How to Draw Realistic Eyes

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Learn how to draw realistic eyes from three different points of perspective: front view, 3/4 view, and profile.

For navigation convenience, here are links to jump to the eyes in 3/4-perspective and in profile view.

Otherwise let's get started with the frontal viewpoint.

How to Draw Realistic Eyes - Part 1: Frontal View

1.1 - First Sketch

Begin with a simple sketch of your eyes.
Make them equally large and leave enough space in between them so that another eye would fit in there.

Sketch in the eyelids with a curve above and below the eye. The upper one should be a bit larger. The eyelids may look a bit too heavy now, but that will change later.

All eyes are a little bit different. My eyes have a fold along their top, where the skin of the upper eye socket meets the eyelid.
At the outer corner of the eye this fold rises steeply for a short distance, but then it cuts across the eyelid almost horizontally.

Now erase the part of the eyelid which is hidden below the fold.

Outline the eyebrows above the fold.
Generally, eyebrows are a bit thicker at the beginning and become thinner towards the end.

How to Draw Realistic Eyes - 1.2: Eye Details

Now it is time to pay close attention to the subtleties of the shape between the eyelids. We have to modify our simple almond and make it more realistic.

Here are the changes I made:
- I lowered the outer corners of the eye a tiny little bit
- I raised the upper eyelid slightly and made it flatter towards the inner corner and more curved towards the outer corner
- I added a small bulge at the inner eye corner, and made the lower eyelid curve a bit inwards right before it

To catch these subtleties is perhaps the most difficult part, so take your time.

Draw the lacrimal caruncle as a small, round shape at the inner corner of the eye. Separate the small bulge in which it lies with a curved line from the rest of the eye. This is where a bit of tissue grows at the eye's side.

Then add the iris. Usually, when looking straight ahead, the upper part of the iris is hidden below the eyelid, but at the bottom there is a bit of space between the iris and the lower eyelid.
Take care to give equal size to both irises and to place them right into the center.

Add the pupils into the center of the irises.
Again, watch out that both have the same size and really look into the same direction. This may require a bit of erasing and redrawing.
Don't draw them immediately in black. Sketch them light and cautiously first, and once you are satisfied you can fill them in.

Outline the edges of the eyelids with a thin line, running closely along top and bottom of the eye.

How to Draw Realistic Eyes - 1.3: Eyelashes, Eyebrows, and Shading

Now you can add the eyelashes.
Due to perspective shortening, the eyelashes in the eye's middle look shorter, because they are pointing more into our direction. Towards the corners of the eye the eyelashes appear longer, because they are pointing towards the sides. Draw them all slightly curved.
The eyelashes of the lower eyelid are generally shorter and also fewer in number.

Fill the irises with many little curls until you get such a texture. Then take an eraser and lighten up the curves below the eyes. Otherwise they look too tired.
Do the same with the outline for the eyebrows. Once they are very faint, draw in the eyebrows with many short and curved strokes of your pencil. Let the lines flow with the natural growth direction of the hair, which is from the inside to the outside.
You can also add two faint lines between the eyes to hint at the beginning of the nose.

Finally you can apply a bit of shading.
Remember to also shade the eyeballs and not just the skin around them.

Now we move on to draw eyes in the next perspective.

How to Draw Realistic Eyes - Part 2:     3/4 View

In this perspective you only see front eye in its entirety, while the corners of the eye in the back are hidden from view. The inner corner is hidden behind the nose, and the outer corner is hidden behind the eye itself. That's why the eye ends in a curve on the right side.

2.1 - Basic Eye Outline

This is the first rough sketch.
Since we see the eyes from a side angle, they are a bit shortened by the perspective. So don't make them quite as long as you would draw them in front view.

Here I cleaned up the sketchy lines a bit and made the inner eye corner smaller, since it was too large in my first sketch.
I also added a small curve into the nose.

Now let's bring the eyes into their final form.
The eye on the left was still a bit too long, and so I shortened the inner and outer corner of the eye. I also lowered the outer corner of the eye a little bit.

Once you are satisfied with the shape of your eyes, add a curve above and below them. These curves mark the top and bottom of the eyelids.

How to Draw Realistic Eyes - 2.2: Surroundings

The skin on my upper eye socket is hanging down a little bit and creates a fold that covers the top of my eyelids.

For the front eye, let this fold start at the left and cut diagonally across the eyelid, and then curve down a bit at the inner eye corner.
On the other eye, the fold is just a curve. I recommend you look at the next picture for this, because I cleaned the lines up and you can see it better.

Okay, so here are the cleaned lines for the folds above my eyes.
Erase the eyelid's upper part that is hidden below the fold, before moving on.

Draw a thin line closely along the top and the bottom of each eye-shape, to outline the edge of the eyelids. For the eye in the back, the lines have to disappear behind the eye. They have to wrap around it. You can achieve this look by letting the lines curve around the eye's edge and touch it from the side.

Since the eyes aren't hovering in empty space, we have to outline the head structure around them. We do this just for the eye in the back, because we can't see the face's edge on the other side.

Draw a bulge for the eyebrow above the eye and a line going down from the eye's right edge at the bottom.

How to Draw Realistic Eyes - 2.3: Outlining Eyebrows and Eye Details

Now lightly draw in the shapes for the eyebrows. Place them closely above the upper eyelid. The eyebrow in the back should disappear at the point where the bulge is at its outermost point.

Then add the small lacrimal caruncle to the eye's inner corner. Close of the corner with a curved line afterwards.

Move your eraser over the curves below the eyes to make them a bit fainter. You can also sketch in a few lines to point out the nose's edge on the left and how it transitions into the eye socket.

Add the iris as a big circle into both eyes. In a normal position, its top is covered by the upper eyelid, but at the bottom there is usually still a bit of space between iris and eyelid. The iris of the eye in the back is also partially hidden behind the nose. Afterwards, place the pupils as two smaller circles into the large irises.
This almost never looks right on the first attempt, so be prepared to erase and correct until it looks good. For example, the pupil in the back is still too large in this picture! I made it a bit smaller in the next step.

How to Draw Realistic Eyes - 2.4: Last Details and Shading

In this step I added the eyebrows, eyelashes, and a pattern into the iris.

Let's start with the eyebrows.
Erase the eyebrow's outline until it is very faint and hard to see. Then fill it with many small, curved strokes of your pencil that flow in the natural direction of the hair's growth, which is from inside to outside.

Draw the eyelashes as a row of curved lines along the eyelids. At the center of the eyes, they usually appear shorter, because they are pointing directly towards us; but towards the outer eye corners they appear longer. On the lower eyelid the lashes are much shorter than above.

Now you can take your pencil and fill the irises with many little coils until you get a pattern as shown in the picture.

Now you can consider to apply a bit of shading to your drawing.
Just remember to also shade the eyeballs themselves, because they are often forgotten.

How to Draw Realistic Eyes - Part 3: Side View

3.1: First Sketch

Start the eye as a triangular shape with a curved front.

Then lightly outline the larger shape of the eyeball around it.
It is good to remember that the whole eye actually has the shape of a sphere, although just a small part of it is visible.

How to Draw Realistic Eyes - 3.2: Fold and Eyelid

Add the fold, where the skin from the upper eye socket meets the eyelid.

Then erase the upper part of the eyeball that is hidden in the eye socket, and outline the upper eyelid.

Don't draw forehead and nose as shown here, because they are too close to the eye, and I moved them a bit more to the right in the next step.

How to Draw Realistic Eyes - 3.3: Eyebrow, Nose & Forehead

In this picture I moved the outline of the forehead and the nose a bit more to the right to make space for the eyebrow. So you can draw the outline for nose and forehead as shown here.

Then add the eyebrow afterwards.
Seen from the side, the eyebrow appears to be shorter and curves down at the beginning quite a bit (at least my eyebrows do.)

Now outline the lower eyelid.
Draw a line along the eye's bottom, and hide the largest part of the eyeball's bottom under the lacrimal sac.

How to Draw Realistic Eyes - 3.4: Iris and Pupil

Draw in the iris.
When you look at it from the side, it has not the shape of a circle, but of an ellipse. While looking straight ahead, it usually touches the eyelid at the top, but leaves a bit of space between itself and the eyelid at the bottom.

Add the pupil afterwards. Don't let it touch the right edge, even if the eye is looking straight ahead. The transparent cornea is still in front of it.

How to Draw Realistic Eyes - 3.5: Eyelashes, Eyebrow, and Shading

Now let's move on to the eyebrow.
Move your eraser over its outline, until it becomes very faint, and then fill in many short, curved pencil strokes that run from the inner to the outer corner.
Also add the eyelashes, making them shorter at the eye's corner, because they are pointing more towards us at this point, and longer towards the eye's front.

Fill the iris with coils of light Grey, until you have a nice texture.
In the end, you can apply a bit of shading to bring out the shadows around the eye and nose.

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