Scott Harris

In this tutorial on how to draw eyes, you’ll learn techniques using a straightforward workflow. Learning how to draw eyes is often the starting point of many artists. The main reason is they are a central focal point of any character drawing. 

Before beginning, be sure to get a reference image — a quick internet search is all you need when practicing. The reference image is critical in learning how to draw a realistic eye because eyes have many nuances to them.

Step 1: Drawing the eye’s basic shape

Eye basic shape

In this tutorial, you will draw a left eye, starting first with a rough stage and later moving on to a clean-up stage. First off, begin by roughly drawing the outer shape of the eye. See this as drawing four different lines — first, the top inner eye line, and then the top outer eye line. Next is the bottom outer eye line (corner of the eye), followed by the bottom inner eye line. The bottom inner eye line differs somewhat from the other curved lines. You’ll notice that it curves a bit upward as it moves toward the tear duct area, so keep this in mind.

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Step 2: Drawing in the key elements of an eye

key elements eye

Pay attention to your reference image and roughly draw the eye’s critical elements. Make sure to keep your proportions as close to the reference as possible. Proportions are the size, spacing, and location of elements in comparison to one another. Make sure you draw the iris, the pupil, the inner lid lines, and the upper eyelid crease. Be loose and rough; you will clean the drawing up later.

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Step 3: Drawing in the eyelashes and implied details

drawing eyelashes and iris

Now you can add the eyelashes and some implied details within the iris. When adding eyelashes, try to draw your lines with confidence. Take note of the angles changing as the eyelashes move around the eyeball sphere. A smooth stroke with a nice taper at the end is the best way to get a natural look. With your reference, use light strokes to draw details of the iris that you see.

Step 4: Adding in the eye highlights

drawing eye highlights

You can add some small shapes to show highlights on the white of the eye and the iris and fill in the pupil. Feel free to make the highlight shapes up or use circles or squares. Be sure to consider the light source when placing these eye highlights.

Step 5: Cleaning up the rough sketch

clean up eye sketch

Now it’s time to move onto the clean-up stage. This step is where you can go ahead and lighten the rough drawing with an eraser. Then you can draw more neatly on top of your rough stage plan. Try to be loose and have smooth and confident lines rather than slow and shaky ones. As you work, make adjustments as you go, using your reference image as a guide.  

Step 6: Drawing in line weights

drawing line weights, eye

Next, add line weights. Line weights refer to thickening or thinning lines. That way, you can distinguish elements in front or behind. You want to make sure your line weights help enhance the base drawing. They should also be a clear presentation of overlaps in eye drawing elements.

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Step 7: Shading your eye drawing and final touches

shade eye drawing

In the last step, you can add some shading. First, use light strokes to shade in the iris. Next, make sure you include a shadow cast by the upper eyelid onto the eyeball below it. You can also add extra shadows where appropriate, so use your reference image as a guide. Feel free in this stage to soften any edges that look too sharp and harsh. You can also enhance the line weights where needed.

It’s essential to learn every element that goes into drawing eyes, including how to draw them from different angles. These methods improve your ability to draw eyes from your imagination. Your next step should be to gather more references of various eyes and angles. Then, keep practicing and learning!

Page Last Updated: February 2021