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How to Draw Eyes (In 3 Easy Steps)

Drawing eyes can certainly be challenging, but it’s one of the most rewarding features of the face to draw. There’s just something so captivating about a detailed eye drawing. 

So we put together this simple step-by-step guide for how to draw eyes. We’ve also included how to draw anime eyes and how to draw cartoon eyes

Simply put, to draw eyes, you first have to figure out their most basic shape. Most eyes are drawn based on the shape of an almond but different eyes have different shapes. Some are more rounded than others, some are hooded, and some are upturned.

eye sketch
by zack nicholas

Drawing eyes and other facial features is also a great way to build up basic drawing skills for beginners since they deal with art fundamentals such as shape, proportion, and lighting.

For more drawing ideas and guides for beginners, see our full post here: 17 Drawing Ideas For Beginners To Warm up and Build Basic Skills

Table of Contents

    Tools You May Need to Draw Eyes

    • Reference photo
    • Hb, 2b, 4b pencils
    • Eraser
    • Blending stump
    • Paper
    • Tools for measuring (Optional)

    As simple as drawing eyes may sound, you’ll still need the proper tools to get started. It only takes the basics, a reference photo so you’ll know what you’re doing, three pencils with different grades to help with sketching and shading, erasers, blending stump, and obviously, paper.

    For the eye drawing I did in this post I used a reference photo, HB pencil, 4B pencil, blending stump, and kneaded eraser

    You can choose to have a ruler as well to make measurement easier and more accurate, but you can also just eyeball it. Pun intended.

    How to Draw Eyes Simple Guide

    Tips for How to Draw Eyes for Beginners

    -Find a detailed eye picture for reference
    -Start with a light and loose outline (since you may re-do or alter as you proceed)
    -Continually step back and move physically away from your drawing to see if the proportions match your reference image
    -Constantly check size of pupil/iris and compare it to angle of eyelids and distance from the corners of the eye

    -Don’t worry if your eye drawing doesn’t look good in the beginning (this is called the ugly duckling phase). Generally, drawings only start to look good once you begin adding in more details, shading, and highlights

    -Take your time and have fun…believe it or not this eye drawing I did for this post took me ~35 minutes

    An eye doesn’t necessarily follow standard shapes and sizes so constantly check angle of eye lids and eye shape against each other

    It may even help to physically trace your pencil against the reference image in order to get the feeling and angle of a specific line such as the eye lid lines.

    *Tip for getting the shape right: Focus on eye lid line, top of lid, pupil, bottom of lid, and the corners of the eye

    Step 1: Draw an Outline Based on your Reference Photo

    Using a lighter pencil (usually an HB pencil) draw an outline based on the major shapes and lines of the eye such as:

    • Pupil
    • Eyelid
    • Eye lid fold

    This will likely be the hardest part of drawing an eye. Again, this is a rough outline that you will usually rework to get closer and closer in accuracy to your reference image.

    During this step is where you work to get the correct size, shape, and proportions of the eye.

    You don’t want to rush this step and then realize when you are putting in your details later that your proportions are off.

    Step 2: Add in light details

    Once you are happy with your eye shape and dimensions you can then move onto the next step to begin adding some light details.

    During this step you will still use your HB pencils and try to mark the shapes and areas where you will be later adding in your darker shading or your highlights.

    You will see in my drawing above that I have mapped out where I am going to draw the eyelashes and add my darker shades as well as where I will place the main highlight wihin the pupil.

    Often times if you jump right into adding your darkest darks it may cause issues later if you need to erase them since they likely won’t be easy to completely erase.

    Step 3: Add Shading

    Image of eye drawing ~10 minutes into this 3rd step
    Final image of my eye drawing – you can see that I added some darker shades as well some smaller details

    Now is the time where you can go back over and begin adding your shading to make your eye drawing really pop.

    Since you have it all mapped out during the last step with an HB pencil you can now go back over it with a darker pencil like a 4B pencil and begin adding those darker shades and smaller details.

    For the highlights (such as that on the pupil), do not draw anything in that area – simply let the highlight be represented by the blank whiteness of your paper

    How to Draw Anime Eyes

    Anime eyes are different from realistic eyes. In most cases, they’re a lot bigger, their shapes are simpler, and oftentimes they don’t require individual lashes. That said, it can still be a challenge to some so here’s a guide to help you out:

    Jump to >>> Our Full Post on How to Draw Anime Eyes

    Step 1: Draw the Outline

    As with drawing a realistic eye, figure out the most basic shape first. The shapes of anime eyes are simple. Often these are used to represent or accentuate an anime character’s personality.

    The most common eye shapes for animes are:

    ShapeWhat They Usually Mean
    Large, round Optimistic, innocent, young, playful
    Square, rectangularSerious, mature, aloof
    Small, sharp, triangularUninterested, been through hardships, emotionless
    Anime eyes often add to the portrayal of the character’s personality.

    To begin drawing an anime eye, lay out the shape first. Then sketch out the eye based on the shape.

    Step 2: Iris and Pupil

    Once you have the outline, draw the iris and the pupil. Unlike realistic eyes where the iris and pupil are in a perfect circle, anime iris’ are shaped like an oblong. In some cases, they will be a circle, but most of the time they are oblong.

    Step 3: Upper and Lower Eyelid

    Most anime eyes don’t actually have eyelids, but if you want your eyes to look more detailed, you can add a small thin line right above the eye for an eyelid.

    Step 4: Add Eyelashes

    Anime eyes usually just have a thick outline to represent the eyelashes, and even when the eyelashes are drawn, they’re never as detailed as the lashes of realistic eyes.

    In this case, if you want to give your anime eyes lashes, start by adding more thickness to the upper outline of the eye. Then add a small curved line in the corner of the eye. You can choose to add only one lash (as people will generally get the idea that it’s supposed to be the lashes), or you can add more than one.

    Just make sure not to add too many as this will start to look realistic, which won’t match with the rest of the eye’s style.

    Step 5: Add Detail, Shading, and Highlight

    The last step is to add details like shading and highlights. Since this is an anime eye, you won’t need to add too much shading. As for highlights, you can add them to your pupils and iris to give the impression that the eyes are wet, much like real eyes.

    How to Draw Cartoon Eyes

    Cartoon eyes, though seemingly simple, are a lot more complex than realistic and anime eyes. Both realistic and anime eyes follow a specific and distinctive style, but for cartoons, the style can generally be a bit diverse.

    For simplicity’s sake, we will go with the classic cartoon eyes that you often see in Disney or Cartoon Network.

    Jump to >> Our detailed post on how to draw cartoon eyes with guides for different styles

    Step 1: Draw Outline

    As with the others, begin with an outline. This is much easier than anime and realistic eyes because it’s literally just a shape. Most of them are oblongs but some are round and some are even square.

    Step 2: Add the Pupil

    While there are definitely cartoons with iris’, the classic cartoons feature eyes with just the black part of the eye, the pupil. So after you draw the outline, add the pupil in the center of the eye.

    If you want to add a pupil, you can simply draw around the pupil and you’ll have an iris.

    Step 5: Add Eyelashes

    Most cartoon characters don’t have eyelashes, but some do (case and point: SpongeBob). So ultimately, it all comes down to you and whether you want to add lashes or not. If you do choose to add lashes, similar to the anime eyes, draw them in separate sections, and don’t add too many of them.

    H3: Step 4: Add Detail, Shading, and Highlight

    The last step is to add details. Cartoon eyes typically don’t have that much detail, you can still add a few things to make the eye really pop. For instance, don’t forget that white little dot at the corner of the pupil. This tiny detail can help bring life to the character you’re drawing.

    You can also add a little bit of shade underneath the eye to either give a 3D impression or indicate that the character is tired. It’s all up to you.

    Where Do Eyes Go on the Face?

    The eyes sit below our foreheads and just right above our noses. For accurate measures, when you’re drawing the face, divide it into three equal parts. Our eyes are found in the middle part of the face.

    Eye Size

    The size of the eye is approximately 1/5th of the width of the head. To measure this, start first by dividing the head’s width equally into 5 parts. This can also help you with the placement of the eyes.

    Eye Placement

    Once you’ve divided the width of the head into five equal parts, it’ll be easier to know the placement of the eyes. The side of the head is roughly an eye in width and the space between your eyes is also the width of the eye.

    Of course, for anime and cartoon this can be a bit different as they’re more exaggerated.

    Thanks for reading! Hope this article helped. Check out our other articles!

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