Everyone knows that the eyes are the gateway to the soul. You can assess people’s emotions just by looking in their eyes. Since drawing a realistic eye is crucial in portraits, you should spend some time learning how to do it.
If you want to learn how to draw an eye that expresses the emotions of the portrayed person, you should continuously familiarize yourself with the facial anatomy and facial expressions. This 8-step tutorial revolves around the techniques needed to draw a realistic eye in pencil on paper.
Equipment needed for this tutorial
- Two pencils: one dark 2B (or 4B) and one HB
- Kneaded eraser
- Drawing paper
- Paper stump or cotton swab for blending
Step 1: Sketch the outlines of the eye
Start with a HB pen to sketch the shape of the eye. This outline should not be too dark to avoid the lines being visible further in this tutorial.
A few basic shapes of the eye will give you an idea of where you need to place the shadows later. You should also already mark visible reflections on the pupil, which may be caused by a light source.
Often a square silhouette (window), a semicircular mark or a point (sun) is used to give shape to the light reflection.
The ability to accurately observe the reference is important if you don’t just want to draw some standard eye.
If you want to draw emotions or an individualized eye, you have to consider the differences in form between the eyelids and include wrinkles that correspond to the mood.
Step 2: Draw the pupil
Fill in the pupil with a 2B pencil. Avoid applying too much pressure as erasing will be a problem if you need to make any corrections later.
You may want to go over the area again to get a darker color. While doing so, avoid drawing on the bright highlight areas of the light reflections!
Step 3: Shading the Iris
Fill in the iris in a light tone with the HB Pencil. Use the blending stump or a cotton swab to blend this layer and smooth it out.
Step 4: Draw the pattern of the iris
Now use a 2B pencil to draw the patterns that emerge from the pupil. Overlap some of these lines to create thicker contours.
Draw strokes from the outer edge of the iris to the center and also from the pupil to the center. Let them fade towards the middle to suggest reflection in the eye.
Step 5: Work on the iris with the paper stump and a kneaded eraser
Use the blending stump to fill the lighter area of the iris. Work carefully around the bright highlights. You should still be able to see the lines that spread across the iris when you are done blending.
When most of those patterns/lines have completely disappeared, you may have either pressed the blending stump too firmly or did not press firmly enough when shaping the iris with the 2B pencil.
Carefully brighten the light areas in this central ring of the iris with a kneaded eraser to create more pronounced highlights.
Step 7: Draw the eyelashes
Start by drawing the eyelashes. First of all draw single eyelashes with their curvature to show their correct structure.
Use the blending stump to shade the area under the eyelid to add depth and roundness to the eye.
Step 8: How to draw Eyes – Make it pop!
If you want to know hot to draw eyes that stand out from most other drawings in their intensity and depth, you have to work out the details.
Use the kneaded eraser to emphasize the bright highlights. Prominent areas are the white of the eye, the lower lash area and the inner corner of the eye. Draw a reflection of the eyelashes in the bright area of the pupil, mark blood vessels or put another layer of shading on the darker parts of the eye.
Only when the details stand out and the contrasts are high enough do the eyes actually start to shine.