How to Draw Eyes

January 31, 2011

Drawing Faces, Shading

One of the first things I notice in a portrait is the eyes. They are an integral part of a portrait and if drawn well can be the most captivating facial feature.
In this post I’ll be writing about how to draw the eyes viewed from the front. I’ll share some tips that I’ve found helpful and note some common mistakes people make when drawing them.

First off, you need to get the position of the eyes correct. Start by drawing a horizontal line across your paper and a vertical line going through the middle of it. Now, draw the eyes on the horizontal line. Generally you should leave the width of one eye in between the eyes you are drawing. (On how to find the placement of the eyes and eyebrows in relation to the face check out my previous post “What Everyone Ought to Know About Proportions ”).

Tip: What you may not have noticed but really affects the outcome of your drawing is the subtle angle most eyes have. You may think that from side to side the eyes should be aligned on a straight horizontal line. But quite often the outer ‘corner’ of the eyes are a bit higher even if they are not oriental. So keeping that in mind when you draw will help your picture be more realistic.

As there are a wide variety of eyes, I won’t get into how to draw each individual shape but one thing you can do to get some ideas of their shape and structure is to look in a cosmetics magazine or google “eyes” and you’ll get a lot of good reference to work and practice with.

Next, draw the iris and the pupil in the center of each eye. Try to get the sizes and the positioning the same. The lighting for this picture is coming from the upper left side so lightly mark where the shadows and highlights should be.

Fill in the pupil and the sections you marked as shadows. Next lightly shade the rest of the iris leaving the highlighted area white. Also make the outline of the upper eyelid a bit darker.
Tip: Shade in the sclera (the white portion of the eye surrounding the iris). Something you can do to make the eye look more alive is to lightly shade the area under the upper eyelid and the sides of the eye to give it some depth.

Tip: Keep the iris simple, especially when drawing a smaller picture. If not done right, getting too detailed with the iris often distracts from the rest of the picture. I usually stick to shading the upper part of the iris dark the rest of the iris a lighter shade and blending the two shades together where they meet. This is a simple yet effective way that I use to shade the iris.

Before getting into the eyelashes it’s good to shade around the eyes first. When drawing eyelashes keep it simple and don’t worry about getting each individual hair, use light strokes and gradually make it stronger for the portions that are darker.

Naturally there are differences in the male and female eyes and I hope to do a more thorough post on that topic; but generally the female eye has thicker more defined eyelashes with eyebrows that are thinner and delicate, while the male counterpart has almost the exact opposite with thicker eyebrows and less defined eyelashes.

To finish it off see if there are places that you can make a bit darker to heighten the contrast –and you’re done.

Try it: Google “eyes” and find some pictures to copy and use the principles brought out in this post.

If you have and comments or questions feel free to add them below and stay tuned for more posts.

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