Introduction to Drawing An Eye

So much about a person's personality or mood can be seen by simply looking at the expression in the eyes.

This makes portrait drawing somewhat challenging. It is easy to miss the likeness of a face by making mistakes with the eye. But don't despair! It is one of my favorite subjects and the end result can be rewarding.


Creating Guidelines

Before you draw the eyes, do a careful study of the major shapes and characteristics. Start with soft outlines. Shadows and edges will naturally develop.

The iris and pupil are both perfectly circular. Create the envelope for the eyebrows. Try to get the proportions correct by focusing on the negative shapes connecting the major shapes.

E.g Position the iris by focusing on the shapes formed by the eye whites.


Adding Value

Most female eyes will have make-up on. Eyeshadow and eyeliner accentuate the upper and lower eyelid. This is the case here. I started by adding value to both eyelids. There is some texture(due to the make-up) on the upper lid. I try to mimic the texture.

At this point I will only add value to the drawing without blending anything.


Developing shapes

More value was added to both upper and lower lid. I also added an initial layer of value for the make-up on the upper eyelid.

The iris is made up of a number of shapes. I added a soft layer of graphite to the iris to mark out these shapes.

More value was added to create a darker mass for the eyelashes.


Developing Shapes and Detail

At this point I continued to develop key shapes. Details such as the eyelashes and the pupil were added.

More value was added to the iris, especially the top part, where shadow falls.

Drawing the eyelashes is a quick movement of the wrist. Position the pencil, then flick the pencil outwards. This will create a dark thicker base and softer sharp end. Eyelashes can be grouped or "clumped" together. Draw the lashes randomly with some pointing into the opposite direction.



An important step is to blend the initial layers. Here I blended most of the graphite. Blending will usually darken the value. You can always correct the value by taking graphite away with a kneaded eraser. But in most cases it is desired to have the value darker.

You will notice the iris is now darker. I blended most of the iris and recreated detail with a kneaded eraser and the tip of a tortillon.


Darker Values and Eyebrows

The eyebrows consist of multiple layers of value and detail. First, I created an initial layer of detail. Notice how the brow is divided into two main sections: A top and bottom part.

For the bottom half, the eyebrows grow upwards on an angle. The top half grows downwards to the right. Build each layer and blend. Blend most of the hair to create a shadow underneath. Use a kneaded eraser to create highlights.

I extended and completed most of the eyelashes. The eyelashes on the bottom eyelid curve inwards. Here you will notice how the root of the lashes are thicker with a soft end.

If the eyelashes appear too crisp, use a tortillon and soften it.


Completing The Drawing

Building up the layers will create a thick dense eyebrow. I did the same with the eyelashes by adding more value and darkening the lines. The iris also received a final touch of value that darkened the details.

You can also view a video tutorial on the next tab that shows a speed up version of how I drew the eye.

Please send me an email to let me know if you enjoyed the tutorial.

Make sure to check in for more tutorials!

How To Draw An Eye