Drawings included to better illustrate what‘s going on here. Also because I’m utterly addicted to doodling lately.

I recently learned about the Grideye Fish, and it inspired a design for a sci-if humanoid thing. Ipnops meadi has concave, non-spherical “eyes” that, to me, looked a lot like the cartoon eyes of certain art styles.

Let’s imagine it’s far into the future, and some comically evil scientist designs a species with the intention of being “living cartoons,” for their own artistic pleasure. And of course, they engineer them to have the light-detecting plates of the Grideye because spherical, mammalian eyes don’t capture the same rubberhose aesthetic. Naturally this means the resulting species is nearly blind, but they’re a mad scientist and don’t really care.

Image description: two drawings, one of the fish genus Ipnops, the other of a cyan cartoon humanoid. Both have concave, nearly rectangular flat eyes. The speech bubble pointing towards the fish says “Ipnops,” and the one pointing to the humanoid says “plate-eyed humanoid.” Notes to the right say: very little vision (can only differentiate light from dark); eyes are concave; flat-ish; and “basically a biological cartoon designed entirely after rule of cool with no regard to practicality. End description. (disregard how simplistic my anatomy is: in this scenario these creatures exist in a realistic universe without artistic license.)

Here’s the main problem: The scientist (I) wants their faces to show emotion, and emote rather exaggerated. Once again, just like how a cartoon’s emotions are much more dramatic than a realistic human’s. A lot of emotion is expressed in how we squint and widen our eyes. They have human-like mouths, eyebrows, etc so they can still smile and frown, but without the complexities of eyelids over a sphere a lot of subtlety feels lost. Feels uncanny.

Image description: grainy drawing of various expressions, shown with the eyes only. End description. Image Desceiption: Three sketches of the plate-eyed humanoids smiling, frowning, and expressing surprise, without their eyes moving at all.

Of course, the humanoids themselves will never actually see each other’s facial expressions- this is entirely for their creator’s personal preference.

Whew, that was a lot of images. Onto the questions!

  • Is there a way to put eyelids on a concave rectangle, without making them look just like normal, almond-shaped eyes? The anatomy of human eyelids seems ill-suited to the shape.
  • If that’s impossible, what other anatomical feature could mimic the scrunching and stretching of eyelids without actually being ‘lids?

I’m not too concerned if this whole thing is entirely impossible- I’ll just accept my unnatural abominations have the emotional range of those uncanny hyperrealistic robots from the 2010s.

  • $\begingroup$ If you want those creatures to be able to see and add to the cartoon aesthetic, you can shove regular eyes on antenna-looking stalks that they can move around to look at things and further emote. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Feb 29 at 11:28

1 Answer 1


No need for eyelids. Many cartoons and drawings emulate the body language of eyelids by changing the shape of the eye itself. I can't draw because I am typing on a phone, but here is a super exxageration of this with bomberman:

A drawong of a happy bomberman

I don't even think a human being can do anything like that with eyelids but I know that lil' bomberman is expletively happy.

You could have your creatures designed in such a way that the plates change color or texture so that parts of them become more like the skin around them. So of the top inner corner of each plate becomes green, you know they are angry (or mischievous, if the mouth is in a "happy" position). But if the top outer corner of each plate becomes green you know that they are sad (or horny, or both, depending on the mouth as well). If one plate has the top inner part green and the other has the top outer part green, they are curious. And so on.

If the whole plate goes green, they have "closed" their eyes. They can use this to blink or wink. This may also be how they "shut" down the plates, making it less sensitive to light.

If the mad scientist can design a whole creature with light-sensitive plates, they may achieve this color-changing effect with a skin akin to a chameleon's or cephalopod's.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer! This is completely unexpected I bet, but the train of thought your solution sent me down had me sketching out how this would look, and then… I kinda went overboard and made it a mini comic strip. Whoops. Here it is on Imgur! $\endgroup$ Feb 25 at 1:51
  • $\begingroup$ @OtherWorlds that is awesome! If you have a webcomic series (or ever make one in the future), I would love to read it :) $\endgroup$ Feb 25 at 2:04

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