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

How can you make a realistic eye drawing look even better? You are about to find out!

The realistic (but still unfinished) eye drawing you see below resulted from three previous lessons. If you have not been following along, please do so before you read this latest post. Here are links to the steps that got us here today:

Part 1) Make a basic line drawing of an eye.

Part 2) Add tones to the eye drawing.

Part 3) Blend those tones together.

how to draw an eye 0307 lower eyelid

Now except for perhaps some eyelashes, this drawing looks essentially complete, right? Basically it is, but when it comes to making a realistic drawing, there are different levels of realism. In the fourth and final lesson of this series, it’s time to make this drawing “pop”! We will create a more realistic eye drawing by adding additional layers of detail. You will only need a kneaded eraser, a tortillion, and a 2B graphite pencil. My personal preference for this phase of the drawing is to use a mechanical pencil with graphite lead to ensure I make very fine lines where needed, as you can see with the veins, eyelashes, and other fine details in the reference photo below.

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

Layering the Iris

Begin with the inner part of the iris and make marks that radiate away from the pupil. Then do the same thing along the outer rim of the iris. Draw using the same method you used in lesson 2 of this series, remaining aware of the tips of those long “oval-like” shapes within the iris. Leave the highlighted ring around the iris alone.

how to draw an eye 0401 inner iris

how to draw an eye 0402 outer iris

Next, use your tortillion to blend the graphite. Blend along the direction of the lines and into the highlighted ring. If that center ring around the iris gets a little dull, carefully pull out a few more highlights with your kneaded eraser. Also use your mechanical pencil to lightly draw a few lines that connect the inner iris with the outer iris.

how to draw an eye 0403 iris

Layering the White of the Eye

Since we eventually need to draw eyelashes, it will be a good idea to darken the shadows they will cast on the white of the eye beforehand. Begin by shading in another layer of graphite just below the upper eyelid. Then blend the graphite with your tortillion.

how to draw an eye 0404 upper white tone

how to draw an eye 0405 upper white blend

Repeat this process along the lower eyelid. Also, darken any shadows in the tear duct area as needed.

how to draw an eye 0406 lower white blend

how to draw an eye 0407 duct

Examine any eye as closely as the one we are drawing here, and you are bound to see some veins. Very lightly with your mechanical pencil, draw some wiggly lines that jet away from the eyelids and toward the iris. Use lines of varying length and cross a few of them for a more natural appearance.

how to draw an eye 0408 veins tone

Next, carefully blend the veins with a tortillion for a more subtle appearance. If any veins look too dark or unnatural, lift some of the graphite with the kneaded eraser.

how to draw an eye 0409 veins blend

Layering the Skin

You can create texture on the skin by repeating the tone and blend process used in earlier lessons. In the following two images, you can see a small section, just above the inner corner and upper eyelid, layered with darker pencil marks and then blended smoothly.

how to draw an eye 0410 around upper lid tone

how to draw an eye 0411 around upper lid blend

Repeat this layering process for the rest of the skin. Make sure to focus on areas that need to be darker, such as the shadow caused by the flap of skin just above the upper eyelid. Use light and dark tones to indicate where surfaces on different planes meet at an edge, as you can see along the rim of the eyelids. Also remember to lift areas that need to be lightened with your kneaded eraser.

how to draw an eye 0412 around upper lid

Tweaking the Highlight

Due to the angle of the unseen lights shining in the room, this eye will have a “highlight within a highlight” if you will. Another reason for this will be the subtle shadows from the upper eyelid and the soon-to-be-drawn eyelashes that will fall upon the highlight.

To create the effect seen below, begin by running a linear shadow just below the upper eyelid that intersects the top portion of the highlight. Then within that square-shaped highlight, just use the extra graphite accumulated on a tortillion to lightly shade in the square, leaving a smaller white circle inside. Notice how the pupil area is shaded slightly darker than the rest.

how to draw an eye 0413 highlight tones

Layering the Eyelashes

With a loose motion of the wrist, begin drawing the fine eyelash hairs with a mechanical pencil. Start along the outer edge of each eyelid rim for most of the lashes. Make a smooth, quick curve near the base of each lash before tapering off. Note the length of each eyelash as compared to the width of the eyelids. For this particular eye, the lashes along the outer corner are generally longer than the ones near the inner corner. For a more natural look, do not make them perfectly spaced apart either. Instead, clump some into groups, and have some overlap each other.

how to draw an eye 0414 eyelashes first layer

Continue to build layers by drawing additional eyelashes next to and on top of other lashes. Lightly blend and build more layers until the eyelashes reach the desired volume.

how to draw an eye 0415 eyelashes second layer

You can also indicate some natural white hairs near the inner corner by using a kneaded eraser parallel to tiny drawn hairs.

Return to the iris and the highlight. Draw strands of eyelashes that are reflected along the length of the iris. Using the same technique as you did with the white hairs, the kneaded eraser marks next to the drawn lines should give the illusion of a reflection.

how to draw an eye realistically


That concludes this four-part series on how to draw an eye realistically! Remember that with any of the steps from this lesson, you can add more layers than indicated and get a more realistic effect. Or, you can do fewer. You do not have to create a perfect duplication of a reference photo. It’s up to you as the artist.

If you have ever struggled with drawing an eye and making it look real, hopefully you have found this eye-drawing series helpful! More importantly, I hope you were following along with me and drawing an eye of your own step-by-step with me. If not, now is the perfect time to practice! Just remember to draw all of the important components of the eye as accurately as possible, shade the eye with the appropriate light and dark tones, blend the tones to create the smooth appearance of a real eye, and layer in additional details. You will have drawn your own realistic eye before you know it!

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