How to Draw Realistic Eyes

Have trouble drawing eyes? Well, you’re probably not alone. Eyes are the first thing that the viewer is drawn to in a portrait. To make sure you create a lasting impression, you need a few techniques to create a sense of realism. A quick rundown on the basics of drawing realistic eyes after the jump!


What you’ll need:


The first step in drawing eyes is to draw the full eyeball itself. Draw three circles, one inside the other, each smaller than the last. These three circles will represent the eyeball, the iris, and the pupil respectively. Don’t worry if you can’t draw a perfect circle, neither can I! And as always… make sure to start with light strokes only.








After you have your “not-a-perfect-circle” eyeball drawn, draw an oval shape horizontally across the eyeball in the shape of an eyelid opening. This opening will serve as the frame for your eye. Try experimenting with different shapes here. Different shaped eyelids will give the illusion of different emotions/ethnicities/etc.


Once you have the opening for the eye nailed down, you can erase the lines outside. All that’s left for this step is to clean up the lines a little and start getting ready for some more detail.

Now we’re ready for highlights! Start placing highlights wherever the intended light source is coming from. Because the surface of the eye is wet, the highlights will be very defined, and the outer lines of the highlights need to be be clear and crisp. Also, when drawing the highlights for your eyes, remember that the eye is spherical, so the highlights should wrap around the eye instead of cutting across it in a straight line.

Almost done now! After you have placed the highlights on your eyes, you can shade in the iris,(the colored part of the eye), and darken in the pupil. To create a realistic effect, generally you would shade the iris in such a way as to have the highlighted part opposite the highlight on the surface of the eye as shown in the image to the left. (e.g. the highlight on the surface of the eye is toward the top, while the highlight of the iris is toward the bottom). This is due to the fact that the iris itself is flat, while the cornea that covers it is spherical just like the rest of the eyeball. Shading like this give s a more dramatic and realistic look to your eyes.

We’re entering the home stretch! Now you have got most of the hard work out of the way. All that’s left at this point is to fill in the fine details. To create the textured look of the iris, start by drawing quick, random lines starting from the pupil, and continuing to the edge of the iris. After that, you can continue to put as much detail into your eyes as you like by adding eyelashes, shading to the skin, and a whole face if you are up to it! (But that’s another tutorial!)



And that’s that! You’ve just drawn your first eyes. Congrats!

For those of you who prefer video tutorials, I have included one from YouTube user….. that shows a slightly different approach to drawing eyes. Enjoy!



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