Hair gel is a wonderfully realistic tool that can be used not only to achieve the formation of a tear, but follow its path down the face of your figure. Choose a product that offers maximum stiffness and look for either a clear or blue-tinted color. If you like, you can even experiment with food coloring or paint in order to add a more dramatic depth of color to your tear. You can use a Q-tip or toothpick to add the gel to the inside corner of the eye in increments that you are comfortable with. When your growing tear fully emerges, use a straw or a coffee stirrer to softly blow it in the direction you would like it to go. Remember that some tears build across the bottom of the eye, and do not have a completely linear pattern to them. Also remember to adjust the path of your tear to the shape of your character’s face. Unless they are two-dimensional, the cheeks will often determine what journey the tear takes down the face.
Many professional animators favor the use of glycerine, which can be found in personal lubricants and petroleum jelly. Formulate your tear in much the same way as you would with gel, and again use a small straw to guide the path that it will take during your shots.
If you find these products difficult to work with, and would like to achieve a more stagnant effect, this can easily be accomplished by using a glue gun. Make tiny beads of hot glue and place them on a surface to dry. If you wish, you can run a toothpick through the top of some of the beads in order to create a teardrop effect. When the beads have cooled, place them on your character in varying sizes and shapes according to the movement you wish the tear to have. This is a wonderful technique to use if you would like the tear to remain still and perhaps dangle for a moment on your character’s chin.
When working strictly with clay, you might want to maintain the consistency of your film by creating clay tears. Although it may sound plain, you can create a fantastic variety of options by mixing various blue and white tones, and adding your tears bit by tiny bit until it is ready to roll down your character’s cheek. You can also use an arc of stiff, clear string (think of the whiskers on a stuffed cat) and animate your tears as they project outwardly from your character. Wire can be substituted for string and taken out digitally in post-production.
There are plenty of ways to achieve realistic tears. Because they are so simple to create, you may want to place them in your film just to give it an extra touch of realism and believability. Allowing your character to express visual emotion will create a more lifelike persona, as well as add more dimension to your film.