Complete Guide on How to Draw Eyes

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Complete Guide on How to Draw Eyes

By Aaron Rutten

Learn how to draw a realistic eye step-by-step using digital painting software and a drawing tablet.

In this art tutorial, Painter Master Aaron Rutten starts with a sketch to get the correct proportions. Next, the sketch is outlined and then shaded in grayscale. Layers of color tinting are added, much like glazes are applied in oil and acrylic painting. Fine details like skin texture and reflections are added to create a realistic eye.

This illustration was created with Corel Painter 2015 and a Wacom Cintiq, but you can use any software you like. The majority of the illustration techniques in this lesson can be applied to Photoshop, ArtRage and many other digital art applications. It can also be applied to drawing and painting with traditional media.

Welcome to another episode of Draw This. In this episode we’re going to draw an eyeball. Let’s get started.

I’ll be using Corel Painter 2015 today.

The first thing I’m going to do in this eye drawing tutorial, is select the Elliptical Shape tool and I’m going to make sure I have no fill and a black stroke. You can click on the shape properties to get more options. I’m going to choose a width of 10. I think that’ll work pretty well. If you hold shift you’ll be able to draw a perfect circle. If you use the move tool you can move that circle wherever you like, and we’re going to make sure our eyeball is in proportion so we’re going to draw another smaller circle and we’re going to move it over and we’re going to duplicate it by alt and dragging and we’re going to select both those circles and use ctrl T to scale them up.

We’ll delete the duplicate and what we want is that inner circle to be half the size of the bigger circle. And we want to repeat that again with the pupil. So now we have everything in proportion we can delete our duplicate and select all three layers and go to layers> align>horizontal center. Then we’ll do that again. We’ll go to layers>align>vertical center. And that will center all of these circles on each other. Let’s group those layers and we’ll give them names based off their anatomical names.

Go ahead and create a new layer for center line and we’ll use the scratchboard tool to divide this eyeball right in half. That’ll help us get the rest of the eye in proportion. What we’ll do is we’ll convert these shape layers into default layers by right clicking on them and choosing convert to default layer and now if we collapse that group we can dim the opacity of that whole group.

Let’s create a new layer and we’ll use the detail oils to sketch a little bit. We’ll draw a horizontal guide right under pupil and we’ll place our tear duct below the horizontal lines and the opposite corner of the eye will be above the horizontal lines. You want to cover the iris a little bit on the top and bottom side. Then what you’ll want to do is connect all those lines together and that will be your eyeball shape.

Now, everybody has a different shape for their eyeball so this is just kind of of a general eyeball shape. Thicken the edges everywhere just to clean it up, then draw the tear duct and the side of the eyes. I’ll erase that guide and then draw a little bit of the eyelid (When you’re drawing eyes you always want to consider that the eyeball is underneath and it’s bulging out the eye. It’s a sphere so you want to give it spherical shading). We’ll draw the bottom side of the eyelid, and then add a few more details here and there. I’ll add the indication of some eyelashes on the far side of the eye. Just a few for now, I won’t worry about doing too many but we just want to get an idea of the direction that they are going.

I’m going to dim the opacity of that sketch layer and I’ll create a second layer to go ahead and do my inking. I’m going to use the scratchboard tool for this and I want to be careful while I’m doing this to get nice smooth lines. If I don’t get a good line I’m just going to do and undo and keep doing undos until I get it right. I think that looks pretty good. Let’s hide the original sketch layers and guides because we don’t need them anymore.

We’ll create a new layer for lashes. We’ll draw in those lashes again. We’ll try to do a cleaner job this time. Next we’ll create several layers for some shading. I’m going to give these names based off the part of anatomy I’m drawing. Then I’m going to group them together then we’ll order them from foreground to background.

I’m going to start with the face layer and fill it with a number 2 value. That gives us a good base color to start with.

I’m going to go to the eyeball layer and use the scratchboard tool to fill that in with a slightly lighter value. And what I’m going to do is basically block in all these different areas, so the eyeball is going to be an area, the iris will be a different layer, and the pupil will be a different layer.

I’m going to go to the iris layer and using a number 6 value fill that in and layer order is really important here. Sometimes you have to play around with the order of the layers to figure out what makes sense. In this case it makes more sense to have the pupil above the iris layer and the iris layer above the eyeball. So I changed it around a little bit. I’ve filled in the remaining layers then what I’ll do is add a highlight. I’ll put that highlight up above the line work so that it doesn’t get covered up and then here and there we’ll add a few more highlights. This really helps the eye look reflective and wet and glossy as it should. So here and there just a few little spots and this should really make it pop out. If you don’t do this your eye is going to look kind of flat.

I’m going to add some shading with the airbrush now to each of these layers. I’ll start with the eyeball layer and I’m going to use a darker value to add a shadow on the top side. This shadow is being cast by the eyelid. I’m going to add some shadow to the side to make it look nice and spherical. I want lots of reflections on the top edge because the eye is a nice reflective orb shape. We’ll go to the eyelid layer and add the shadows being cast by the brow. Our light is coming from the bottom right so we want to shade all these shapes appropriately. Just think of them as their own individual 3D shapes. Let’s add some shading to the face. You want to think of the orbital cavity or the hole where the eye goes into. Make sure that you shade that and that the eye is kind of bulging out of that hole.

I’m going to build up the form using light and dark and I’ll add some shading to the iris. The iris should have some of that same cast shadow from the eyelid. And what you can do is add some lighter and darker areas along the sides and the center depending on the kind of eye drawing that you want to do. I’m going to add a little light spot. And here and there I’m going to add some radial lines, dividing it up like a pizza or a pie. I’m going to add some shading to the pupil. It’s important to avoid coloring the pupil solid black because the pupil usually has the environment reflected in it. So I like to draw kind of a person shape with a little backlight on it, because sometimes when you take a picture of yourself or someone’s photographing an eyeball you see that inside of it.

I’m going to add a little bit more detail to the iris and then zoom out to evaluate. I want to look at this eye kinda small to get a good feel for how it’s looking. You don’t want to look at it too big.

We’ll add a layer for veins and use the detail oils to draw in some indications of some veins. The plan here is to do this in black and white to make sure all of our value structure looks good. Sometimes it’s necessary to change the composite method for layers, so I’m going to change this to multiply that way it blends a little bit better with the layers underneath. I’m going to return to the sketch layer, which is the line work. Turn on Preserve Transparency, select the number 5 value in the airbrush and I’m going to lighten those lines a little bit so it doesn’t look so much like a cartoon or comic. I’m going to select a darker value and bring back the shadows in a few places. So I want these to be lines, but I don’t want the same color. I’m going to fade the lines into the form.

Next I will select all the eye layers except for the lashes and merge them with ctrl+E. I’ll delete the sketch because we won’t need that anymore and let’s rename the merged layer to “Eye”. I’ll turn off preserve transparency and use the diffuse blur to blend some of those areas of the lines to blend them into the form and make them look less like outlines and more like part of the form we are drawing now. It’s kind of an interesting way you can turn something that looks kind of a comic book line art style into something more painterly.

Let’s create a new layer for gloss. This will help make the eye look more glossy like glass or reflective. We’ll select the airbrush and paint some white over some different areas of the eye. Just a little bit of gloss will do the trick. You don’t want to go too far and cover up the detail in the eye. You can use the distort brush to sort of push things around and add some sharp edges or smudge things around to make it look reflective. Make sure that’s set to a screen layer. Then if you want you can go back over it with the airbrush with black to back that down in some places by painting over it.

Next we’ll add some shading to the eye by adding a new layer called Shadow. We’ll change it to a multiply composite method and we’ll use the airbrush to add some darker areas to kind of build this form up a little bit more. We’ll enhance the form of the shadows, so what we’ll want to do is make sure that we’re painting generally on the sides that aren’t facing toward the light.

I’m going to add a little vignette on the face and we’ll create another new layer for highlights. You’ll see I’m going back and forth with these light and dark layers to try and build things up. The reason why I use a lot of layers is because it’s less risk of messing anything up. We’ll add some fine highlights with a small brush and maybe add a few more lashes with the detail oils on their own layer, that way if I don’t get them right, that’s okay. I can always blend behind the lashes if I need to.

I’m going to return to the eye layer and balance out some of the light and dark using the airbrush and continue adding form to build up the shape of the eye drawing. Now let’s add a little bit of texture on a new layer. Texture is more often than not a multiply composite method. We’ll select a dark grey value and use the sponge to paint over the whole eye to give it some skin texture. You can dim the opacity of that layer to make a more subtle blend. Let’s add more texture on a second layer. This time we’ll use the chalk, and you can feel free to experiment with the different paper textures but basic paper texture tends to work pretty well. We’ll dim the opacity on that a little bit. Then we’ll return to the highlights layer and use the airbrush to give it a little bit of a white glow. We’ll add a little bit of white over the eye itself too to make it look more glossy. Next let’s group all those eye layers together and we’ll name that group “eye”.

Let’s create a new layer and begin adding some color tinting now. We’ll start with the skin color. We’ll create a group, that way all of our color goes into a group. And we want all of our tints to be multi composite methods. So I’m going to choose multiply and then choose kind of an orange skin color. I’m going to choose fill and if I don’t get a color I like I can keep hunting around until I find one that I do like. You may need to shift it towards red or toward yellow depending on the skin color that you like. And then I’m going to use the airbrush to vary the color, so I’m going to change it a little bit in hue and value just to get some variety. Then I’m going to dim the opacity of that layer. I’m going to create another layer for a skin tint. And it’ll be the same. It’ll be a multi composite method. I’ll fill it the same way with a similar orange-peach color. Layering up these tints really helps this to look a little more realistic. Remember, when drawing eyes it is important to make sure the skin color is right, it helps to make the drawing look more real.

We’ll create a new layer for red. It’s really important to add red to drawings of people because the red kind of represents the blood under the skin. You can see red in people’s eyes especially in their tear ducts and in the corner of their eyes and surrounding their eyelid. I’m going to make sure that’s a multi composite method. I’m going to create a new layer for iris. This will be the iris color. We’ll add some green and kind of back down the opacity. Maybe conceal it here and there if I need to.

I’ll create a new layer for light. This’ll be some lighter areas. And I’ll use a lighter skin color to add some highlights in. This is kind of how you would do it if you were acrylic or oil painting. I’m going to create a new layer for some tinting and it’ll be an overlay composite method this time. I can feel free to experiment with different colors to get some pretty interesting effects. If you select the airbrush and add a mask to that layer I can paint with black inside that mask to conceal some of that overlay tinting. So now I’ve got a nice blend between the two different colors, I’ll add a second overlay layer with some yellow. Then I’ll save a copy of our artwork and then drop all.

I’m going to make a duplicate of that layer by doing Select all, Copy, paste in place. Then choose effects>tonal control>equalize and click the auto set button. Then we’ll dim the opacity. This will balance out the light and dark if it’s too dark. I’ll select Drop All again. Let’s duplicate this again with All, Copy, Paste in Place and this time choose effects>focus>soften. We’ll add a mask to that layer and use black with the airbrush to conceal right in the center. This adds a little bit of soft focus around the edge of the composition. We’ll choose drop all again and we’ll blend a little bit with the diffuse blur anywhere that we need to smooth out those transitions in color. Especially around the eyelid or anywhere else you think that needs it.

Let’s create a new layer for some blood vessels. We’ll set the composite method to multiply. We’ll select blue and use the sponge to paint in some blood vessels under the skin. We’ll select red and do the same. This helps it look nice and realistic and lifelike. We’ll continue adding details to the eye using color and highlights here and there, lightening and darkening as much as we need to to balance this out and help it look a little more finished. Let’s add some color reflected in the eye. Maybe this is something that’s across from the eyeball that’s reflecting, like somebody’s shirt. These little details make it look more realistic and more lifelike when you draw eyes. I’m going to add a slightly more cyan blue and maybe some yellows here and there.

Let’s create a new layer and choose color for the composite method. We’ll fill everything with black and this shows us our artwork in black and white. This helps us so we can evaluate the value structure, so if we need to lighten or darken anything anywhere we can do that. You want it to look good in black and white as well as in color. Let’s use the bulge tool to even out the edge of the iris if it’s a little bit flat. That’ll kind of just bulge out the edge. Then we’ll create a new layer for some lashes.

When you draw eyes make sure the eyelashes fan out from the eyeball and don’t all go the same direction. Don’t make them too thick, don’t make them too thin or too sparse. We’ll add some more detail to the inner eye using some more peach and red flesh colors. Then we’ll add some more veins on a new layer. We’ll make that a multi composite method and use the detail oils in red. We’ll just keep adding fine details everywhere. These little details make the piece come together. We use the pinch brush to sharpen some areas like the top of the eyelid and the corner of the eye. Then let’s add more lashes. You can never get enough lashes.

Let’s use a particle brush called scratches to add some little cracks in the skin. This looks kind of like skin cells from a distance. I’m using multiple layers with overlay, multiple and screen composite methods. Then I’m reducing the opacity of each layer so I get a little subtle blend of the skin texture. I think this looks really nice for a close-up view of the eye.

Then I’m going to add a screen layer and add some light color using the chalk. This will look like oil reflecting off the skin or lighter skin cells, and then you can mask out some of that. If you make a screen composite method you can paint with black over it to conceal it a little bit. Next we’ll Drop all and add some final layers of color tinting to bring this piece together and add a little contour to the eye. I’m going to use some magenta and some orange and I’ll vignette the edges with white to make this look a little more like a sketch.

So there you go. We have a finished drawing an eye from beginning to end.

If you enjoyed this episode of Draw This about drawing eyes remember to like this video and share it with your friends, and don’t; forget to click the subscribe button to get updates when I release new episodes of draw this. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next Tuesday for another episode of Draw This.

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Comments (3)

  • Adeline Reply

    Liked the tutorial, but I also think it went too fast. Some of us are not as familiar with the layering and it just sort of got away from us. Also the brushes, chalks, etc. were told about, but so fast that it was hard to keep up.

    April 14, 2016 at 12:54 am
    • adampotter Reply

      Hello Adeline,

      Thank you for the feedback! We are always looking for ways to improve our content, and have passed your comments on to our tutorial team.

      All the best,
      Corel Discovery Center Team

      May 10, 2016 at 3:40 pm
  • Judith Dabney Reply

    Great tutorial but way too fast!

    April 13, 2016 at 9:28 pm

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