5 Tips on How to Draw Eyes Easily

Drawing Eyes

Eyes are very important in character design. Learn tips on how to draw eyes for beginners by using the "eye mask" technique to make realistic expressions!



1. Deciding Eye Position

The first step to drawing eyes easily on a face will be figuring out where they go.  In an average realistic adult face, the eyes are in the middle of the face. Usually, the pupils are sitting on the midway line.

Eyes are a good tool to measure the proportions of the face. In the front view, the eyes are one eye apart from each other and one eye apart from the edge. Due to bangs or sideburns the distance might appear smaller.

Don’t worry too much about symmetry. Keep flipping the drawing horizontally until both ways look right. Human faces are not perfectly symmetrical.

From the side view, the positioning of the eyeball inside the eye socket makes the eye seem tilted.


Eyeball position on a realistic adult male face


Stylised proportions are derived from realistic ones so the pointers can still be applied and deformed when doing a style like anime. Even when the eyes are bigger, a structure that can be imagined in a 3D space should be established. This is the basis to make the eyes look 3-dimensional and imagine them from various angles.


Anime stylistic eyes on a face


2. Eyes from Different Angles


From other angles eyes might appear flat if drawn in a straight line. The front area of the face is a little bent and the eyes appear slanted.


You need to draw eyes that follow the planes of the face to make it more realistic


The form of the eye changes when the pupil moves. Don’t be afraid to break up the eye shape to make it dynamic. The pupil moves on the spherical eyeball, not on a straight plane.


How the eye looks when eyeballs are changing direction

Especially when drawing eyes from a ¾ view it is important to imagine the spherical space they move on. Keep the thickness of the eyelids in mind. Stylised approaches might leave out some anatomical details, but the shape should still act like the realistic eye in order to achieve a 3-dimensional result.


Accounting for the eyelids even when drawing simple eyes


When the face is in a semi profile you might only see the tip of the eyebrow and eyelash. Turning it more reveals there is no space between eye and eye bridge. This indicates a strong change of direction to where the head is facing before it turns into a full profile.


How to draw the profile of the face at different angles


3. Drawing Expressions


Imagining an eye mask can help to unify the features around the eyes so that they don’t just float on the face. The eye mask makes it easy to imagine eyes at different angles. Making the features work together helps to enhance the readability of the intended emotion.


Use an eye mask shape to help you draw eyes easily


Eyebrows are a very powerful tool to show emotions. Sometimes it can help to exaggerate the eyebrows even if it might stray away from a realistic approach. Bringing eyebrows down to the eyes makes a strong expression. The effect grows when the expression is preceded or succeeded by a contradictory movement to show the full range of squash and stretch.


Exaggerating eyebrow movement to make more expressive eyes


Facial muscles are your best friend! Even just slightly indicating them can instantly strengthen the expression.

Pushing an expression even a little bit, by showing more squash or pushing the features, is what separates a lifeless copy of a photo and an expressive drawing.


Be careful about showing too much white around the pupils. Use it to show surprise, horror or danger. Inadequate use can easily lead to a crazy look that puts people off.


4. Eye shapes


Eyes have a broad variety of shapes. Avoid symmetry in order to make them less static and boring. Experiment with different placements of the peak of the eyelid, eye shape, eyebrows, eyelashes, and pupils. See eyes and eyebrows as a set to make them work together not separately. Men’s eyebrows are usually closer to the eye.

With age the eyes get droopier, and more and more wrinkles appear.

Different eye drawings of different eye shapes: Asian, caucasian, male, female, older, and younger


Take into consideration what you really need. Simple eyes might work better for animation or a style that is more based on movement. Illustration and close-ups might require a more detailed approach.

Personally, I try to avoid spending too much time on my eyes so that I don’t forget the rest of the body. However, in an emotional drawing, giving special attention to the eyes might be a good idea.


Anime eyes and simple cartoon style eyes


It’s helpful to imagine the eyes as a closed shape even if you decide to leave gaps at the corners of the eyes. This makes it easier to indicate volume and draw the eyes at different angles, even if you are going with a cute, cartoon eye.


5. Details and How to Colour Eyes


The cornea is a transparent lens covering the iris and pupil. It has an effect on the shape of the eye. Be careful with the position of the pupil from different angles.

Big pupils indicate looking at something far away or the eyes adjusting to a dark situation, among other things. Small pupils occur during bright light or looking at something from up close.


Parts of the eyeball and how the cornea reacts to looking at things


Colouring the eyes generally depends on the lighting situation and what style you want to go with. Consider these four basic steps. Making the white of the eye darker makes the highlights pop even more.


Step by step coloring process for eyes


Sometimes it can be interesting to experiment with different colour accents and softer/harder edges for the iris.


I hope this tutorial was helpful.


About the artist
Miyuli is a freelance illustrator and comic artist.


Interested in character art & design or what it takes to become a character designer?
Check out the link below!

Ultimate Beginner's guide to Character Art & Design