Anatomy, Drawing, Guides

How to Draw an Eye Guide

May 28, 2014

Eye drawing with details

How to Draw an Eye By Essia Dkhili via Wikimedia Commons

The eye is the most expressive part of your portrait drawings. It is also the most detailed, and many artists opt to simplify the details as much as possible, which removes the soul from the portrait. Luckily, you can break down the different components of the eye to make it easier to draw and understand.

The Lids

When drawing an eye you should first concentrate on the shape of the lids. Think of the lids as the frame of the eye. They create the entire look. A lid is never a round circle, but often seems to curve around the eyeball.

Here are some things to consider when drawing the eyelids:

  • Is the lid opening almond shaped, round, or oval?
  • Are the lids very thin, or do they look like they have a layer of fat behind them?
  • Do the eyebrows hang over the lids, making them less visible?

Next, look at the shape the eyelids make around the eye. This is not a flat plane of flesh. It curves around the eyeball. Remember this when making contour lines and shading.

eye Sketches by Andrew Loomis

The Eyeball

How to draw an eyeball

Now, look at the eyeball. Think of it as a sphere set into and under the lids. Beginners often make the mistake of drawing the eyeball. No, the eyeball is merely suggested by how you draw the eyelids and the area around the eyelids.

Try these tips:

  • Shade around the outer edges of the lids to show the curve of the eyeball. Make sure this shading is curved.
  • Shade the inner lid to makes it look three-dimensional and help them to pop off they eyeball.

The Center of the Eye

The center of the eye includes the pupil, iris, and the cornea. Basically, this translates into a thin, dark ring, a colored ring and a black circle in the middle.
Take a look at the example picture, above. The dark ring is not always solid black. Leaving a little white will make the eye look moist.

Also, the iris, or the dark circle is not always black. It can have different reflected shades depending on the light and the eye color. If you are drawing with colored pencils or pastels this is important to note.

Notice that the colored area of the eye is not just a flat color. There are different patterns of color that will translate to the drawing, even if your drawing is in black and white.

Remember, most of the time, the center of the eye will not be fully visible. Part of it will be covered by the lids.

Finishing Steps

The last step of drawing the eye is to add the finishing touches. These are the lashes, tear duct, and highlights.

The tear duct can make or break the realistic look of your eye. This is in the very corner of the eye and looks like a little, wet, pink oval set into the lid beside the eyeball.

Highlights should be added to the pupil and the tear duct. These are the areas where the most light is reflected. Make sure to look at your light source before adding your highlights.

With these simple touches your eyes will go from flat and boring to realistic and soulful.

How to Draw Eyelashes

Now that you know how to draw the eye, you can add eyelashes. Realistic eyelashes can be what separates a good drawn eye from a great one. Here is how to draw eyelashes that pop off of the eye and look convincing.

Eyelash Myths

Many beginning artists fall into the trap of eyelash myths, which ruin their early efforts. 

Myth One: All girls have long lashes.

Wrong. This is a stereotype. Many men have long, luxurious lashes, and many women have little, stumpy lashes. Example one has long lashes, but the drawing is of a man. 
The trick is to really look at your subject and draw what is there, not what you think should be there.

Myth Two: All women should have jet black lashes.

Nope. Another beauty stereotype that has nothing to do with reality. Actually, many lighter skinned, or lighter haired women look much better this lighter colored lashes. If you are drawing with colored pencils, try using a dark brown. 
Once again, if you are drawing a real person, draw what you see!

Myth Three: Eyelashes should always be visible in a drawing.

No way. Take a look at example two. Since this drawing is of a person, not just a face, the eyelashes are not visible. Eyelashes should only be visible if the image is closely cropped. 

Drawing Lashes Right

Lashes can be very easy to draw once those myths are put aside. 

  1. Start with the center lash. It will be the longest and will start on the very edge on the eyelid.
  2. Next, draw the lashes beside the center lash. They will be a bit shorter.
  3. The rest of the lashes will continue to get shorter and lighter in color the closer they get to the edge of the eye.
  4. The bottom lashes are generally finer and lighter than the top lashes. They are also, most times (look at your subject!), shorter. Draw these with gentle, quick movements.
  5. If the eye is the only thing in your drawing you may want to add highlights onto the longest lash.

Tips and Tricks

  • Use a very sharp pencil to draw lashes. The harder the lead the better.
  • Lift highlights with an eraser that you have cut to a point.
  • Lashes can be implied by making a dark line over the upper lid on full-body drawings.

Lashes should be the fun part of the drawing not the hard part. They are embellishments that make your drawing realistic and recognizable. Take time to practice drawing eyelashes and, soon, they will be something you look forward to.

You Might Also Like