The eye is a very special part of us. It makes us unique because you will never find the same eye another time in the world. It’s no surprise that every artist wants to know, how to draw a realistic eye. Especially for beginners, that can be very challenging. That’s why I created this tutorial. I want to show you, how to draw a realistic eye, step by step.
How to draw an eye – Timelapse video
Before we start I will show you what you will learn in this tutorial.
A video says more than a thousand words, that’s why I created a video, in which you can see the creation process of the eye in a time-lapse drawing video. I hope you enjoy it.
In the next paragraphs I will explain you step by step How I created this realistic eye drawing.
If you are a beginner or you want to learn all the important basics before you go on with my tutorial. I recommend you to start with the drawing lesson about hatching.
I will show you, How I to draw a realistic eye.
Here you can see the portrait, that I am working on at the moment. I recorded almost every minute of the creation process. In the following paragraphs, you will see how you can draw a realistic eye, step by step.
Starting with the fine lines – Charcoal B
At the beginning, you have to start with the so-called “outlines“. Sometimes they are very difficult to draw because there are only a few “real lines” in the drawing. The most of the times you will only find something like shadowed areas. Because of that, you shouldn’t draw very hard lines but soft lines and soft hatching, which shows the vague proportions of the eye.
In the following picture, you can see the very soft lines on the paper (I know you almost don’t see them :D). Maybe you want to know how you get the right proportions. There are different techniques and I will explain them soon in another tutorial. Today I want to focus on the step by step creation of a realistic eye.
First, draw the darkest parts!
When I started drawing I thought that you have to start with the brightest parts and do the dark parts at the end. Now I do exactly the opposite. I start with the darkest parts to put an “anchor”.
Like this, I find the right shading tones much better, because I see what the darkest part is and what the brightest part is (paper). In the following pictures you can see, step by step, how I start.
At first, I use the Pierre Noire 3B Pencil from Conté a Paris. I start very softly with the first layer. Drawing that soft with a very dark pencil is pretty hard and you have to practice a lot!
The First Layer
With the first layer, I start at the darkest parts of the pupil. I also use the first layer to build the form of the pupil. Here you can see that the first outlines don’t have to be 100% exact because you built the perfect form step by step with hatching.
If you don’t know what hatching is, and how you do it correctly, you should definitely read my tutorial about hatching: Realistic Pencil Drawing Techniques – Hatching
After the first layer I still go on with the Pierre Noire 3B, but this time I start to go darker and darker. At the upper part of the pupil, you can see how it gets darker.
Slowly I also start with some other parts of the eye. I think one of the hardest parts when you draw an eye is, to get the forms right. A very little difference of the eye form can cause a completely different expression. So please take your time to get the form as good as you can.
Create some softer parts with charcoal
After creating the dark parts you can slowly start to draw some brighter areas and some transitions. In this tutorial, I separate the different pencils in different steps. That doesn’t mean that you should always stay with only one pencil. You always have to go back to correct different parts or to mix layers.
A good habit is to have all your pencils in one hand to pick them with the other. In the following pictures, you can see how the parts in the middle of the eye start to get a bit darker.
Make corrections with the eraser
At any time of the drawing, you should make corrections with the eraser to get the forms and the shadows as good as possible. Please don’t underestimate the use of the eraser. I use the eraser very often and it is one of the most important tools for an artist. In the following picture, you can see how I use a kneaded eraser and a pencil eraser.
Using the eraser in the right way is another topic that I will explain in one of the coming tutorials.
I can recommend the following erasers for your drawings:
Create the eyeball with graphite pencils
One thing I tell all beginners, that want to know how to draw a realistic eye is, that an eyeball is not completely white. The whitest spot is normally where the eye reflects the light. The other parts of the eyeball can be really dark!
For the darkest parts of the eyeball, you can use charcoal pencils or sometimes even the Pierre Noire pencil. For the brighter parts, you can use different graphite pencils. I normally use the 3H, HB and F pencil to do that.
Start with the darkest parts and continue layer by layer with brighter pencils.
For the brightest parts, you should use the 3H or the white paper color.
In the following picture, you can see the slight shadows that make the eyeball look round.
Drawing the skin around the eye
The eyeball is finished for now. Later I will add some more details to get closer and closer to the result that I want. Before that, I draw the surrounding skin. When the skin is bright, I normally start with the HB Charcoal pencil. Sometimes I also start with darker ones, when the skin is very dark in some places.
For beginners, it is always easier to start with a bit brighter pencils, because you can go darker step by step. As a pro, you can start directly with the darkest pencils for the darkest parts. If you want to draw realistic skin, you have to know how to hatch. Again I want to direct you to my hatching tutorial:
After creating a vague form with the HB Charcoal pencil, I go on with the B Charcoal pencil to create some more depth. With the B Charcoal pencil, I also start to draw the form of the face.
You have to be very careful when you draw the proportions. Draw the darker parts step by step very slowly. When you realize that you drew something wrong, correct it with the kneaded eraser.
Draw the dark lines and correct them with the eraser
In my opinion, one of the hardest parts is to draw the dark lines around the eye. If they are not 100% correct, the expression on the face will be completely wrong.
So built them slowly layer by layer with the 3B Charcoal pencil. Use a very sharp eraser tip to correct the form until it is like you want it. This can take a few turns but it is worth to do the correction.
If you have problems to get a sharp pencil tip you should check my, How to sharpen pencils tutorial
Now it is time to draw the very fine details on the skin. You won’t see everything in a photograph, that why you should go to a museum to watch the art in real life. Only there you can see all the details that the artist drew. To create some slight details you can use the 3H, HB or F graphite pencils.
Like always every situation is different and sometimes you also have to use darker pencils. In art, there is no exact way, because every picture is very different.
At the end of a part, you have to do a lot of correction loops to bring it to excellence! Only like this, you will learn how to draw a realistic eye. Use all your pencils and different erasers to go closer and closer to the end result.
Go away from your drawing for some time, look again and correct errors that you see. Look from far and from close and correct again. Like this, you have to go on until you are happy with your drawing. I know an artist will never say that it’s perfect, but there has to be a point to stop :D.
Now it’s your turn! I hope my tutorial will help you to draw a realistic eye. Never give up! Sometimes it looks shitty at the beginning and later very good :). Just go on and on and do correction until you will be where you want to be.
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All the Best