The eyes are one of the most important features of a character to express emotions. Think about it, what is the first thing you notice when looking at a person's face? You will probably look at their eyes to find out what they are expressing with their gaze.
Viewers of your drawing will also most likely look at the eyes first to see the character's personality. Drawing eyes can be challenging, but once you learn about their basic shapes, you can easily draw each part and different types of eyes according to your choice.
In this article, I will explain the basic shapes of a realistic eye, their placement in the head for different angles, and their stylization and expressions. You can follow these steps in any digital software that allows drawing like Photoshop or Clip Studio Paint with a drawing tablet. But you can also follow this tutorial by hand with paper, eraser and pencil.
The knowledge about the realistic proportions and parts of the eye will help to build a structure for your drawing. The eyeballs are spheres placed inside the eye socket.
First, you can start by drawing a circle for the eyes' iris. You can draw a straight line across the circle's centre as a guideline for the eyelids. Then, draw curved lines from the lines to create the eyelids. The above curve can touch the top of the iris to make it realistic. In step 5 (as shown in the image below), draw a smaller circle inside the iris to make the pupil. You can add smaller circles for highlights and eyelashes. Shade the above area of the eye to add shadow and make it appear more realistic.
After you have learned to draw this basic shape of an eye, you can try a more realistic approach to the eye shape by drawing the upper lids as broken lines.
Following the above steps, this is the final image that I ended up with.
Angles and Placement
After you have got used to drawing eyes, it is time to place the eyes on the face of your character's drawing.
If you follow the face guidelines above, you will see that the eyes are placed almost at the centre of the face. The left and right eyes are one eye apart from each other.
If your character's head is turned sideways (the lateral view), the eyes will look like the > symbol. But the lower lid is a little behind than the upper lid due to the shape of the head. The more your character turns away, the less the eye will be seen.
Upwards and Downwards
If your character is looking up or down, the curve guideline can help to place the eyes.
The curve guideline for the eyes depends on the curve guideline of the jaw and the top of the head.
Three Quarter View
In a three-quarter view, you must remember that the eyes are a sphere, not a flat surface. If you look at it from above, the eyes should curve around the head and not be in a straight line.
For example, in the above image of the three-quarter view of the head, the part of the eye closer to us (the viewer) will appear wider, and the part far away will appear smaller. If we keep rotating the head, the part closer to us will keep appearing wider, and the far-away part will keep getting narrower and disappear.
The eyes can be drawn in different styles depending on the message you want to convey with your character or a story. The eyes of the character determine how they are perceived.
In the above image, the first row (with rounder features) would be appropriate for a happy and lively character, the second row (with sharper features) might be used for a serious character, whereas the third row (with straight features) can be used for a character who is apathetic.
These will just be perceived as the first impression, so they do not always have to follow the characteristics of how their eyes look and vice versa.
If you are writing a comic, the character's looks and eyes can affect how the story is read. A story with characters having simple eyes like dots or with less detail might not be taken as seriously as a story with characters having realistic eyes. But these are also not applied to every story.
People's facial expressions reveal much about their intentions and feelings while communicating. Even if they are good at making poker face, their eyes will reveal their thoughts. We can use this form of body language to make the characters we draw relatable and understood.
The way you draw the eyebrows shows the character's emotions easily. You can slant and point the eyebrows to the centre of the face to show an angry expression. You can lift the eyebrows and make the eyes bigger to show a surprised or scared expression. Below are examples of different emotions conveyed through how you draw the eyes.
One of the fastest ways to learn how to draw eyes is by studying real eyes and drawing them using real photos as references. Even if you are trying to draw stylized eyes, study features and expressions from realistic eyes and experiment to get the style you want.
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