How to draw eyes in ANY Style

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1.- INTRODUCTION

Hi everyone, it´s Konart.
Today I will show you how you can draw eyes, not just in one way or style, but in any style. When looking at different artists, it would appear that everyone draws eyes in a very unique way, however, all of them share some things in common, and when you understand those similarities, you can use them to your advantage and to even create your own personal way of drawing eyes.
Let’s start.

2.- BRUSHES

To do this, you will need, at maximum, 4 brushes: One soft, one hard, one with texture and one for oil paint.
This default brushes should work well for you. Please note that although in this tutorial we will be using 4 brushes, you can do it perfectly fine with just one textured brush, or adding more if you feel like it.

3.- GENERAL STRUCTURE

To understand how to draw eyes in any style, we first need to know the structure behind them. Any style of drawing them, uses a simplified version of one or more of the parts that conform the eyes:
Sclera
Iris
Pupil
Cornea
Tear Duct
Eyelids
Eyelashes
Folds
Eyebrows

A.-SCLERA- Is the main part of the eye, the big white ball, and everything else goes on top of it, except for the pupil and iris, that go a bit inside of it.
B.-IRIS- It’s the circle that is the “color” part of the eye. Although it is convex, you will usually get better results if you draw it concave.
C.-PUPIL- It’s the little darker spot that goes at the center of the iris.
D.-CORNEA- It’s a transparent and convex dome that goes on top of the iris and the sclera.

Some tips for these parts of the eye:

The pupil goes inside the iris, not on top, so it will be closer to the center of the sclera than the iris when seen from an angle.

When the iris moves, the angle of its circle will be perpendicular to the direction it’s watching, and it will get thinner as it approaches a side view.

You can think of the iris and the cornea as a frying pan with a lid, the light hits in opposite sides for them.

Note: The cornea gets no shadows, only the highlights, and the iris gets no highlights, only shadows. In this example, the pupil would be a sticker inside the pan, so this is how they would look together.

TEAR DUCT- It’s the little pink spot from where tears come out, as it Is very small, many people forget to draw it, but it’s still a very important part of the eye
EYELIDS- They close and open the eyes. It’s very important to see that they have thickness, people often draw them as just one line above the eye and one below, but they are not that thin, they are actually thicker than they appear at first glance. Their form is like an orange partially pealed.

EYELASHES- The little hairs connected to the eyelids. As a general rule, they are thicker on the upper eyelid, and women have longer and thicker eyelashes.

FOLDS- They are the Little fold of skin that happens between the upper eyelid and the eyebrow, they only are visible when the eyes are open, when they close, the skin stretches and the fold disappears.
EYEBROWS- They sit on top of the upper part of the eye socket, right above the folds. they are very important to portray emotions.

4.- CHANGING STYLES

Okay, now we know the parts of the eye, but how do we draw them in different styles? Well, what you need to keep in mind is that most styles out there use many of these parts, the change in style comes from how they simplify those parts.

There are 2 main kinds of stylization:
To combine 2 or more parts of the eye into one,

Or to simply remove one or more parts

Now I will show you how to draw eyes in some of the more common styles, as well as how to come up with one of your own.

5.-REALISTIC

Eyes drawn in a realistic style need to have all of the elements we previously mentioned. When we try to draw them realistically, to miss one element or to draw it the wrong way will easily make it look weird.
When we see a face drawn more simplified, it’s easier to overlook things that are not that accurate, but if it’s a realistic face, it will be easier to spot something that is wrong, so we need to be very careful.
Here are some tips to make your eyes have a more “real” look:

A-The sclera isn’t completely white, when you draw it white it looks more digital and fake, try to make just a bit darker and with a very slight pink hue, like that of the skin. You can do this with a soft brush at a very low opacity

B- The sclera isn’t just one single color, it has shadows. There is usually 2, the one caused by the roundness of the sclera, and the one projected by the eyelashes

C- The pupil and the iris are not perfectly circular, and their edges are slightly soft, if you draw them with hard edges, they will look like stickers. Also, the edges of the pupil are a bit spiky.

D- In the iris, the light side is more saturated and has small variations of color that make it look more lively.

E- The cornea creates as many highlights as sources of light in the scene, and the highlights have the same shape of the light source. Also, it tends to look more real if at least one highlight is between the iris and the sclera, since it makes that shine look like something that is on top of the iris and not inside.

F- The tear duct is one of the most noticeable changes between eastern and western eyes, for western people, it is thicker, bigger and it tends to be a bit more horizontal, for eastern people, it is slimmer, smaller and points downwards more. Of course, there are exceptions and many variations to this rule, but it works as a general rule.

The color is a more saturated and darker pink, but you have to remember that the eyelids give it shadows, and since it is usually wet, it gets some highlights like that of the cornea, but smaller and not as shiny.

G- For the eyelids, it is a common mistake to draw them extremely thin.

Also, the one you should worry about the most, is the lower one. If you are really close, you can see the thickness of both eyelids from a front view, but usually, when looking ahead, the upper eyelashes cover up the thickness of the upper eyelid, so the one that is more visible is the lower one, so it’s the one that adds more realism. And since it faces upwards, tends to look lighter than the rest of the skin. Even in a more simplified style, it adds a lot of depth to the eye.

H-With eyelashes, the key is to remember that they curve outwards and they look better grouped together. Even if they usually don’t stick together as much, it is better to draw them that way since drawing each one separately takes more time and makes it look unnatural.

Also, the amount and darkness of the eyelashes is an important element to making them look more feminine. Even without makeup, women’s eyelashes tend to be more abundant (Again, there are a lot of exceptions. I am often told that I have very girly eyelashes, and I’m not a girl).

I- The fold on top of the eye follows the angle of the eye. Since it is a fold of skin, it looks better if you color it with a deep black red instead of black. The red gives it saturation and makes it look more alive. Also try to not make it look too sharp, since that would create a lot of contrast.

It is also one of the main differences between western and eastern eyes. On eastern eyes usually the fold is so small and so low that it looks as if it weren’t there, since it overlaps with the upper eyelid. This also creates a bigger shadow on the inside of the eye.

J- Lastly, the eyebrows. There are 2 main things to keep in mind is that they are not straight, they curve at the end, and that the direction of the hairs starts more vertical and it gets more horizontal at the end.

As a general rule, male eyebrows are bigger, messier and thicker, while female eyebrows are smaller, uniform and thinner.

If you keep all of these things in mind, it should add a lot more realism to your drawings.

For reference, this is a step by step of how I usually would draw a realistic eye:
First, the sketch

Then, on a layer below, I add the flat colors

I start putting the shadows of every color, darker green, darker pink, darker gray, etc. They don’t need to be perfect, just to be placed on the general area is enough for now.

After the shadows come the light tones. When you have the shadows and the lights you can already have a sense of the depth of the drawing

After this, I lower the opacity of the sketch layer to start adding a bit of details everywhere, this is also when I start adding texture with the oil paint brush

Then it’s time to add the eyebrows and eyelashes. I prefer to add the hair after I am happy with how the skin looks. You can draw the hair on a separate layer and avoid any problem, but I like to draw it on the same layer, since it gives the drawing a look more traditional.
At this point I also hide or delete the sketch layer

After that I add more detail to the eyelashes and eyebrows so that they don’t look so sketchy, and I also add the main and stronger highlights

From this point onward you can take as much time as you like adding more and more details, as long as you have a strong base, the drawing will most likely still look fine, just don’t get too carried away, or you will end up spending a lot of time on the eyes and not enough on the rest of the face.

6.- SEMI-REALISTIC

As I have said before, any style of drawing eyes is born from the way people simplify elements of the realistic one. Usually in a semi-realistic style you wouldn’t simplify many elements, but instead 2 or 3, so that it keeps somewhat of a real feel to it.

What elements are simplified depends of which parts of the eye the artist wants to draw attention to. If you want people to focus on the pupil, you can make it bigger, but if not, you can make it smaller to draw more attention to other elements. The rule here is that if one element gets smaller or disappears, otter element must get bigger to compensate for it, so it still looks balanced.

The elements more commonly simplified for this style are the tear ducts, the iris, the pupil and the eyelashes.

Since the tear duct is so small and provides almost no help to facial expressions, it usually is the first element to disappear or shrink, that helps to give more priority to the iris or eyebrows

The iris and pupil are usually where you can find most variations. Even though in this style the shape stays circular, the color and inside of the iris can change a lot depending of what you want the eyes to convey. These are probably the most important part of the eye, so this is where you can add your personal touch, even if it doesn’t make sense, like adding details, changing the shape of the pupil, etc.

Here are some general tips:
- A bigger iris makes the eye look more friendly and gentle, while a smaller one makes it look more hostile and crazier, but erasing the iris or making it fill the hole eye is an easy way to make it look supernatural or alien-like.

- For the pupil you can do a lot of things, like making it lighter instead of darker, changing the shape, color, or add more details alongside it to give it a bit of flare

If you decide to change the color, it is a good idea for it to be a color close to the one you chose for the iris.

And if you decide to change the shape, a more vertical shape will make it look more like a predator, while a more horizontal one will make it look like a frog or a goat.

- For the eyelashes, in this style people tend so simplify them by combining them with the upper eyelid, so that they form a single shape. Something to keep in mind, is that if you change the color of the eyelashes, it should be the same color of the eyebrows and the hair, otherwise, only a dark color works well even if the eyebrows and hair are a different color

Now, here are some of the little things I like to do when drawing eyes in a semi-realistic style:
- Making the iris bigger and with a color you wouldn’t normally see
- Making the pupil lighter than the iris.

- Add a lot of small brush strokes of very saturated colors that are close to the main one. Here the main color is purple, so I wouldn’t use yellow or green, but instead, the colors that make purple, like red and blue

- Do the same on the eyelashes

I know, you might say that it looks very messy, or that it doesn’t make sense, but remember that in a semi-realistic style we can start to bend the rules to do any sort of things. Also, you would rarely see a drawing of just an eye this close, it would usually be a lot smaller, and from afar, those little spots of color give the drawing more personality.

7.- ANIME

Anime eyes offer a lot of variations, especially in illustration, since they can have the flat colors that are used in T.V. shows, or a more painterly style with lots of details, since illustrations don’t have the same limitations as animation in regards to the amount of detail.

Since the anime style is so broad, there are anime eyes that look like a semi-realistic style, while others are a lot more like a cartoon, so I will try to focus on a middle point and then see where we can go from there.

Most anime eyes tend to follow this pattern:

1-Ignore the tear duct
2-Ignore the thickness of the eyelids
3-Make the upper eyelashes bigger and into a single shape

4-Make the whole eye taller and bigger on the face
5-Change the shape of the iris

6-Add more details to the iris and pupil, get creative with this.
7-Simplify the fold into 2 lines
8-Make the eyebrows thinner and move them up

And ready, you have a standard anime eye, but we can do more than this. Let’s see what we can do to make anime eyes from different genres of shows and different characters


Before everything else, let me clarify, I know that there are a lot of exceptions to the rules that I am about to explain, the anime style is so unique precisely because all of these exceptions, and many times there are shows that go the complete opposite of what would be expected, like comedy shows with semi-realistic style and detailed faces, or dark and mature shows with a simple style. However, I believe that these rules will help you as a starting point.

First, what happens if we go a bit more to the realistic side? We get something similar to some more serious shows. We will need to:

1- Draw the general shape and size of the eye
2- Draw the thickness on the lower eyelid
3- Draw the tear duct

4- Shrink the iris and eliminate any unnecessary details
5- Add a bit more detail to the eyebrows based on what we learned from the realistic style

In this stage, the main things that you would change, are the color of the iris and pupil, as well as the size of the eye

Now, with small changes, we can make the eyes feel very different.

For example, if you make it a bit smaller, and make the lines straighter, it will look like something from an action show

If you add details to the iris, it looks like something from a slice of life show, but if you add too much detail, and some stars, it will look like a romance manga. Those eyes are often used for comedic effects.

What happens if we simplify it more? It will look like something from a comedy show or a 4-koma manga

For this you will need to:

1- Ignore the lower eyelid and eyelashes
2- Ignore the folds
3- Simplify the iris and pupil into a single shape, with just one highlight from the cornea

Really, when you think about it, all we have in this simplified style are the sclera, iris, upper eyelashes and the eyebrow. If you want to simplify it even more, you can get rid of the sclera and the eyelashes, so that you only have the iris and the eyebrows, and you will have something that looks more like a cartoon.

However, one thing to remember is that, the more you simplify the eyes, the more creative you will have to be to show emotions. Some simple ways to do this could be to change the shape of the iris, to emulate what would happen if you still had eyelids, or changing the shape and color of the eye to convey different emotions, or maybe even erasing them completely for some situations.

This is the part where you need to be creative, try to watch shows with extreme facial animations, and over the top reactions, since you can learn a lot of ways to simplify the eyes from them.


Now, let me show you how I would normally draw anime eyes in a simple way. I usually don’t draw this way, since I prefer a more painterly approach, but if you want to get that “T.V. show” feel, this is what you can do.

Start with a sketch

Then, on another layer, make it cleaner and make the corrections necessary

Now, this is a very important step. In T.V. shows, the drawings have little to no variation in the thickness of the lines, so you will need to clean it again on another layer, but this time with a very small brush.

If you want the brush size to stay consistent, you can check it on the brush size window. In this example I used 8px, that is bigger than you will normally need, that is because as the canvas grows in size, you will need a thicker line, otherwise it would be hard to see. But in general, I recommend using 3px

Now we need some color. For this we can use the fill tool. First, we need to select the clean layer as the reference layer, so that we can color in a layer below still keeping those lines clean. You will have to adjust the area scaling of your tool depending in how thick your lines are, if the lines are very thin, make the area scaling smaller

With that set up, we can add the flat colors

You can repeat that process multiple times. Now I will add the colors and details that are missing, like the sclera and the shadows of the hair. With this, you already have a pretty convincing set of eyes. Of course, you can keep adding details as you like.

One common thing to do is to add a bit of gradient on the eyes using a soft brush

And there you have it, some convincing anime eyes.

Now, if you want to draw anime eyes, but with a more painterly style you only need 2 things:
A- Your normal anime eye
B- Shading from the semi realistic style

There is really not that much to it. Usually the colors in anime or cartoon eyes are flat, so all you need to do for them to look more painterly is to add more shadows and lights the way it would work in real life, and we saw how to do it in the realistic style, so you have to combine them.

You can even erase the line art or leave it, but if you leave it, I would recommend you to change its color, since a deep black creates a lot of contrast with the painterly shading, but that comes down to personal taste

8.- CREATING YOUR OWN STYLE

“Okay, knowing all these styles is fine and all, but what if I want to create my own way of drawing eyes?” you could be thinking.

And the answer is: mix the parts that you like the most until you find one that you really like.
First you need to choose a base for your style, it can be realistic, semi-realistic, or anime (for this example we will consider cartoon eyes as a variation of the anime style).

But you need to remember, that regardless of the style you choose, you must include the parts that make that style, even if they change a bit. Even a modified version of the realistic style must have all the elements of the regular one

Let’s assume you want to create some anime eyes

You can start with the part of the eye you like more, then you make a few variations of it, and combine them with more variations of other parts of the eye, and you keep repeating it.
Obviously, it would take a lot of time to draw every single combination possible, but chances are that you already have some things that you would like for your style.

Your own taste will dictate how different each variation that you draw is. If you have a very clear image of what you would like your style to have, it will reduce the amount of variations you will draw, if you have a very vague idea of what you want, you will see that many of the variations that you draw are extremely different from each other, and you will probably need to draw more of them until you find one that you like.

You can think of it like a machine that mixes every part of the eyes. This is a simplified example, but you can imagine the machine with more parts to include the tear ducts, the folds, their proportion in relation to the head, and many other things, how much detail you put into it depends on you.

You can apply this method to any style, since the principle is the same everywhere.
This is something that is used in some ways, in concept art, it’s called iteration, and helps to produce a lot of ideas fast. Concept artist do this to some extent when they try to design things like characters, buildings, weapons and many other things. They make a lot of combinations, and when they find something they like, they make the next variations based of that.

You might think that it is a lot of work, and it is. But there is good news, you only will do it once.
If you look closely at the drawings of an artist you like, you will see that, most likely, the way they draw eyes is the same in every piece. Chances are it wasn’t always that way, over the course of many years, they made slight variations to the ways they draw eyes, sometimes even by accident, until eventually they found a way that they like and decided to keep using it. Since this process took them a lot of time, many of them didn’t even realize that is what they were doing, but over time it became a part of how they draw.

This method is what you could call brute force. Instead of taking a lot of time and being very personal with each drawing, you are trying to do it fast and efficiently, so it might feel strange. Even if you find a way to draw eyes that you like, it will probably keep changing a bit over time to adjust to the things you like. That is why a lot of concept artist don’t have a distinct style, because they need to keep adapting and iterating, but even they, if you look very, very closely, you will find they have some things in common in each piece they draw. If you want to draw eyes in a specific style or like a specific artist that you like. The key is to identify what elements they use and how they are simplified.

So really, don’t worry too much about it, just have fun experimenting and try not to get too fixated in one way of drawing eyes, since chances are it will change over time, and you won’t even notice.

9.- THANK YOU

This is the first tutorial that I have ever posted anywhere, so I hope I was able to explain it well enough. Also, English is not my first language, but I wanted to give it a try, so if there are some grammatical errors feel free to tell me in the comments.

Thank you for reading to the very end, I really hope this tutorial was of some help to you, if it did, feel free to give it a heart or to check out my stuff on @ricardo_konart (IG) and @RicardoKonart (twitter). See you later!

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