How to Draw an Eye Realistically (Part 2 of 4)

In the last post of this series, we began drawing a realistic eye with the all-important line drawing to place the iris, pupil, eyelids, and the outline to a few shadows and highlights.

Here is where we left off:

how to draw an eye 0107 eyelid shadows

And here is the reference photo…

By Laitr Keiows (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
By Laitr Keiows (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
In this second lesson, it is time to add some tones to all of those lines. The focus of this tutorial is how to begin shading an eye drawing so that it looks realistic. Let me again emphasize begin, because this lesson will be just the start of the shading process. There will be more shading techniques to implement in Part 3 and Part 4 before getting to the desired level of realism.

No new materials will be needed, just a 2B pencil and a kneaded eraser.

So let’s begin!

Shading the Pupil

Begin by taking your kneaded eraser and lifting out the pupil outline going through the highlight. Then carefully take your pencil and completely fill in the circle that represents the pupil. Leave the highlight white.

how to draw an eye 0201 pupil

Shading the Iris

The outer and inner rim of the iris is usually slightly darker than the rest of it. The guidelines that you drew in the last lesson help allow for this.

Begin by shading the outer edge of the iris. Lighten the application of graphite as you work your way inward and reach the guideline.

There is a heavier shadow along the top that is cast by the upper eyelid. This shadow should not taper off and get lighter along the guideline edge.

There is a much thinner shadow on the iris along the lower eyelid. Notice the little sliver of water as the eyelid presses against the eye? Leave this white.

how to draw an eye 0202 iris border

As for the inner part of the iris, begin sketching a few lines that radiate outward from the center. Try to imagine the very center of the pupil and have your lines come straight from there.

how to draw an eye 0203 iris inner

Begin extending these lines all the way to the outer edge of the iris.

how to draw an eye 0204 iris inner to outer

Next, begin filling in the open spaces with more lines. Notice how the lines are not necessarily perfectly straight. Think in terms of long, stretched out ovals that are pointed at each end.

how to draw an eye 0205 iris begin lines


how to draw an eye 0206 iris all lines

Darken up the inner part of the iris. Shade in the same direction as the radiating lines. Be aware of the tips of those long “oval-like” shapes. You can better define some of these tips by shading around them. Shade outward from the pupil until you get to the inner guideline.

how to draw an eye 0207 iris dark inner

We already added tones around outer edge of the iris, but we still need to replicate the radiating lines along the outer edge. Do this by darkening the lines and the spaces between the lines in the same fashion that you did for the inner iris. Make sure to leave it light in the middle.

how to draw an eye 0208 iris dark outer

Shading the White Part of the Eye

Earlier, I mentioned a shadow that the upper eyelid casts upon the eye. It is time to extend this shadow along the white part of the eye. Color this lightly; do not make it as dark as it is on the iris.

Since the eyeball is actually a sphere, there should be a little shading on other parts of it as well. Notice below that I begin by shading the inner corner.

how to draw an eye 0209 white eye upper shadow

The outer corner is going to get a little more shading. This is partially to allow for the shadows given by the eyelashes, which will be drawn in as one of the final steps.

how to draw an eye 0210 white eye more shadow

Now for the nodule in the corner of the eye (lacrimal caruncle), leave some parts dark and some parts clear to represent wetness.

how to draw an eye 0211 white eye duct

Shading the Eyelids

Begin shading the top plane of the upper eyelid. Notice by the blue arrow how the eyelid is distinguished from the shadow on the white of the eye by making the shadow slightly darker and leaving some reflected light on the eyelid. Continue this for the length of the eyelid.

how to draw an eye 0212 eyelid plane start

how to draw an eye 0213 eyelid plane finish

Here we add some tones to the skin in the eye socket area, just above the upper eyelid. Place darker tones where there are folds and bends in the skin. Use lighter tones around the highlighted areas you marked with guidelines during the last lesson.

how to draw an eye 0214 above upper eyelid

Repeat this process with the upper and lower eyelids. Notice how the direction of the pencil marks goes along the natural curves of the eyelids.

how to draw an eye 0215 upper eyelid

how to draw an eye 0216 lower eyelid

Next Steps

If you completed everything from this tutorial (and from Part 1 earlier), congratulations! You just finished a very important step in the process of drawing and shading a realistic eye: establishing the initial tones with your graphite pencil. The next lesson (Part 3 of the series) will show you how to properly blend the graphite and reach the next level of realism.

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