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How to Draw Eyes in Pencil



Jul 12

How to Draw Eyes

When you first learn how to draw eyes, it can seem pretty difficult.  But here’s what I’ve learned about drawing eyes: It’s not that the shapes that make eyes unrealistic, it’s the shadows.

Eyes are complex.  The eyeball is more or less a sphere, and its recessed into the head so that only a portion sticks out.  It is located under the eyebrow and behind the eyelashes, both of which cast shadows on the eyeball.  Tricky, eh?  But here’s the good news.

Light almost always shines from the top of the head downward.  So the shadows cast by the brow and the eyelids are generally in the same locations on every face.   Knowing where those shadows fall will make drawing the eyes a lot easier.


Shadows are the key to drawing realistic eyes

Light usually comes from above (indicated by the yellow lines). Since the eye is recessed into the head below the eyebrow, parts of the eye will be in shadow.
Even the white of the eye will never be pure “white” because of shadows.
Photo credit: Sam Bald.


Step by Step Demonstration: How to Draw Eyes

OK, let’s get started on a little tutorial, shall we?  For this “how to draw eyes” demonstration, here are the materials I used:

  • Four Derwent sketching pencils: 2H, HB, 2B, and 4B (any brand will do, as long as you have these grades)
  • A plain ol’ mechanical pencil,
  • A blending stump,
  • Tuff Stuff eraser stick,
  • Bristol smooth surface drawing paper


The first step in drawing eys

I don’t know why tutorials usually just show you how to draw a single eye. I draw both eyes at the same time to make sure they everything is aligned.

Drawing an outline for the eyes

Draw a faint outline of the pupil, the iris, the eyelids and the eyelashes. I used a mechanical pencil to ensure a sharp, narrow line.
Getting the exact location of the corners of the eye can be tricky. But you can make it easier by using the pupil to figure out where the inside corner and outside corners should be. The inside corners are usually below the level of the pupil, while the outside corner is around the same level as the pupil.


Drawing Human Eyes, Step 3

I don’t actually start right in shading the eyes. I like to start with the face.
First, I lighten the guidelines with a gum eraser. Then, using a 2H pencil, I start shading the skin. The goal here is to give a sense of where the shadows are falling across the face.


Drawing Eyes - Step 4

I use a 2B to darken the shadows, then a paper blending stump to smooth out the tones.


I draw highlights on the eyes. These are just those little circles or oval that will stay white for the rest of the sketch.
Then I begin shading the pupil. I shade the irises with short lines along their inside edges. I leave the center of the iris white (for now).
I am using an HB pencil for this part.


Drawing Eyes - Step 6

I sharpen my blending stump on a piece of sandpaper to give it a fine point. Then I use it to blend the pencil into the middle of the irises.
I keep the highlights white.


The next step in how to draw eyes is...

I add a shadow to the iris by “painting” with the blender. I am really gentle here, because I am trying to achieve a tone that suggests both shadow and the transparency of the eye. The lower left corners (can a circle have a corner?) of the irises are not in shadow, so I keep them a bit lighter.
Then I use the HB to define the top part of the eyelid and the bottom shelf of the eyelid. I also draw the fold of the eyelid above the eye.
Once defined, I use my eraser stick to lighten up the shelf and get rid of any guidelines.


Step 8 in How to Draw Eyes

Still using the HB, I I darken the upper eyelid and area below the eyebrows.
I add the shadow of the eyelid onto the eyeball. I also darken the corners of the eye to emphasize that these are spheres. As you can see, there’s not much white left in the eyes, is there?


Drawing Eyes - Step 9

Still using the HB, I I darken the upper eyelid and area below the eyebrows. I add the shadow of the eyelid onto the eyeball.
I also darken the corners of the eye to emphasize that these are spheres.
As you can see, there’s not much white left in the eyes.

How to Draw Eyes - Step 10

I use a 2B to darken the shadows around the eyes a bit more.
Now it’s time to do the eyelashes! I use the 2B to draw the eye mascara along the eyelids, then I draw the indiviudal eyelashes one at a time.
Make sure to curve the eyelashes – straight lines look fake.


Drawing Eyes - Step 11

The eyes look good, so it’s time to hit the eyebrows.
I keep using the 2B to draw the eyebrows. Again, one hair at a time. Tedious, but necessary for realism.

At last, we are almost there!
I finish the eyebrows, using the 2B to darken them a bit more.
Now I move to the rest of the head, using a 4B for the hair and the shadow on the left side of the face.
Finally, I go over the shadows one last time with the blending stump.
And we are done!


How to Draw Eyes: A Few Final Thoughts

If you want to learn how to draw eyes that look real, here are the some key things to remember:

  • Draw both eyes at the same time. This will help you keep shading and shapes aligned.
  • Know where the shadows are – the shadows on the eyeball, and the ones on the eyelid
  • Keep your highlights on the eyeball white.  It’s easier to save the white than to erase the white
  • Draw the eyelashes and eyebrows one hair at a time.

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial. See you next time!

PS: If you want to download this tutorial as a single big (and I mean really big!) file, visit my page on deviantArt.

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