eye drawing

Eye Drawing: Step by Step Tutorial

Creating an eye drawing is pretty simple when you break the process down into steps. Although drawing an eye is simple, the results will look impressive due to all the details!

All you need are some drawing tools, like a pencil, a piece of paper and an eraser. It’s helpful to have a softer pencil for shading like a 6B as well as a harder pencil like a HB for drawing outlines. Follow the steps all the way through to learn how to shade realistically.

In this step-by-step tutorial, we’ll show you how to draw an eye using just a pencil.

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Step 1: Measure the proportions of the eye

eye drawing step 1

The first step of creating an eye drawing is measuring the size of the iris and the height, width and angle of the eye. Use light pressure to draw these lines as we will erase some of these later.

Optionally, you can start by drawing a dot for the centrepoint of the eye, then draw a circle around it for the iris. If you really need, you could use a geometry tool if you have one to hand, like a compass. Next, draw markers at the top and bottom of the circle, this is where the top and bottom eyelids meet the iris. Then, draw a guideline across the eye, so it crosses the bottom third of the iris and slants slightly upwards. The eye itself is about double the width of the iris, so estimate how long the guideline will be from this measurement.

Step 2: Join up the markers to create an outline

eye drawing step 2

Start at the inner corner and draw a light line curving upwards towards the top of the eyelid, then draw the outer corner. Pay attention to the curves and the angles and take it one step at a time. Draw a curved line just over the top of the iris for the upper eyelid, then draw one below the iris for the bottom lid. Make sure to join the lines up. You can sketch lightly until you feel that you’ve drawn some accurate lines, if you find it difficult drawing outlines accurately, then erase the excess.

Step 3: Add details to the outline

eye drawing step 3

Add some details to the outline, this will help you with accuracy in your shading later on. Draw the upper part of the eyelid, the pupil and the highlight in the eye.

Step 4: Shade the pupil

step 4 how to draw an eye

Shade the pupil and the outer edge of the iris. Use a softer pencil like a 5B or 6B to achieve darker shadow marks. Relative to the rest of the drawing, the pupil will be the darkest area. The next darkest area is the outer edge of the iris, so don’t be afraid to apply some pressure to your pencil to create the marks. You can always blend them out later.

Step 5: Add texture to iris

eye drawing step 5

The next step is to add some darker tones to the iris to create a sense of texture in the drawing. This particular eye that we’re drawing has quite a lot of value contrast in the iris, which makes it look interesting. The darkest part of the iris is right underneath the upper eyelid, so add some shading here. You can also add organic lines coming from the pupil that stretch toward the outer edge of the iris.

Step 6: Shade the iris

Step 6 how to draw an eye

This step looks like a bit of a jump from the last, but all you’re doing is shading the iris. The iris is pretty dark, so use your soft pencil to create deeper values. Near the pupil, the iris is lightest in tone, so apply less pressure here. Then vary pressure on the pencil to create the appearance of swirls and patterns in the iris. You can spend as much or little time on this section as you want. A good tip is to use an eraser to lift highlights from the shading to create extra details. A great eraser for lifting small details is the Tombow Mono Zero.

Step 7: Blend the iris

step 7

The iris is the focal point of the eye, it’s what makes an eye unique! That’s why it’s a good idea to spend a little longer on this section of the eye than the others. Blend the pencil marks, but don’t overdo it. You could use a tortillion, a q-tip or even your finger to blend. However, make sure to blend lightly, as if you over blend, some of your details may be lost. Blending makes a drawing look more realistic, with softer edges. This is especially true in portrait drawing.

Step 8: Lift highlights with an eraser

eye drawing step 8

This is an optional step, but it makes the iris pop! Get a small eraser, like a kneaded eraser that you’ve molded to a point or a fine point eraser like the Tombow Mono Zero. Lift out highlighted areas, then work these areas back in with a pencil or with a tortillion.

Step 9: Shade the eye tones

eye drawing step 9

The eye isn’t white in tone, although it’s a lot lighter than the iris and the pupil. The eye is ball shaped, so it’s darkest in the corners near where it curves. The light source is hitting the eye at the front and slightly above the eye, so it reflects the most light in the middle. The eye is darkest in the outer corner. This section is texture free, so use your blending tool to smooth it out.

Step 10: Shade the inner corner of the eye

eye drawing step 10

Shade the inner corner (also called the caruncle). The caruncle is darker than the eye, so use a soft pencil to create shaded areas. Leave small highlights where the inner corner reflects the light.

Step 11: Shade the skin

Step 11 shade the eyelid

Shade the skin on the eyelid and the waterline. The waterline and the inner corner of the skin, next to the caruncle are the lightest areas. The darkest area is the outer corner of the eye, beneath where the lashes will be and the create of the lid. Smooth the shaded areas with a tortillion until you’re happy with the result.

Step 12: Start drawing the eyelashes

step 12 eyelashes

Start with a few lashes, so you get into the rhythm of drawing them. Make sure that you’ve sharpened your pencil to a point.

Notice how the eyelashes curve upwards. They do not all curve at the same angle, the lashes on the inner corner of the eye curve up towards the left and the lashes on the outer corner curve upwards to the right. The eyelashes in the middle curve forwards, to the left and right. Apply more pressure towards the base of the lash and trail off towards the tip, which will give the hair a tapered look.

Step 13: Finish drawing eyelashes

eye drawing step 13

Fill in the rest of the eyelashes using the same motion. The lashes tend to clump together and appear thickest in the outer corner of the eye.

Step 14: Draw the highlights

eye drawing step 14

For this step, either use a small eraser to lift highlight details, or a white pencil. The final highlights can add more definition and contrast to the drawing. Draw a small line on the eye near the waterline, where light is being reflected. Add more definition to the reflection in the pupil. It’s up to you what finishing touches you add, it’s these finishing touches that can make your drawing look even more impressive!

Supplies you need to create an eye drawing

The only supplies you really need are graphite pencils (or charcoal pencils) paper and erasers. However there are some supplies that make the drawing process feel easier. A kneadable eraser will lift graphite from paper without damaging paper fibres and a Tombow eraser will help you to lift the smallest details.

You can use most kinds of paper with graphite pencils, however, thicker paper is more durable and will stand up to more erasing. A smooth paper will make more of your details stand out and an acid-free paper will last for years to come. Most artist grade papers are acid-free, it just means that you can keep your drawing—frame and hang it without worrying about paper yellowing over time. The best options for graphite drawing are Bristol Board, either the smooth or vellum varieties.

Graphite pencils range from hard to soft. Hard pencils (HB to 8H) are great for outlining, creating faint lines that are easy to erase and technical drawings. The softest pencil is a 8B or 12B. B is fairly soft, but 8B will provide a darker mark. Softer pencils are better for shading. Getting a few different graphite pencils, will allow you to create smoother, more consistent looking drawings.


Creating an eye drawing is a great way to practice your skills. Learn techniques like blending and how to create a value range. If you liked this tutorial, give it a share on social media!

If you’re interested in attempting to draw the head, try the Loomis Method or Reilly Abstraction approaches. They are both great ways of constructing a portrait completely from scratch. Or read up on how to draw a side profile portrait, to challenge yourself a bit!