallon bucket
Step 2: Preparing the Globes
Unwrap and inflate the hopper balls.
These 18- to 20-inch balls are from a store called Five Below, where they cost $5 each. I bought multiples for two reasons:
First, I've yet to find two that are exactly the same size. If you get several you can line them up and, well, eyeball it, to find a matching pair.
Second, if you have kids (or childlike adults) nearby, inevitably someone wants to ride, throw, bounce, roll or smack someone with these bouncy balls. Which often leads to puncture wounds. Which means your project goes cyclops unless you've planned ahead.
Step 3: Painting the Whites
Coat the globe with a layer of high-gloss white paint. This is important, as the high gloss paint doesn’t peel or flake off. You can deflate and store the eyes for next year and they'll still look good.
Allow the first coat to dry and then coat with a second layer to even out brush strokes if necessary. I've experimented with both a cheap brush and a cheap mini roller, and they both work since the paint kind of spreads and evens itself out. The roller brush is maybe a little better.
Step 4: Painting the Iris
Once the globes are dry, take a small plate and trace a circle for the iris (the colorful part of the eye). Paint the circle in whatever color you choose, and let that dry
Next, paint a smaller black circle in the center for the pupil and allow to dry.
For more depth, paint a small white "semi-colon"-type mark one side of the iris. It doesn't seem like much, but from a distance it looks cool.
Step 5: Hang the Eyeballs
Once the eyeballs are dry, take them out to the tree or shrub of your choice and run the bungee cord through the handle/optic nerve on the back of the eyeball. Bungee cords are the most forgiving way to fasten them to tree branches since there are no knots to tie and you can move the hooks and easily change their position to get the right look (pun not intended).
Step 6: Find Other Creative Places
Once attached, arrange the eyeballs so they're straight or cross-eyed or looking in whichever direction you choose. Because of their handles and squishy nature these eyes can be hung or wedged into lots of unexpected places that will bring a chuckle to anyone who finds them.