How to Draw an Eye Realistically (Part 3 of 4)

When drawing a realistic eye, there are several important steps you should complete in order to get a realistic look. First, you should make sure to have an accurate line drawing of the eye. Then you should begin shading the eye by applying the first layers of tone, as seen below:

how to draw an eye 0216 lower eyelid

This third lesson of my realistic eye-drawing series builds upon the shading from the last lesson and takes it to a new level. It involves making that first layer of tone look more “real”. This effect is achieved by blending the graphite on the paper. With this one simple step, you will see a very noticeable difference in the level of realism as compared where we left off!

Follow along with your drawing as I show you step-by-step how to shade the eye by properly blending the tones together.

Ideally, the materials you should have on hand are a couple of tortillions for blending, a paper towel or tissue, and a kneaded eraser (just in case). Additionally, don’t forget our 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
With that, let’s begin blending the eye!

Blending the Main Parts of the Eye

Begin by taking one of your tortillions and carefully blending together the dark, heavy layer of graphite that fills the pupil. You won’t see a drastic change since it is so dark, but you should notice a smoother appearance.

I tend to go for a heavier-used tortillion with more graphite buildup to blend darker areas, such as the pupil and iris.

Next, wipe your tortillion on the paper towel to remove excess graphite. You should do this every time you transition from blending a heavily-shaded object to something with lighter shading.

Start blending the iris by tracing your tortillion around the outer edge. Use soft strokes that follow the lines inward toward the pupil to begin shading the dark band along the outer edge. Blend into the lighter, middle band of the iris.

There will likely be some smearing along the edge of the iris that gets onto the white part of the eye. You can remove this with your kneaded eraser along the outside of the iris. You can see in the picture below there is smearing from the tortillion along the left side (our left) of the iris. The opposite side has a much sharper edge after using the kneaded eraser.

how to draw an eye 0301 pupil

Continue to blend in the same direction as the lines. Blend with a softer touch when you are in the lighter middle band of the iris. Blend the darker inner band (just outside the pupil) in the same manner as the darker outer band. Bring the darker graphite into the lighter area. Notice the smooth, beautiful transitions of tone this creates in the iris! If the middle band gets too dark, you can carefully lighten it by picking out a few linear strokes with the kneaded eraser.

how to draw an eye 0302 iris

Now it is time to blend the lighter shadows on the white part of the eye. A less-often-used tortillion with less graphite buildup is best for blending these lighter areas.

how to draw an eye 0303 white of eye

As for the tears and nodule in the corner of the eye, try to keep the dark parts dark and the light parts light while blending. The end goal is to portray the illusion of water and wetness here.

how to draw an eye 0304 tear duct

Blending the Surrounding Parts of the Eye

For the skin surrounding the eye, use the same blending method as you did with the other parts of the eye. The hard part was completed in the last lesson by making dark and light tones on the skin areas. Now it is just a matter of using a tortillion and blending the tones together to create a smooth appearance of skin.

Begin with the skin above the upper eyelid. Blend in the same direction as the pencil strokes.

how to draw an eye 0305 above upper eyelid

Repeat this process for the upper eyelid. Blend in the same horizontal direction as the eyelid itself. Be aware of dark and light areas, as well as where you planned for highlights and reflected light. Try to leave these in tact, and use your kneaded eraser if necessary to pick out lighter areas that get too dark from blending.

how to draw an eye 0306 upper eyelid

Finally, complete the blending process on the lower eyelid. You should be left with a drawing that looks similar to this:

how to draw an eye 0307 lower eyelid

Next Steps

If you have made it this far by following along with this lesson, as well as Part 1 and Part 2, you are well on your way to having a complete drawing of a realistic eye! But we are not quite finished yet….

The fourth and final tutorial (Part 4 of the series) will show you how to enhance what we already have with some finishing details that will make your drawing “pop” with eye-catching realism!

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