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How to Draw a Realistic Eye

Learn how to draw a realistic eye from artist Rebecca Schweiger in this Howcast drawing tutorial.


We're now going to learn how to draw a realistic eye, for beginners. Drawing an eye is not as challenging as you might think. We can really break it down to a number of very easy steps.

What I'm using right now is a variety of drawing pencils. Drawing pencils come in different styles, and they all have different letters. The letters show how dark and soft or how light and hard the graphite is. Anything with a letter B, I like to think of 'B' for bold. The B pencils are much darker. The H pencils, I usually think of 'H' for hard. The H pencils are much harder and their marks are actually lighter. The best way to figure out how these pencils work are to the use them. You don't have to have many pencils. Even if you just have a regular pencil from home, that's a perfect way to begin.

I'm going to use this B pencil; it's a medium shade. When drawing an eye, what you're going to start with first is almost a shape of an almond or a football. I'm just going to sketch that shape. From the beginning, it does not have to be perfect. If I make a mistake, I can always erase it. You're always going to make changes when you're drawing, so there's no need for it ever to be perfect. The most important thing is to use your own creativity, to experiment, and to have fun.

The only area that I didn't finish this almond shape is the inside of the eye. Everyone, on the inside of their eye has this little form, the tear duct. The shape is almost like the combination of the letter U, sideways, and the letter V. It's not exactly a U and it's not exactly a V; it's a little bit of a combination. It's like a V but with the bottom of it being like a U.

It's always great when drawing to have an area on your paper where you can experiment, so not everything has to happen right in the main drawing. Sometimes people have an extra piece of paper where they can practice their sketching, practice making a shape, or making a line, and I highly, highly suggest this. As a beginner drawer, I would suggest just practicing this type of shape to start.

Your next step is going to be the center of the eye, which is basically a perfect circle, but we don't actually see the entire circle. Typically what we see is most of that circle but not the top. I'm going to sketch that right in, and again, excellent on the side; just practice drawing a circle. If you need help drawing a circle, you can always find something that is circular and you can trace it. Inside of that circle is the iris, again, another perfect circle. Typically, it's a little higher; it's not exactly in the middle. I'm going to draw that.

My next stage is that every eye has a crease. If I close my eye, there's a crease right on top. Every eye . . . again, there are no two eyes from different human beings that are the same. You really want to focus on the uniqueness of what you're drawing, and you want to bring in your own creativity, your own self expression. I'm going to draw this crease. You can notice that instead of doing just one solid line, often, I'm making almost little sketch marks, almost like little dashes that will connect with one another.

You can hold your pencil in a couple of ways. You can hold it just like you would hold a pen or you can hold it with your two fingers and your thumb, and almost balance it with the rest of your hand. If you take the pencil like this and you just start to loosen it up, your forefingers will be touching with your thumb. This will give you a softer line; it will also allow you to feel more free when you are drawing. It's excellent when you're drawing if you can feel freed up, relaxed, and that way you will also feel like you have more of a liberty to be very expressive, and yet, also have a lot more fun.

Underneath the eye is another tiny, tiny, tiny crease, right under the eye. I'm going to draw that in, as well. I'm now going to start thinking about shading. When we think of an eye, typically no matter what color the eye is, whether it's blue or brown, that circular area is going to be darker. I'm now going to switch to my darkest pencil, 6B, and I'm going to shade in the iris. I'm using the side of the pencil in a diagonal motion. I'm not worried about staying in the lines; I just want to really darken it up. I'm going to go around that eye. I'm just going to draw a little bit of a shape, and it could be any shape; it could be a little square, it could be a little circle, it could be a little squiggly. This is going to be the reflection in the eye. I'm not going to shade in this area, but I'm going to shade in everything else. You can see I'm going very fast. It doesn't have to be perfect, doesn't have to stay in the lines.

I'm going to just use the tip of my pencil and bring in that dark outline again. I'm now going to just focus on . . . if you look at an eye close, close-up, and I would suggest even looking at your own eye in the mirror, there are these lines of detail that come from the iris out to the edge. I'm going to bring that in; it will allow your drawing to have a little more texture and it will just look at little more interesting. Then I'm going to come in once again with my pencil. This time I'm going to switch pencils, I'm going to use a 2B, which is a medium-dark shade, and I'm going to start shading just around the outside rather than everywhere. This time I'm using the tip of the pencil. It's very much like coloring with a crayon, but this time I'm using a pencil. As an example, just back-and-forth, back-and-forth. Try to do it perhaps on another piece of paper and see how fast you can go. You want, when you are drawing, to feel very freed up so that you can really express yourself. The whole goal of drawing, the whole goal of creating art, is to nurture your creativity and to have a way that you can really express yourself authentically. I'm just going to darken that iris a little more. I'm pressing a bit harder with my pencil.

Now I'm going to bring in some eyelashes. My first step is I'm just going to darken this top part of the eye, and again, not necessarily with one solid line but these dashes. I'm going to darken the bottom, as well. Not as dark as the top. Just make it a little darker. With the eyelashes, your eyelashes are going to be these lines, almost like a wisp. You can even practice with your wrist, something like that. They're curved lines, but they're not so controlled. I'm going to bring in those eyelashes. Again, just these wisps, these wispy lines coming from that top line of the eye. I know that some people have very long and dark eyelashes, some people have shorter eyelashes. You can use your imagination. I would suggest playing with different possibilities and seeing what feels right for you. For your bottom eyelashes, they don't always start right in the center. You can move your pencil over a little bit. Again, same type of wisps. Typically, the bottom eyelashes are shorter than the top eyelashes. You can continue on like that.

You're next step is going to be really focusing more and more with shading. You can use a variety of your pencils, and you are going to start shading not only within the eyeball, but this whole eye area. Everybody thinks an eye is white; it's not always white. The only reason it would be white is if I held a light right up to my eye, otherwise, there's a lot of shading. I'm just going to bring in a touch of shading, and again, the side of my pencil just moving very quickly. I can use my finger to blend in some of the pencil. There's going to be shading right around the eye, above the top crease, below the bottom crease. I can always add as much as I want. Remember, I can always go back in with my eraser.

Then my next step would be more detail to the eyelashes. Typically when drawing eyelashes, you don't necessarily see every single eyelash, so really, what you're wanting to just show is a certain amount of motion, a certain amount of movement. It does not have to be exact. Some people when drawing an eye, won't even draw the eyelashes, they'll just draw some shading to show that there is movement coming from the eye. As I continue with this drawing, I'm going to spend as much time as I want, really adding these finishing touches. You could spend hours drawing an eye, and the more time you give to it, the more realistic it's going to feel. Remember, you really want to break it down into these basic shapes, and then really focusing on your shading. Your shading is, again, very simple. Think of years ago, coloring with crayons but now you are using pencil.

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