Whether you’re creating a portrait or working on a comic strip, every artist needs to know how to draw eyes. Since there are so many styles and options for eye drawing, we’ll cover how to draw realistic eyes, anime eyes, and cartoon eyes. 

Ready to get started? You’ll need the following materials: 

  • Drawing paper or a sketchbook
  • Drawing pencils
  • An outlining pen
  • An eraser 
  • A reference photo of realistic eyes

How to Draw Realistic Eyes

Though learning how to draw realistic eyes may seem like a challenge, it is simpler than it seems. Realistic eyes are created by drawing basic, easy-to-identify shapes, and with a little patience, you’ll be able to draw them in no time! 

Realistic eyes by Skillshare student Mandy Lay.
Realistic eyes by Skillshare student Mandy Lay.

Step 1: Make Measurements Based Upon Your Reference Photo

You’ll begin by making some measurements based upon your reference photo. This will ensure that your eye drawing is realistic in both composition and perspective when it’s finished. 

Place a piece of blank paper under your reference photo and line the top of it up with the rim of the eyes in the photo. From there, make marks to show the edges of the eyelashes, the ends of the sclera (also known as the whites of the eyes), and the outer and inner edges of the tear ducts for each eye. These measurements will serve as your starting points when drawing your eyes. 

Measure based upon your reference photo to ensure that your eye drawing is the correct size.
Measure based upon your reference photo to ensure that your eye drawing is the correct size.

Step 2: Transfer Your Measurements to Your Drawing Paper

Next, place your measurement paper on top of a piece of drawing paper and begin forming the basic lines and shapes of your realistic eye drawing. Using a light touch, you will create a curved line from the inside tear duct measurements to the outside sclera measurements, and draw a “flipped up” line at the end to show where the eyelashes will be in the drawing’s final form. 

Your measurements will ensure the correct shape and size for your eye drawing. 
Your measurements will ensure the correct shape and size for your eye drawing. 

Step 3: Draw the Eye and Eyelid Shape

Be sure to carefully consider the angles of the eyes in your reference photos and mimic them as you begin to form the curved lines of both the eyes and eyelids. You’ll want to use a second curved line to draw the eyelids, being mindful of the thickness of this feature. It may not look like much just yet, but in a few more steps, the eyes will begin to appear more realistic and familiar!

Continue to finesse your eye shape and add eyelids based upon your reference photo. 
Continue to finesse your eye shape and add eyelids based upon your reference photo. 

Step 4: Draw the Irises

In this step, you’ll focus on creating the irises. Many illustrators suggest focusing on the negative space—the whites of the eyes in this instance—to ensure that the irises are the correct shape and size. 

To utilize negative space, look at the reference photo and pull out shapes that you can transfer onto your drawing paper. Within the tear ducts, for example, there is a small triangular shape that can be included to help form the boundaries of the sclera and irises. 

Use negative space to inform the placement and size of your irises.
Use negative space to inform the placement and size of your irises.

Step 5: Draw the Eyebrows

Now that your realistic eye drawing has the basic shapes and components of the eyeball, it’s time to add eyebrows. Again, keeping your reference photo in mind, begin with the bottom line of each eyebrow. Once you’re sure that the placement is correct and that you have enough space between your eyeballs and the eyebrow, draw the top line of the eyebrow and connect it to the lower line at the outer apex. 

Draw eyelashes and pupils to complete your eye drawing outline. 
Draw eyelashes and pupils to complete your eye drawing outline. 

Step 6: Draw Eyelashes and Pupils

With your eyebrows now in place, draw eyelashes and pupils to finish the outline of your realistic eye drawing. In step two, you created a “flipped up” line to hold space for your eyelashes. Now, fill the eyelashes in according to your reference photo. Then, add a smaller circular shape on the inside of the iris to show the pupils. 

Start shading with a light wash over your entire drawing.
Start shading with a light wash over your entire drawing.

Step 6: Add Shading

With your eye drawing outline complete, you can begin adding detail through shading. Start by adding a light wash shade over your entire drawing. 

Shading brings your realistic eye drawing to life!
Shading brings your realistic eye drawing to life!

Once your initial shading is in place, you can go back and add additional layers, where needed, based upon your reference photo. You can also use a tissue or a light touch with your eraser to blend the shading together; especially near the outer edges of the eyelashes and eyebrows. 

When you’re finished adding your desired details, your drawing is complete. 
When you’re finished adding your desired details, your drawing is complete. 

Step 8: Add Final Details and Finish Your Drawing

When you’re happy with your shading, finalize your realistic eye drawing by adding as much detail as you’d like. You may want to use an outline pen or even a white gel pen to include more nuanced, lifelike details. 

Shading brings your realistic eye drawing to life!
Shading brings your realistic eye drawing to life!

How to Draw Anime Eyes

Anime eyes are very different from realistic eyes. Instead of being technically correct, anime eyes are used to create life and expression within its characters. Anime eyes are rarely to scale and often have out-of-this-world features such as exaggerated eyelashes or eyebrows. 

Examples of anime eyes by Skillshare instructor Enrique Plazola.
Examples of anime eyes by Skillshare instructor Enrique Plazola.

Step 1: Draw the Top Eyelid

For anime eyes, you’ll begin by drawing the guideline for the top eyelid and you’ll build your anime eye drawing from there. 

A thick, curved line is perfect and, though you can use your drawing pencil, pens and markers are appropriate, as well. 

Start your anime eye drawing by forming the top of the eyelid. 
Start your anime eye drawing by forming the top of the eyelid. 

Step 2: Draw the Eyelashes

Building upon the line you drew in step one, fan the right side of your line outward to create the angle of the eyelashes, then fill it in with two triangular shapes placed next to each other on the base side. This will hold space for your anime eye’s eyelashes as the drawing continues to develop. 

Next, add eyelashes!
Next, add eyelashes!

Step 3: Draw the Iris

Since anime eyes typically have more expression and less detail than other styles of eye drawing, you can move right along to drawing the iris. In this step, you won’t be filling the iris in, but you will want to create the oval shape and use your drawing tool to create a thick line around the outside of the iris. 

Next, you’ll begin to draw your iris.
Next, you’ll begin to draw your iris.

Step 4: Draw the Pupil and Add Highlights

Now, draw your pupil and add highlights within the eye. The pupil is formed in the center of the iris that you drew in step three, and as you’re filling it in, be sure to leave a small, white circular space in the middle to create a highlight. You can also add more small circles to create highlights within the iris itself. 

The pupil and highlights come next in your anime eye drawing. 
The pupil and highlights come next in your anime eye drawing. 

Step 5: Finish the Outer Shape of the Eye

Anime-style art rarely adheres to conventional definitions for body parts and space. In anime eyes, you will often see “open space” where lines that you’d typically expect to be connected are not. To finish the shape of your eye, you’ll draw a curved line downward from the outer last lane and underneath the iris area. Though you can connect this line, it’s not necessary. 

Your anime eye is coming together!
Your anime eye is coming together!

Step 6: Draw the Eyebrow

Anime eyebrows also have a unique style and allow for ample creative freedom. To continue your anime eye drawing, draw an angled line above the eye and make the inner edge just slightly thicker than the outer. 

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Step 7: Add Upper Eyelashes

Before your eye drawing is complete, add eyelashes. You can add as many or as few as you’d like, and they should mostly take the form of small, curved lines coming from the upper lash line toward the eyebrow. You can create the eyelash lines a bit thicker at the base of the lash line, and you may also want to experiment with different distances between the individual lashes. 

Caption: Just a few upper lashes make a big impact.
Caption: Just a few upper lashes make a big impact.

Step 8: Add Lower Eyelashes

The final step in completing your anime eye drawing is to add the lower eyelashes. Lower lashes are typically less abundant than top lashes, but follow the same general pattern—simply curve them downward. Once you’ve added your final eyelashes, you’ve successfully learned how to draw anime eyes!

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How to Draw Cartoon Eyes

Now that you’re versed in realistic eyes and anime eyes, you may be wondering how to draw cartoon eyes. Cartoon eyes are arguably the most versatile eyes to draw because cartoon characters often have big, diverse personalities and expressions. 

Examples of cartoon eyes by Skillshare instructor Laura Pennock.
Examples of cartoon eyes by Skillshare instructor Laura Pennock.

Step 1: Choose Your Eye Style

Before you can begin your cartoon eye drawing, determine what type of cartoon eye your character needs. Because cartoon eyes aren’t subject to the confines of realism, you can create a happy eye, an angry eye, a sad eye, and more! For this exercise, we’ll draw a happy cartoon eye.

Skillshare instructor Laura Pennock draws an easy, happy eye.
Skillshare instructor Laura Pennock draws an easy, happy eye.

Step 2: Draw Your Character’s Cheek 

Now that you’ve chosen your cartoon eye style, begin by creating the character’s cheek. This gives the eye a place to sit and also helps to dictate the size of the eye. You can create your character’s cheek with a simple, upside down curved line. 

Start your happy cartoon eye by drawing the character’s cheek. 
Start your happy cartoon eye by drawing the character’s cheek. 

Step 3: Draw the Shape of the Eye

With your cheek guideline in place, you’ll draw the shape of the eye. Simply bring a second oval-shaped line over the top your cheek line to form the basis of the eye. 

Next, draw the shape of your cartoon eye with a second oval-shaped line. 
Next, draw the shape of your cartoon eye with a second oval-shaped line. 

Step 4: Draw the Lower Eyelashes

The next step is to draw your character’s lower eyelashes. Draw short, upward swooping lines from the bottom corner of your eye, where it meets the guideline for the character’s cheek. You can include as many lower lashes as you like since cartoon characters are known for having exaggerated features. 

Your cartoon eye isn’t complete without lower lashes!
Your cartoon eye isn’t complete without lower lashes!

Step 5: Draw the Pupil

With your lower lashes in place, it’s time to draw your cartoon eye’s pupil. Draw a circle in the middle of your eye and fill it in about 75% of the way. You will want to leave part of the pupil white—a small corner is more than enough—to create highlights. This gives your cartoon eye character and depth. 

The addition of the pupil helps the cartoon eye look a bit more familiar. 
The addition of the pupil helps the cartoon eye look a bit more familiar. 

Step 6: Draw the Eyelid

The eyelid is formed with a shallowly curved line that stretches from one side of the eye to the other. You can experiment with the thickness of your eyelid line, as it will also form the basis for the upper lash line, or even choose to create a secondary line to create a little depth. 

The eyelid comes next in your cartoon eye drawing. 
The eyelid comes next in your cartoon eye drawing. 

Step 7: Draw the Upper Lashes

With your eyelid in place as an anchor, draw your character’s upper eyelashes. These eyelashes can be a little longer than the lower lashes and will be upward swooping lines, rather than downward. Again, feel free to include as few or as many lashes as you desire for your character. 

Add upper lashes to give your happy cartoon eye some personality!
Add upper lashes to give your happy cartoon eye some personality!

(Optional) Step 8: Color Your Cartoon Eye

If you’re having too much fun to stop drawing now, try adding some color to your cartoon eye. Color the iris by creating a bright layer around the pupil, or play with eyelid and eyelash colors, too!

Colorful cartoon eyes by Skillshare student Christine Pinnock-Garcia.
Colorful cartoon eyes by Skillshare student Christine Pinnock-Garcia.

Now, Draw Animal Eyes!

How to Draw & Paint Animal Eyes in Watercolor