Eyes come in different shapes and colors. They are complex, but we should not be intimidated by them when drawing. With a little practice, anyone can learn to draw realistic eyes. The following tips and tricks will not only help you to draw eyes freely from the top of your head, you will also be much better at drawing with a reference.
In this article we first go through the basics and then take a closer look at certain elements of the eye in 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 our drawing.
Within the two outer circles we now draw the corners of the eyes and eyelids.
Both the inner and outer corners of the eyes should always be slightly rounded, as the skin does not run together as if it had been cut. The inner corners of the eyes should be given a caruncle.
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, because the edge remains free.
The drawing won't look at us if we just center her pupil. The closer an object is that we humans look at, the more we squint. The further away the object is, the more the pupils move to the centre.
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.
Tip: We should not forget to mark light reflections in our sketch.
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 we can make stronger shadows along the eyelids and leave at least one part of the paper white for natural reflections.
Since the eyeball is round, we draw rounded, fine shadows in both corners of the eye with the 4H and 2H pencil, running gently from the outside to the inside. In the outer corners of the eye we can get a little darker, because there are lots of shadows falling down 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 we can set (or leave free) a fine accent in the form of white lines. This gives the eye a naturally moist appearance.
Next, we shade and model the inner edge of the lower eyelid with a 2H pencil. Even if it is an edge, it should blend into the rest of the eyelid by soft shading.
Just like the eyeball, the eyelids are also slightly rounded, as they wrap around it. Therefore, we 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 we choose, we can put fine wrinkles on the eyelid to convincingly draw the structure of skin.
The shape of the upper eyelid is also decisive for the shading. In our example, we are dealing with a double eyelid, so we draw dark shadows along the crease of the eyelid, which run out softly.
In the outer area I would always draw laugh lines. Depending on the age of the person we draw, we 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, we 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 eyes can be drawn well with the harder pencils. You should work softer than HB only very fine and at best only in the shadows when drawing light eyes. Dark eyes can be drawn very well with soft pencils, but the darkest point should always be the pupil since it absorbs any light.
In our example, the upper eyelid throws a shadow on the iris. We can bend 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.
Now we draw the lashes. We know that the edge along the eyelids must remain free. But right next to it we can play with lashes as we please. They do not grow strictly next to each other, so we should set them a little higher or a little lower, let them cross each other and draw them thinner in some places.
Finally, we 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 we should pay special attention to when drawing: First, the corners of the eyes should be at about the same height and second, we 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. We should therefore pay attention to this characteristic when drawing.
In order to draw the eyes round, but not torn open, we should not leave any space between the iris and the upper eyelid. The eyelid should also not cover the iris like in many other eye shapes.
In order to draw the eye evenly round, we should also model 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.
But we should be careful, because you can easily overdo it with the downturned eyes. To emphasize the position of the corners of the eyes, we 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 we set a narrow shadow. If you draw it wide and let it run out, it will make the eyelid very round. But we want to avoid that here.
At the level of the eye socket we set a large, arching, fine shadow. If we have drawn a circle for our sketch, we can orientate ourselves by the circle's edge for the right height. If there is no circle, we can try to imagine it being there.
In the case of the hooded eyes, the upper eyelid hides into the crease under a layer of skin and is either only visible a little or not at all.
If we draw a hooded eye, we 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.
It is important that we choose a base colour or a shade of grey when we draw with graphite pencils. No matter how bright the eye is, only the light reflections should be white.
We can work in one tone or set a slightly darker border. For the pupil we 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 we can draw around the pupil or along the outer ring. For the outer ring we have to make sure that we create a smooth transition to the eyeball.
In the last step we 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.
Let us imagine that we 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 swing inwards due to the curved surface.
For full, curved lashes, it is important to apply a single curved stroke to each lash.
We start at the edge of the upper eyelid, pull the pencil down a bit and then upwards in a curve.
The curve of each eyelash line depends on its position on the eyelid: further out, we make the lines rounder, further in the middle there is only a small, tight curve near the eyelid.
Irregularity makes the lashes look natural, so we should set the pencil sometimes higher, sometimes lower or mix a few straight lashes under the many curved ones.
Tip: There is less eyelash growth in the area near the inner corner of the eye.
Eyelashes on the lower eyelid look natural if we draw them in small groups, use different lengths and mix in some straight lashes. The main thing is that they are less full than their neighbours on the upper eyelid.
To understand and practice eyelashes I would recommend to always start with full lashes. Since they grow close together anyway, it is not bad if you put one lash in the wrong place. With few eyelashes, mistakes are immediately noticeable.
Once you have the hang of it, you should have no more problems drawing shorter and less full lashes. The concept is the same, but you draw fewer lashes and draw them a little brighter.
Straight eyelashes can be a little tricky, because in many places they do not reach upwards and grow towards the observer. Therefore you draw them with very short strokes.
Near the outer corner of the eye the lashes can take on a slightly curved shape.
To give the lashes a little volume, we fill the area at the base of the lashes on the eyelid with small strokes. However, we do not draw many strokes upwards, as most lashes should be straight and therefore protrude further down.
We draw the lower eyelashes as in the previous examples, but still less thick than the lashes above.