The Ultimate Guide: All you need to know to draw realistic eyes.
Eyes are unique in their shapes and sizes. But, anyone can learn to draw them with practice. In this guide I’ll show you all you need to know about drawing eyes, and what you should pay attention to while drawing. You will not only be able to draw eyes from your imagination. You will also improve your ability to draw from references.
We start with the basics and then take a closer look at certain elements of the eye in detailed step-by-step tutorials.
To make drawing eyes easier, it is essential for beginners to become familiar with the basics. If you already have experience, feel free to skip this section.
To make your drawing look right, you need to keep in mind that there’s space for a third eye between the two you see. So, when you’re drawing, try to use three circles that are all the same size. That will give you a good starting point!
In the two circles on the outside, you should draw the corners of the eyes and the eyelids. Remember, the corners of the eyes are a bit round, so make sure you draw them that way.
A mistake that many beginners make when drawing eyelids is forgetting to draw an edge. Forgetting that makes the eyelashes look like they’re too close to the eye. So don’t forget to draw the edge to get the placement for the eyelashes right.
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 a tiny bit. 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.
If you can draw the eyes up to this point with confidence, then you will also be able to paint them without any trouble.
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 begin with the lacrimal carbuncle, which is the strange structure located in the inner corner of the eye. This area is usually a bit brighter and has a subtle shine to it.
When shading, it’s best to use a 4H or 2H pencil. For darker areas, you can use a darker pencil, but be sure to leave some parts of the paper white to create a more natural reflection.
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 moist appearance.
Next, draw shadows to the inner edge of the lower eyelid with a 2H pencil. Blend it into the rest of the eyelid.
Just like the eyeball, the eyelids are also rounded, as they wrap around it. Thus, you should draw darker shadows 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 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 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 keep in mind, 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 toward 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 a bit from the eyeball.
Next, let’s focus on drawing the eyelashes. Along the edge of the eyelids, you can draw the lashes as you like. Remember, lashes don’t grow in a straight line. Feel free to make them cross over each other and vary their thickness.
To finish off, you can add shadows to 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 about the same height. Second, you can draw the inner edges of both eyelids symmetrically to each other.
Round eyes appear large because a lot of the iris is visible. You should thus 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 thus 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 shapes? The outer corners of the eyes are higher than the inner ones.
Downturned eyes are in drawings the exact opposite of upturned eyes. 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 wrinkle-free, but 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 hooded eyes, the upper eyelid hides in the crease under a layer of skin. This way, the upper eyelid 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. 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 to draw.
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.
What we have learned in this tutorial applies well to children all the way up to adults. But, if we want to draw the eyes of babies, toddler, or seniors, then there are some other things to consider.
The smaller the kid, the larger the iris. Sounds strange, but for babies and toddlers, not much can be seen of their white eyeball.
Also, there are hardly any wrinkles on the skin around the eyes, except one or two fine wrinkles. These are on the lower eyelid. The shape of the eyes is usually more rounded and changes later in life.
With the eyes of elderly people, you can proceed just as we learned in this tutorial. The skin around the eyes is an exception, as it becomes more wrinkled with age.
You should thus pay special attention to smile lines at the outer corner of the eye and the lower eyelid. They express many decades of joy and laughs. Don’t draw these wrinkles with only fine lines, but add soft shadows to them.
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.