The Ultimate Guide: All you need to know to draw any type of eye.
Eyes come in all shapes and sizes. They’re complex but with some practice, anyone can learn how to draw realistic-looking eyes. In this guide I’ll show you all you need to know about drawing eyes, and what you should pay attention to while drawing. The following tips and tricks will not only help you to draw eyes from your imagination, but you will also be much better at drawing them using a reference.
We start with the basics and then take a closer look at certain elements of the eye in detailed step-by-step tutorials.
Beginners should familiarize themselves with the basics because this makes drawing eyes much easier later on. If you already know your way around, you can skip this part.
Between both eyes, there should be room for a third one, so three circles of equal size form an ideal basis for your drawing.
Within the two outer circles, draw the corners of the eyes and eyelids.
Both the inner and outer corners of the eyes should always be drawn slightly rounded, as that is their natural shape.
A common beginner’s mistake when drawing the eyelids is forgetting to draw an edge and thus drawing the lashes much too close to the eyeball. Eyelashes belong under the edge.
The drawing won’t look at you if you just draw the pupil in the center of the iris. The closer an object is that we humans look at, the more the pupils move towards the nose. The further away the object is, the more the pupils move to the center.
So how do you draw eyes so that they look at you? You should make them squint just slightly. Also, the edge of the iris should touch the lower eyelid and be slightly covered by the upper eyelid. You can also add some reflections of light in your sketch.
By the way, if you can draw eyes confidently up to this step here, then you will be able to paint eyes without any problems as well.
If the sketch turned out well, you can now turn to the fun part: Drawing shadows! For great results, it is worthwhile to draw with different pencil hardnesses.
More information on how to shade and model eyes can be found in the first tutorial draw eyes from the front directly below the basics.
Let’s start with the lacrimal carbuncle in the inner corner of the eye. This strange structure is relatively bright and a little shiny.
A 4H or 2H pencil is good for shading, but you can draw darker shadows along the eyelids and leave at least one part of the paper white for natural reflections.
Since the eyeball is round, you can draw rounded, fine shadows in both corners of the eye with the 4H and 2H pencils. In the outer corners of the eye, you can get a little darker, because there are lots of shadows being cast from the eyelids and eyelashes.
The round eyeball lies in the socket of the eye and only its front part is visible between the eyelids. This is obvious, but when drawing, you can quickly forget this and run the risk of shading the eyeball like a ball instead of a round shape.
Along the lower edge, you can leave free a fine accent in the form of white lines. This gives the eye a naturally moist appearance.
Next, draw shadows to the inner edge of the lower eyelid with a 2H pencil. Blend it softly into the rest of the eyelid.
Just like the eyeball, the eyelids are also slightly rounded, as they wrap around it. Therefore, you should draw the shadows more strongly on both ends.
Eyelids can be drawn in different shapes and you have to set different shadows depending on the shape. No matter which shape you choose, you can put fine wrinkles on the eyelid to convincingly draw the structure of the skin.
In the example, I am dealing with a double eyelid. If you also draw one, add dark soft shadows along the crease of the eyelid.
In the outer area, I would always draw some wrinkles that come from laughing. Depending on the age of the person you draw, you can draw them fine or pronounced, but they contribute to making the eye look more realistic.
In the inner area, i.e. near the nose, you can set shadows that indicate the transition to the bridge of the nose.
The iris is probably the most exciting part of the eye because it gives life to the drawing.
Light irises can be drawn well with harder pencils. You should work softer than HB only very fine and at best only in the shadows when drawing light eyes. Dark irises can be drawn very well with soft pencils, but the darkest point should always be the pupil since it absorbs any light.
In the example, the upper eyelid throws a shadow on the iris. You can extend this shadow a little more towards the sides. The iris does not lie flat on the eyeball but is surrounded by the cornea. You have to think of it as another round shape that protrudes slightly from the eyeball.
Let’s move on to draw the lashes. Right next to the edge along the eyelids, you can draw lashes as you please. They do not grow parallel to each other, so you can draw them a little higher or a little lower, let them cross each other, and draw them thinner in some places.
Finally, you can draw shadows of the lashes on the eyeball and in the reflection.
With almond-shaped eyes, the shape resembles an almond, as the name suggests. Unlike some other forms, they look elongated.
There are two things you should pay special attention to when drawing: First, the corners of the eyes should be at about the same height, and second, you can draw the inner edges of both eyelids symmetrically to each other.
Round eyes automatically appear large, because a lot of the iris is visible. You should therefore pay attention to this characteristic when drawing.
To draw round eyes, but not make them look widened in shock, you should not leave any space between the iris and the upper eyelid. The eyelid should also not cover the iris like with other eye shapes.
To draw the eye evenly round, we should also draw both eyelids round. This means that the lower eyelid has volume and therefore throws a soft shadow. The upper eyelid should be lighter in the middle above the iris.
Upturned eyes are often called cat eyes. What distinguishes them from other eye forms: The outer corners of the eyes are higher than the inner ones.
Downturned eyes are in drawings the exact opposite of upturned eyes: here the inner corners of the eyes are higher than the outer ones.
Be careful when drawing, because you can easily overdo it with downturned eyes. To emphasize the position of the corners of the eyes, you can also let the upper eyelid turn down. This way the position is emphasized without drawing the angle itself too crazy.
Monolids are not necessarily wrinkle-free, but the wrinkles are usually very fine and subtle.
Right along the edge of the upper eyelid, draw a narrow shadow. If you draw it wide and let it run out, it will make the eyelid look round, which is not what you want to achieve here.
At the level of the eye socket, set a large, arching, fine shadow. If you have drawn a circle for our sketch, you can orientate yourselves by the circle’s edge for the right height. If there is no circle, you can try to imagine it being there.
In the case of the hooded eyes, the upper eyelid hides in the crease under a layer of skin and is either only visible a little or not at all.
If you draw a hooded eye, you can draw the upper eyelid a little darker, because there is always some shadow falling on it. The skin above the eyelid is a straight-like surface, so there are hardly any hard shadows.
You should choose a base color or a shade of grey when you draw with graphite pencils only. No matter how bright the eye is, only the light reflections should be white.
You can work in one tone or set a slightly darker border. For the pupil, take a dark pencil and make sure to draw the edge sharply.
There are many ways to draw the iris and it is not always necessary to include complicated details.
In monochrome eyes, for example, it is enough to draw even strokes from the pupil to give the iris structure.
The strokes are also part of a more complex iris, interrupted by ring-shaped formations. In our example drawing, a curly ring interrupts the strokes, but an even ring can also look great.
Other details can be darker strokes, which you can draw around the pupil or along the outer ring. For the outer ring, you have to make sure that you create a smooth transition to the eyeball.
In the last step, use a soft pencil to create shadows and give some elements even more depth. Strong contrasts make the light reflections appear even brighter and the inside of the iris also lights up.
Imagine that you have not drawn the iris separately but as part of the whole eye. Above the iris is a crescent-shaped shadow thrown on it by the upper eyelid. Eyelashes are reflected in the light reflex, which we draw curved inwards due to the curved surface of the iris.
Drawing eyes is a complicated process, but it’s also a lot of fun. It takes a lot of practice to get the hang of it, but once you do, you can let your creativity flow.
I would love to see your drawings of eyes – drop them in the comments below! And if you want to learn more about how to draw eyes and other features, be sure to check out more tutorials on How-to-Art.com.