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How to Draw a Realistic Eye - Step by Step

An illustration of a finished realistic eye

Drawing eyes! You either love it or you hate it. But a staple of learning art fundamentals is drawing realistic eyes over and over on any surface you can get your drawing medium on. Sometimes they can look tricky, but don’t worry! The basic eye is actually quite simple, and can be broken down into 9 steps. So, here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to draw a realistic eye!

If you’re an educator, we have a worksheet on this topic which you can download for FREE on our teachers pay teachers page!

Step 1 - Draw a Circle.

Step 1 of drawing a realistic eye: a circle is drawn

Keep in mind that it’s called an eyeball, not an eye circle! We need to be thinking in a 3D space, so we need to remember that eyes are spheres. Our eyelids curve around the eyeball, so it’s much easier to draw the full eyeball first before we add on the rest of the elements. But make sure you draw this lightly -- it’ll be erased later!

Step 2 - Draw the iris and pupil.

Step 2 of drawing a realistic eye: two more smaller, concentric circles are drawn within the first

Draw two more smaller circles within your first large circle. This will be your iris (the part of your eye that has the colour) and your pupil (the lens, hole, or black part)! What you should have now is an eyeball with no lids, but don’t worry, we’ll get to those in the next step!

Step 3 - Draw the eyelids.

Step 3 of drawing a realistic eye: the top and bottom eyelids are drawn

Make sure your eyelids are the same length as your initial circle. In a relaxed eye, your top lid should cover a little bit of the iris, and the peaks of your eyelids shouldn’t be in the exact same place! The top lid’s peak should be closer to the inner eye, and the bottom lid’s peak should be closer to the outer eye. The bottom eyelid is also straighter, and the top eyelid is more curved.

Step 4 - Draw the corners of the eyes.

Step 4 of drawing a realistic eye: the inner and outer corners of the eye are drawn

They aren’t both the same shape! The inner corner of the eye can be drawn like the letter “C”, and the outer corner can be drawn like a sideways “V” or a lowercase “y”. Remember that the top lid overlaps the bottom lid!

Step 5 - Erase the circle and add your eyelid creases.

Step 5 of drawing a realistic eye: the upper and lower eye creases are drawn

Now it’s time to erase the initial circle! In its place, you can add an upper eyelid crease and a lower one. The lower crease should be a little closer to the eye than the upper one, but it’s usually added to make the eye look more tired, so you can skip this step if you’d like.

Step 6 - Fill in the pupil and mark off the reflections.

Step 6 of drawing a realistic eye: the reflections in the eye are drawn and the pupil is filled

Fill in your pupil completely black, and mark off where you think the reflections in your eye will go. Marking off where they’ll go is important, because if you end up drawing over where you want the eye shine to go, it can be difficult to erase the shading/colouring in the iris!

Step 7 - Add shading within the eye.

Step 7 of drawing a realistic eye: the eye is shaded

Now you can add your shadows within the eye! Shading the iris in a circle that gets lighter towards the center can give a more realistic effect. Make sure to avoid colouring in the area that you marked off for the eye shine! Your shadows on the eyeball shouldn’t go all around the eye -- only underneath the top lid!

💡Tip: Start by shading very lightly and then getting darker and adding more value as you add more layers. Don’t start by pressing too hard -- it won’t be easy to erase if you accidentally make a mistake!

Step 8 - Shade around the eye.

Step 8 of drawing a realistic eye: areas around the eye are shaded

Shade around your eye as well to make it feel as if it belongs on a face! There should be shadow around the eyelids, under the eye, and around the corners of the eye. The shading technique you can see in the example is called cross hatching, which is when you use many small crossed lines to simulate shadow. Feel free to use whatever shading technique you’d like, but softer shading techniques tend to look a little more realistic!

Step 9 - Add your lashes

Step 9 of drawing a realistic eye: the eyelashes are added

Try to make your eyelashes have lots of variety! They should start quite thin near the inner corners of the eye, and get thicker as you move towards the outer corner of the eye. Make sure the eyelashes are also fanned out, and not going straight out of the eye.

An illustration of a finished eye

And there you have it! While the steps can be simple, it still takes practice to get it right. So don’t worry if it’s not perfect on your first go! Keep working at it, and you’ll create gorgeous eyes every time! But if you’d like an extra challenge, try some of these prompts:

If you’re an educator and want more tutorials like these for your classroom, check out our teachers pay teachers page, where you can get worksheets for all kinds of art lessons! If you’re just starting to learn your basics, take a look at our drawing foundations classes, where you can get all your essentials when it comes to being an artist! If you’d like to hone those drawing foundations, check out our realistic drawing classes where you can learn to draw more than just eyes!

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