How Draw a Realistic Eye From the Side

How to Draw a Realistic Eye From the SideHey, you’re reading a detailed step by step tutorial on how to draw a realistic eye from the side, QUARANTINE EDITION!


Since art supplies may be hard to come by during this time, use whatever tools you have or you can even make your own. I’m using a dollar store pencil, a tissue, a homemade blending stump and a kneadable eraser, which you can learn how to make in my other post: How to Make a Kneaded Eraser Putty!

Let’s get started!

Draw the Eyeball

Lightly draw or trace a circle for the eyeball. It doesn’t have to be perfect because we’re only going to use it minimally during the construction process of our eye and then we’ll erase it completely.

Just in case you’re wondering, my circle is 6cm in diameter.

Draw the Cornea

Draw a small bump or cornea in the direction you want the eye to face. I want mine to face the right, so I’ll draw my cornea on the right side.

In terms of sizing, the cornea’s length is roughly half of the eyeball’s diameter (or the length of the radius).

Draw the Iris and Pupil

Now draw the iris by creating a curve that touches the top and bottom of the cornea. Make sure your linework is very light, so you can make changes easily.

Erase part of the eyeball that crosses through the iris/cornea. Then inside the iris, draw a narrow oval for the pupil.

Draw the Eyelids

Now let’s draw the eyelids.

Starting roughly from the center of the eyeball, lightly draw a curved line for the top eyelid. It can cover part of your iris or expose it completely, then wrap the eyelid around the other side of your eyeball.

To draw the bottom lid, create a curve where the two eyelids meet and then continue your stroke toward the bottom of your iris.

Example of a narrow eye (the iris is more exposed at the bottom, rather than the top.

Usually, when our eyes are open, the iris is most exposed at the bottom rather than the top. So if you want to draw narrow eyes, keep that in mind:

Alright, moving on! Right above the top eyelid, draw the eyelid crease. You can use the eyelid shape as a reference or draw a more uniquely shaped crease. Connect that pencil stroke to the top eyelid using a slight curve.

To complete the bottom lid, I’m drawing a stroke that goes almost straight down, but you can angle it out or in if you want.

You can add wrinkles at the corner of the eye or at the end of the eyelid crease if you want.

Bulging eye example

Tip: If you wrap the eyelid skin very close to the eyeball, you can get a bulging eye effect:

Once you’re done, erase the circle guideline and parts of the iris that fall outside the eye-opening.

Eyebrow Placement

Now let’s figure out where to place the eyebrow.

Lines from left to right: Tail, arch, and beginning of eyebrow.

Draw a very faint line at the end of your eye, another line from the cornea’s edge, and then a line that angles out from the eye, similar to the picture above. These are for the tail, arch, and beginning of the eyebrow.

Eyebrows come in all shapes and sizes, so don’t worry too much about this part. They’re just rough guidelines.

Now that we have 3 guidelines in place, we can draw our eyebrow more easily – using them as rough guidelines/boundaries.

You can draw your eyebrow lower or higher than mine if you like, and you can draw it as thick as you want.

Keep your pencil strokes extremely light so that your outline won’t show through later – That would take away from the realistic effect that we’re going for.

Once you’re happy with the shape of your eyebrow, erase the 3 guidelines. We’ll add the eyebrow hairs later!

Draw the Highlight/Reflection

Let’s add some highlights in the eye. Highlights are the brightest area of a drawing.

A highlight can be from a nearby window or any light source. Here are a few example shapes:

These shapes are all curved because the eyeball is curved, so a rectangular window, for example, might take on more of a C-shape.

You can come up with your own shapes and stretch them across the eyeball, covering as much or as little space as you like.

If you want, you can add obstructions in the highlight like the silhouette of a person standing in front of the window or some curtains. You can even create a gradient across your highlight to indicate a difference in light intensity.

Anyway, once your highlights are drawn, erase any lines that cross through them, cleaning them up.

I like to use my kneaded eraser for this, by rolling the end till it’s pointy and then dabbing the graphite away. Here’s a closeup:

You can even flatten your eraser to work along an edge:

Throughout the drawing process, try to keep your highlights as clean as possible so that they can stand out.

Shade the Pupil

Time for some shading!

Let’s start with the pupil, shading it really dark, because it’s actually a hole in the iris.

Shade the Iris

Next, we’ll shade the iris. Remember to be very careful around the highlights because we want to keep their edges crisp. You can shade as light or as dark as you want, without going darker than the pupil.

I recommend blending the iris now, using a tissue or blending stump for example, so it looks more smooth before moving on to the next step, or you can skip the blending process if you want.

In the video for this tutorial, I blended my entire drawing at the very end to keep the video short. But I highly recommend blending as you go because it’s a lot easier that way and you can avoid smearing your work during the process.

Here’s the shading/blending process that I like to follow:

I shade the light values, blend it, then add shadows, I try to blend just the shadows so I don’t smear the darker graphite into the lighter areas. Then finally I add details. If I need to do any blending after the details are added, I blend around them, being very careful not to blur or smudge my detail work.

Once detail work is smudged, it may be difficult to recover:

Okay, moving on!

Exaggerated example

My imaginary light source comes from the top right, so I’m shading the top of my iris darker because the iris shape is concave, so the top of the iris is actually facing away from the light, whereas the bottom of the iris, faces toward the light.

As I work my way down, I apply less and less pressure to get a gradient, as the concave iris shape starts curving/facing toward the light.

Also, you can shade the very top of the iris even darker to account for cast shadows from the eyelid.

Something I like to do is shade the rim of my iris darker than the iris body to give it more contrast, but that’s completely up to you.

The large highlight is too overpowering for my liking, so I’m going to make it more subtle by shading a gradient across it, making it dark at the bottom and gradually lighter toward the top, just like the example I showed you earlier:

When you finish shading the iris, make sure that the outline of each highlight is no longer visible. If it still is, you may need to erase it slightly or shade the surrounding area a little darker so it blends in/disappears.

Okay, so that was the simple and quick version for shading an iris. If you want to add more detail, you can apply the following steps…

More Detailed Version of an Iris

This section is optional, but to make the iris look more interesting, you can add some fine detail such as lines that stretch outward from the center.

Use your pencil and eraser to render these lines. If you want to draw straight lines, you can flatten your kneaded eraser, and then just press and lift the graphite away or rub gently. If you curve your lines close to the pupil (the hole inside of the iris), you can make the iris look more 3d.

Try to angle or space out some of your lines randomly and vary the thickness to make them look more natural.

Squiggly lines example. You can use a kneaded eraser or solid eraser for this.

As an alternative, you can draw squiggly shapes if you prefer. I’m drawing this example on the same iris, but I recommend you select only one style or somehow merge the two.

A solid eraser will work too, just make sure that it’s pointy enough. You can cut the eraser to make it as pointy as you require. It’s good to overlap the squiggles too.

After that, use your pencil to darken some of the spaces in between your squiggles to add some depth and contrast.

These lines and squiggles are all part of the iris, so we’ll need to shade them similarly to how the iris was shaded before they were added. Remember we shaded the top of the iris? I’m doing that again, except this time, lighter.

Oh, and shade around the outside your pupil if you want the area to appear deeper.

Anyways, that’s the detailed version of an iris. You can of course stick with the simple version.

Shade the Eye Whites

Let’s shade the eye whites now.

They’re called eye whites, but they’re not exactly white, so don’t be afraid to shade them.

Refer to your light source again (mine’s in the top right) – Subtly shade the eyeball lightest where it faces the light and darker where it faces away from the light.

To shade very smoothly, try to keep pencil strokes close together to eliminate gaps.

Shade the top and bottom of your eye whites.

Now we’re going to shade the top and bottom of the eye whites. We’re shading the top because the eyelid sticks out and creates a cast shadow directly below it, and the bottom because the round eyeball curves away from the light source, putting it in shadow.

While we’re here, I’m just going to shade the iris rim to soften the edge.

You might wanna blend your eyeball before moving on to the next step…

You can add veins in the eyeball by sharpening your pencil and drawing them in very very faintly. Try to make your veins even lighter as they reach toward the iris.

Shade the Skin

Let’s shade the skin, starting with the top eyelid.

Right where the eyelid crease is, create a gradual value change from dark to light as we shade our way down. This will make the skin actually look as though it’s creased.

After that, let’s shade the lower section of the eyelid because the skin curves away from the main light source.

Now let’s shade the rest of the top eyelid, leaving the right side the lightest because it faces the imaginary light source directly.

Where the skin starts to curve away from the light, I’ll shade it the darkest.

If you want to learn more about shading and how light works, please refer to my shading tutorial.

I’m using strokes that follow the contour of the skin. This is called contour shading. If you vary your stroke pressure, making some strokes darker, you can give the skin a more realistic texture. You can even throw in a few subtle strokes that go in random directions to mimic the fine lines and wrinkles of the skin.

For the bottom eyelid, I’m shading along the top edge, while leaving a narrow space for the eyelid’s ledge.

To draw an eye pouch or bag under the eye, shade along the bottom of the eye bag to make it look as though the skin above it puffs outward.

For a subtle eye bag, make your shadows light.

Shade the Rest of the Skin

Let’s shade the rest of the skin and then we’ll move onto the eyelashes.

Starting at the eyelid crease, I’m going to shade lighter as I work away from it (as the skin curves and turns toward the light).

Tip: If your outlines are still visible after shading around the eye, try to lighten them up or darken your shading until the outlines disappear.

To shade the brow area, I’m going to again consider the light source in the top right and work out which areas of skin face the light directly and which areas face away. I’m shading the right side of the brow lighter than the left side because it faces the light directly.

You can shade the brow area however you want to define a brow shape that you prefer.

Draw the Eyelashes

Alright, it’s eyelash time. But before we draw any hair, I’d suggest that you blend your shading now because it’ll be quite difficult to blend around all the individual lashes.

To draw eyelashes, we’ll need to sharpen our pencil first. I’m working with a mechanical pencil, so It’s already quite sharp.

Practice drawing eyelash shapes until your strokes become pretty consistent. Your eyelashes can curve more or less. Just make sure the end of the eyelash is tapered. You can use flicking motions to achieve that effect. If you’re struggling with drawing smooth curves, it may help to rotate your sketchbook.

Let’s start at the top eyelid, creating lashes that grow out from the bottom edge.

Tip: Avoid drawing too many lashes that run parallel to each other. If you taper them together, you can create more natural-looking lashes that are less patterned:

There are a few things you can do to make your lashes look more unique and random. Such as vary the length, spacing, or amount they curve.

Continue along until you reach the corner of the eye. Lashes located near the corner of the eye are usually shorter, thinner, and therefore appear lighter. Don’t forget to add some lashes along the other side (far side) of the eyelid too.

Let’s move onto the bottom lid, sprinkling lashes along the ridgeline that we created earlier (Stagger them in a sort of random zig-zag pattern).

I like to draw these lashes much shorter and more spread out than compared to the top set of lashes. You can draw lighter than mine if you want a more subtle appearance.

Again, avoid obvious patterns. You can draw the lashes on their own, join them at the ends or cross them over one another.

You can also vary the hair spacing, length, and thickness.

Don’t forget to draw lashes along the other side (far side) of the eyelid too :)

Draw the Eyebrow

Once you’re satisfied, it’s time to work on the eyebrow. The hair growth pattern might seem confusing, but let’s break it down.

Drawing Eyebrow Hair BreakdownWe can draw a line through the eyebrow to separate it into two zones. I’ve drawn a line from the top right to the far left. This boundary line is different for everyone because there are so many different types of eyebrows.

In zone 1 (the bottom portion), we’re going to draw hairs that point up, and then as we work toward the left, they’ll point more toward the tail end of the eyebrow.

In zone 2 (the top portion), the hairs mostly point in a downward direction toward the tail of the eyebrow.

Where the hairs from both zones meet, I like to taper them together instead of cross them over one another, but you can do whatever you prefer.

Draw a boundary line through the eyebrow to separate it into 2 zones.

Okay, let’s draw a faint boundary line for our eyebrow to separate the 2 zones, using short, disconnected pencil strokes because we don’t want this line to show through in the end.

Then, using light strokes, roughly draw hairs in zone 1 while staying within the boundaries. As you work toward the left, curve, and angle the hairs so they point more toward the tail of your eyebrow. We’re going to blend this out in a second, so it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Then draw a few faint hairs in zone 2 without crossing over into zone 1.

I’m going to lightly blend the eyebrow out using a regular facial tissue wrapped around my finger. Blend from right to left, basically, in the general direction, all the hairs are pointing. After blending, we now have a base layer of cast shadows / subtle hair that we’ll draw on top of.

Now we’re going to draw the final hair which we won’t blend. I’m going to draw them dark, but you can adjust the pressure based on your preference.

As I draw, I’m tapering 2 or more hairs together so they don’t look bushy.

If you find these strokes difficult to draw, try rotating your sketchbook.

You can add some unruly hairs on the far right. I like to draw these ones lightly.

Once you’re done with zone 1, move up to zone 2, drawing hair that points down, toward the left.

Drawing Eyebrow Hair BreakdownAgain, where the hair from both zones meet, I like to taper them instead of crossing them over each other because I think when they cross over each other, it looks messy but feel free to experiment with both.

Try to avoid drawing straight lines and instead curve your strokes even just slightly. Also, try to feather out your pencil strokes along the top of the eyebrow.

Okay, next, we can actually get the eyebrow to look 3D by making specific hairs darker. This could be a whole topic of its own, so let’s keep it simple.

The hair right below zone 2 are covered in shadow because when they meet with the hair above, they curve outward and are therefore facing away from my light source.

Make the eyebrow more 3D by darkening the hairs right below zone 2.

If we shade them darker, we can give the eyebrow more dimension (depth). I’m just going along each and every hair and making them a bit darker.

Now there’s a clear difference in value between the two zones, making the hairs point out toward the viewer instead of appearing flat on the page.

By now, our faint eyebrow outline should no longer be visible. If it is, erase the outline carefully or draw additional hair until the outline disappears.

Let’s go around the edges and add some lighter hair and/or unruly hair. You can draw them all over and spread them out pretty far if you want the eyebrow to look unplucked.

I’m just gonna shade a slight cast shadow right below the eyebrow.

Okay, I think that’s enough for the eyebrow!

Make the Eye Look Wet

To make the eye look wet, we can add water along the bottom of our eyeball.

Grab your pointy solid eraser or kneaded eraser, flatten it, and erase a thin space along the eyeball, where it meets with the bottom eyelid.

If the line of water doesn’t show up well, shade around it slightly. The (increased) contrast will bring it out. Or you can use a white gel pen or correction fluid to introduce a bright white value.

Blend your Eye Drawing

If you’ve already blended your drawing throughout the tutorial or you’re not interested in blending, please skip to the section on how to make the drawing pop.

Shading Tips_Blending_Eliminate Gaps
Check that your shading is as smooth as possible.

Alright, before blending, we need to make sure our shading is as smooth as possible, so that means making sure there are no gaps between our strokes and that any blotchy areas are reduced to the best of our ability.

Before and after blending with a tissue and blending stump.

Blend one section of your eye at a time, using a clean blending stump, tissue paper, q-tip, or fine-haired paintbrush (whatever your preference is).

I like to blend from a light area into a dark area so I can avoid unwanted smear marks.

In large areas of my drawing, I wrapped a tissue around my finger and swiped gently from the lightest to the darkest area. Blend as much as you need to until the drawing becomes nice and smooth.

Be very careful when you blend around detail work like the eyelashes and eyebrows, making sure not to blur/smudge them. A pointy blending tool like a blending stump will work well for getting into tight spaces, blending precisely where you want it to. But you can also use a folded tissue paper:

Carefully blend around eyelashes with a pointy blending tool (I used a folded facial tissue).

As you blend, follow the direction of each eyelash, being careful not to smudge them.

If you’re using a tissue and there’s a tight spot you need to get into, fold your tissue paper using fewer layers, making it tighter, or you can blend the area with your sharpened pencil, basically filling in any white dots or valleys on the paper’s surface.

When the tissue becomes too dirty, fold your tissue again using a clean spot or just rotate it to a cleaner spot.

Tip: You can remove excess graphite by dabbing it with your kneaded putty eraser gently (learn how to make one here). This is how I get rid of blotchy areas to make the drawing look even smoother. Areas that don’t have enough graphite can be filled in using a dirty blending tool (this also blends the drawing at the same time).

Alright, side note! So we covered this earlier, but if you still have a visible outline around your cornea, and you can’t just erase it because it looks weird without the outline, you can make it blend in by shading the skin beyond it just enough to make the outline disappear.

Now the cornea’s outline is no longer visible since it has blended into the background.

Make the Drawing Pop

If your drawing doesn’t pop enough, try cleaning up the brightest parts of each highlight or using a white gel pen/correction fluid to make the highlight a bright white.

You can also shade the darkest areas of your drawing even darker.

Or you can add more detail to the iris to make it stand out more, like the example I showed earlier (In the section called “More Detailed Version of an Iris”).

I’ve also gone along and did more blending to make the drawing even smoother.

Extra Tip

If you want to draw fine wrinkles across the skin like I did here along the top eyelid, pinch your kneaded eraser flat and then press it gently along the eyelid, lifting very tiny amounts of graphite. Space them out somewhat randomly and change the angle.

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If you find yourself stuck on any of the steps in this tutorial, please refer to the video tutorial that goes along with this blog because it goes into way more detail. The video is very long (40 minutes), so feel free to forward it to the spot you need instead of watching from the beginning. I’ve provided you with timestamps below so you can easily and quickly find the section you need 😊.

⏰ Video Timestamps:

00:11 – Tools
00:29 – How to draw an eye from the side CONSTRUCTION
00:57 – Cornea
01:14 – Iris
01:26 – Pupil
01:39 – Eyelids
02:21 – Eyelid Crease
02:52 – Bulging Eye Example
03:23 – Eyebrow Placement
04:48 – Highlights

06:29 – Pupil Shading
06:43 – Iris Shading
10:26 – Iris Version 2 (more detailed vrsn)
12:45 – Eyeball Shading
15:22 – Eyelids
17:51 – Surrounding Skin

20:05 – Eyelashes
22:29 – Lower Lashes
24:27 – Eyebrows
29:24 – Make the Eyebrows 3D
31:08 – Wet Eye Effect
31:59 – Blend

38:54 – Make the Drawing POP!
39:19 – Extra Tip (how to draw fine wrinkles)
39:41 – Slideshow of the ENTIRE Process

I hope this tutorial was helpful! If you have any questions, leave them down below. I hope you guys stay safe and are doing well. Thanks for stopping by!

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