Eyes are a main focal point of the face, therefore it’s important to give your characters eyes that stand out. Today I’m going to teach you a few techniques for drawing eyes in any style, and coloring them digitally. Let’s get started!
Understanding the eye shape
Eyes are, essentially, little round balls inside the eye sockets. The eyelids are made up of soft flexible flesh which wraps around the eye to protect it from foreign matter, light, and dehydration. You should always consider the eye in three dimensions, so your eye shapes will look more natural.
Altering the eye’s wideness
Opening and closing the eye changes the way the lids wrap around the eye, but does not distort the eyeball. Because eyeballs are round, both upper and lower eyelids are visible. Whether or not the eye is open or closed, the lower and upper eyelids should be shaded or drawn to suggest the round shape.
Expression and eye shape
There are other factors which affect the eyelids. Muscles in the face, such as in the eyebrow, cheeks, nose, and mouth can squish and stretch the way the eyelids wrap around the eye. Use the upper and lower eyelids to maintain the round shape of the eye, even in these different positions. This will keep the eyes from looking flat and disconnected, and will make your expressions more powerful.
How to digitally paint eyes
1. Sketch the eye shape
Using brown or tan to draw the shape will help you blend it into the skin easier.
2. Add base colors
Color on a layer underneath your sketch. When I paint eyes, I like to work from dark to light. After you’ve rendered your character’s skin, pick your darkest colors for the eye. Use a harder-edged, opaque brush. Color the whites of the eye grey, not white.
On the lower part of the iris, paint the “true” color of the eye. Leave the dark color where the eyelashes and upper eyelid would cast a shadow on the eye. On the lower part of the whites, paint a lighter grey, following the curve of the upper lash line.
4. Adding depth
Using the dark colors of the iris, create a pupil in the center of the iris. Accent the lower part of the eye with a highlight color. Using a soft brush, such as the airbrush tool, add warmth to the outer and inner corners of the eye. You can use pink or red, or use the eyedropper to pick a color from the skin around the eye.
5. Merge and render
Merge the sketch and color layers together. With a semi-soft brush, such as a watercolor tool, paint over your sketch and refine it so it blends in with the skin and eye you painted underneath. Render the upper and lower eyelid to maintain the roundness of the eye. I also added more light to the middle of the eye.
6. Add highlights and detail
Using a soft brush such as the airbrush, lightly add different tones to the eye, to simulate an image reflecting from it. Using a harder edged brush, use near-white to highlight the middle of the eye, overlapping the iris. Add small sparkles of light to the iris as well. Adding a highlight to the bottom of the eye will make it look more wet. Finally, add any decorative shapes to the iris you wish.
Because eyes are very reflective, make sure you use plenty of contrast when you color, especially in the whites of the eye, or else your eyes will come out looking flat. Happy painting!