Portrait tutorial - how to draw the eye, rendering and shading the eye.

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Drawing Eyes

Here I want to explain how to shade and make the eye more realistic. I have a simple "formula" to do this. (There are always exceptions to this "formula," of course.)

First, I draw a darkened area (seen in purple above) over the iris. The pupil is even darker, and - as always, is ROUND!

I then add a highlight, like the pale pink highlight I added above. (Or, if I am drawing in pencil or ink, I leave this area open, to allow for the highlight.) The highlight will be placed on either side of the eye, depending on where the main light source is coming from.

Lastly, as seen by the addition of the paler purple in the illustration above, I finish coloring in the iris with a paler color.

Blend these tones together, and if you like, add a suggestion of the little iris "lines" (but don't overdo that, or else the iris will look like a wagon wheel, with little spokes coming out of the pupil!). Needless to say, when you are drawing the eyes in color, replace this hideous purple color with the actual color of the eye!

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Another thing you must not forget to do is to shade the eyeball itself. The eyelid has some thickness. This will cast a shadow on the white of the eye, and the iris. Also, the eyeball itself is round, liike a sphere. So a shadow is needed to suggest the eyeball's roundness.

The corners of the eye will also be more in shadow. Make the shadow subtle, and soft (as seen by the blue shadowing in the illustration above).

Don't forget to add this shadow, or else the eye will look flat and unrealistic. Also, when making a color portrait, remember that the white of the eye isn't really white. It is usually a very, very pale peach, or pale greyish-peach. The highlight of the eye is often the a little lighter than the whites of the eye—but it doesn't have to be a pure white either.

And I can't forget to tell you about the eyelashes! As you can see from these illustrations, you don't need to overdo eyelashes. You can make them feather out, and just "suggest" them on the lower lid. If you overdo the eyelashes, they can easily start to look really creepy. Like a tarantula landed on the eye. Just be careful, and have a light touch when adding eyelashes. In fact, I sometimes don't really draw eyelashes at all, especially on smaller sketches. I kind of give the illusion of "eyeliner," and that seems to pass as "eyelashes"!

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