Scott Harris

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to draw anime eyes to help you build a solid foundation in manga art style. Drawing expressive and believable eyes for your anime or manga characters is essential in creating an authentic and appealing look.

Gather your tools — whether it’s paper, pencils, and erasers, or digital tools like Procreate and an iPad Pro — and let’s get drawing!

Before we start drawing anime eyes, we need to have a plan of action. This involves two stages of drawing: a rough stage and a clean-up stage. In the rough stage, we draw loose, messy, and free, building strong foundations on our paper. 

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In the clean-up stage, we focus on making the foundations look clean and professional. If you’re working on paper, draw your rough stage as lightly as you can. If you’re working digitally, use two layers within your art software, one for rough and one for clean-up. You can always lighten the rough layer using the opacity slider later.

Also necessary to draw human features is understanding how we approach drawing. First, we draw the basic forms or 3D shapes, then we bend the forms into pleasing shapes, and lastly, we add our details. We use this ‘drawing workflow’ mainly for the rough stage and keep it in mind when we are doing the clean-up step. That said, for the most part, anime eyes are typically not drawn from a 3D sphere foundation. Rather, they’re drawn as “stickers” and flat like paper. We will keep this flatform in mind as we approach the concept of form in drawing. 

Here we can see an elementary diagram showing the 3D form differences between a real eye based on a sphere and an anime eye which is essentially like a flat sticker.

Keep this flat structure in mind when drawing anime eyes from the side view of the character, where the shape effectively compresses.

In the world of learning to draw anime eyes, we need to realize that there are essentially thousands of different styles. I’ll focus on showing how to utilize some key anchors to draw the anime eyes you want, and show how you can add your own nuances to the eyes.

9 steps for drawing anime eyes

Let’s get started with the steps, beginning with the rough stage and ending with the clean-up stage.

Step 1

Begin by sketching a slightly curved shape with multiple lines. The shape should be thicker in the middle and thinner at the edges. This will be the upper eyelid line. For a more masculine look, you can leave out the lash lines at the ends and for a more feminine look, include them. Don’t add too many lash lines – keep it loose and natural.

Step 2

Draw in a small outer corner shape hat’s thicker at the top and thins as it tapers to the bottom.

Step 3

Draw in a small “eyelid crease” indicator line. You can also draw the full eyelid line if you like, but this implied indicator line is a good loose approach.

Step 4

Draw in the circular shape for the iris. Different eye expressions show different amounts of this circular shape, but for our base learning, let’s keep the very top section of the shape hidden beneath the eyelid. Let the top lines of the circle be thicker and taper thinner.

Step 5

Draw in a small lower lid indicator line at the bottom of the iris.

Step 6

Now, draw in your character’s pupil and add some light cross-hatching lines to shade in the pupil shape.

Step 7

Draw in an upper eyelid shadow making sure the shape tapers to the inner side. At this point, you’ll also want to shade the iris shape. 

Step 8

Add highlights! This is arguably the most fun part! Add in a small highlight to the pupil and a larger highlight to the iris.

Step 9

We can now clean-up our rough drawing by retracing our drawing with cleaner and darker lines. Use markers, liner pens, or digital inking brushes for a clean look.

These are the core anchors to drawing anime eyes well. When drawing them on the face, you can reverse the shapes for the opposite eye. Remember to keep one eye-sized space in between the eyes! 

Get creative — you can bend the shapes, lengthen or shorten elements, make things thicker or thinner, design all kinds of different highlights, pupils and shadows, and much more. Try to experiment by learning these core rules first and then experiment with breaking them to create your own unique designs. Take a look at the below examples for some anime eye ideas, based on the core anchors.

Now that you have these core fundamentals of how to draw anime eyes down, here are five extra tips on drawing in an anime or manga style. Keep the following in mind and you’ll be drawing authentic and appealing manga in no time!

  1. When drawing your final lines, make sure that the thickest and darkest lines are saved for the eyes alone.
  2. Typically, the clean lines used for the rest of the drawings are very thin and lighter than the eye lines.
  3. In many illustration styles, noses are simply drawn as small dots or L-like shapes fairly high on the face, just below the eyes.
  4. Depending on the style, the mouth expressions can also be drawn as more flat forms than 3D forms.
  5. Finally, be sure to look at your favorite anime and manga and critically analyze how they treat eyes, lines, and proportions.

Page Last Updated: July 2020

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