The Guide to Drawing Eyes in Pencil

Things You Will Need (for just about any drawing):

  1. A variety of pencils (at least two or three ranging from light to dark, I would recommend a 4H, HB, and a 2B)
  2. Drawing paper (printer/copymachine paper will do if you are in a jam)
  3. An eraser (two favorites: a)kneadable erasers because they don't flake and leave a mess, and they can be molded into a tip to erase very small areas b)drafting erasers because they can get just about any mark off the paper)

Before You Start

Before you start drawing get set up someplace quiet and comfortable with all your supplies. Some people like to listen to music when they are drawing. Always start the drawing with the lightest pencil, and use the darker pencils as you move through the process to shade. Try not to use harsh lines while drawing, but more light flowing lines to suggest the image you are creating. Most things in real life don't have sharp black outlines. Also, for beginners it also helps to have a few pictures of the thing you are drawing (in this case, eyes) to help you see what you are doing (and so you can understand better what I am talking about). One of the easiest things is to just look in a mirror at your own eyes.

The Shape of the Eye

It is important to remember when drawing eyes that the actual eye is nearly perfectly round. Most of it sits inside the eye socket and is covered by eyelids. The eyes we see are generally almond shaped, but everyone has different shaped eyes. The top of the eye has its highest point towards the center of the face, the bottom of the eye has its lowest point more towards the outside of the face.

The Eyelids

Many begining artists overlook the eyelids. This is a problem because the eye will not look realistic if you do. When drawing the eye it is important to leave a small white space between the eyeball and the bottom lashes and shading, this white space gives the impression of the thickness of the bottom eyelid. When drawing the bottom eyelid don't forget the tearduct in the inner corner of the eye. This shape should be roughly triangular and sketched in lightly. The top of the eyeball, just under the top lashes should be lightly shaded to show the thickness of the top eyelid. Most people have a fold in the top eyelid that is roughly parallel with the top of the eye.

The Iris and Pupil

The iris and pupil are the most noticable parts of the eye because they are right in the center! When drawing the iris keep in mind that it is circular, but not all of it will be showing. Unless the persons eyes are wide open (in shock or terror, for example), the iris will be partly hidden by the upper eyelid. If the eyes are partly closed or squinty, it may also be hidden a bit more by the bottom eyelid. It is often a good idea to very lightly sketch the full circle that would be the iris (right over the eyelids and all), so you can get a better idea of the shape of it and where to place the pupil. Don't worry, if you draw it light enough, shading later should cover up that line without any need to erase. The pupil is in the very center of the iris. It has to be round, and it has to be in the center. This is important. The pupil also contracts and dilates, so it can be different sizes. Consider what situation the person you are drawing is in when deciding how big to make the pupil. If they are scared make the pupil bigger. If they are looking into a bright light, make the pupil smaller. The pupil must have highlight in it (an area with no shading, completly white), or the person will look like a zombie. Normally this highlight sits on the edge of where the pupil meets the iris. Sometimes there are two highlights, depending on the lighting. Use your own discretion on this one. The pupil will be the darkest part of the eye (so you can use your darkest pencil to color it in). The outside of the iris is darker than the inside of the iris, in most cases nearly as dark as the pupil unless the person has very lightly colored eyes. The top of the iris will be darker as well because of the eyelid shading (see above section on eyelids). Also, suggest (lightly draw) in some lines radiating out from the pupil to the edge of the iris. More lines for darker eyes. Don't make these lines to sharp or harsh, try to make them kind of sketchy and loose.

The Eyebrows

Located above the eye. Not on the eye. Not on the forhead. Just a little above the eye. Eyebrows curve upward until they just barely reach the outside half of the eye, and they start curving down. They eybrows will be a little longer than the shape of the eye itself. Feminine eyebrows tend to be thinner and more curved, masculine eyebrows are straigher and bushier. Eyebrows are not one solid shape, but many little hairs. When sketching the eyebrows in use many little lines instead of one big shape.

Shading the Eye

By this point some of the shading should already be done. You should have the top part of the visible eyeball shaded to show the top eyelid, and a rough line at the bottom (leaving white space) for the bottom lid. The corners of the eyes are set back a little further from the rest of the eye (because it is round), and so should be a little darker. This shading is important, but should be just barely noticable. For this I would suggest using your lightest pencil. For the rest of the shading you can use the darker ones. The shading next to the bridge of the nose will be darker and work into the fold line of the top eyelid. This shading will not extend above the eyebrow. The outside corner of the eye should be shaded fairly darkly, but not as dark as the shading next to the nose. There is minimal shading below the eye, more towards the nose than the outside, and less shading below the eye than above it.

The Eyelashes

Don't do the eyelashes until you have all your shading and blending done! The eyelashes are last! Make the lashes very subtle (you don't want the eyes to resemble spiders...or do you?). Do not make the lashes perfectly straight lines, lashes are curved. The lashes on the top eyelid are darker and longer than the lashes on the bottom eyelid. The lashes on the bottom barely need to be drawn in at all. Make sure the lashes fan out, and appear slightly thicker closer to the eye. Eyelashes on females can be darker and more defined (mascara). Dark, defined eyelashes on most drawings of males will make them look feminine.

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