What is “Custom” Work? Stock Eyes, Hand Painted Eyes, Digital Eyes

Learn about Stock, Hand Painted & Digital Eyes

There are many different types of artificial eyes that vary widely in quality and customization. In this article, you can learn about these varying levels of quality. At the office of John Stolpe, we strive to create the absolute highest quality prosthetic eye service in Los Angeles. We provide the most efficient standard in customization of both color and shape of ocular prosthetics.

custom work stock artificial eyes digital eyes

These were made in a factory using generic shapes. What you can see is that the colors may match, but there is no detail or customization. These are put into a mold and cranked out to be made at the lowest cost possible. They will not fit properly into a socket and will cause deformity.


Learn About Stock Eyes

Stock eyes have been around for a long time. They have been made in the U.S., they are still made widely in India, and are generally available throughout the world, in places where custom eyes are not affordable.. Essentially a stock eye is an eye that is not made specifically for one person. It lacks detail in terms of shape and artistry that a custom eye would have. These eyes are mass produced and therefore extremely inexpensive.

The biggest problem with the stock eye is its generic shape. Because the piece is not made to fit the socket properly, it deforms the anatomy. Additionally, they are made with materials that can harm the socket and leach out harmful chemicals from cold cured acrylics. Some ocularists pull stock eyes out of a box, or even send a box to a patient and say, “Pick your own.”

Stock eyes cannot be fit over a live eye because the eye is so sensitive and the piece is so poorly fit that it causes the patient immense pain. In some cases, this even leads to an eye being removed, when in reality, all the patient needs is to get a piece that fits them properly. When the eye is preserved, this is often the way we can achieve the most natural movement and best results for the patient in the long term.

The American Society of Ocularists has made every Board Certified Ocularist pledge that they would never deliver stock eyes. This is because they cause people terrible harm — bleeding, excess of secretions and in some cases, extraction of the eye socket. The piece may pop out and cause immense pain and embarrassment. Stock eyes are viewed by Board Certified Ocularists as the ultimate low standard of eye making.


bad artificial eyes

These are hand painted eyes that an ocularist office made for ONE patient over her life. Not only are the colors totally different, but the shapes are also completely different. They are not molded or impression fit to the patient’s anatomy. This is not the highest level of customization available.



A higher standard of customization can be achieved with hand painted eyes.

People have been creating eyes by hand going back to ancient Egyptian times — from metals, to glass, and most recently oil paints on acrylic eyes. The artists have gotten extremely sophisticated with different methods of reproducing a patient’s color. There is one method where ocularists hand paint in front of somebody, but there are other methods where the eyes are painted numerically using set formulas of color layers to achieve certain outcomes. In this case, often the eyes lack some of the detail when the eye is painted in front of a person.

In other cases, an ocularist may order a stock eye, add a bit of red and then call it a custom piece. So it is important to be aware of what is being labeled “custom.”

A truly detailed, hand painted artificial eye takes several hours of work. While a skilled artist can match with a high degree of accuracy, if there is ever any problem with the piece or a mere slip of the wrist, the ocularist must start over again. Some ocularists claim that they can paint any color in 20 minutes. We believe that any eye painted in this amount of time will not be completely precise.

digital prosthetic eyes

These pieces are totally custom in every way. The veining patterns are uniquely matched. If you look at the limbus – the outer ring that blends from the white to the color – these are uniquely created. The nuances in the white stroma is captured. The shapes are all unique. No 2 are the same and are totally based on what a patient might need.



There is no such thing as perfect. However, with a digital piece, patients can get the same piece over and over again, and we can work to achieve the best piece possible in the most efficient manner. We can come back after an eye is made and can numerically callibrate things with much more ease than an ocularist who must start hand painting from scratch and guess how much more of a specific pigment will make things work. We can match or beat the best hand painted work in the world.

It is debated whether ocularists are technicians or artists. Different ocularists have differing opinions. John Stolpe considers himself more technical and less artistic, but at the same time he is artistic and must use his hands and eyes to create a unique piece for each person. It is important to note that, in some cases, we do advocate hand painting over existing digital irises. We are blending the new technology of digital with the art of hand painting. We are taking the good of the old system — making adjustments based on our own perceptions — but using a digital base that minimizes the artistic changes that need to take place. We believe this is the most efficient and highest quality method available today.

prosthetic eye posterior

The uniquely shaped posterior of a custom artificial eye, worked on over time to fit precisely the anatomy of an individual patient.

We are trying to bring down the cost of artificial eyes with our digital techniques so that ocularists can focus on fitting eyes properly. We believe that some of the most important custom work takes place when it comes to shaping. By starting from a close base with our digital starter board, color can be refined easily by an ocularist, and more energy can be spent on perfecting the shape.

We invite you to make an appointment today to learn how we can help you find the best custom piece that fits YOU and no one else.

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