Drawing the Eyes

After laying in the guidelines to show the position of the head, now it’s time to position the features.   When I’m drawing a portrait I start by sketching  in the general location of the eyes, nose and mouth then gradually add detail until the drawing is complete.  For the blog, I’ll take some time with each feature.  Today it’s all about eyes.

One of the most helpful guidelines I have learned is that if you’re looking straight on at someone’s face there are five eyes across the width of the face.  Look at people and check it out. It’s true!  The space between the eyes is exactly the length of their eye, and the space on either side of their eyes is exactly the length of their eye.

82 eyes

When the face is turned away, the five equal spaces get smaller as they move away from the viewer – just like in perspective!

82 eyes turned

Are the eyes always on the center line?  Well no, actually a man’s eyes are generally above the center line, a woman’s usually centered on it, and a child’s are below the line.  This does vary somewhat, but I’ve found it to be a good guideline.  Without drawing any other feature, the position of the eyes hints at the gender and age of the subject.

82 eyes lady82 eyes man82 eyes child

As to the shape of the eye,  close observation of your model is essential.  Everyone’s eyes are different.  While we might say an eye is almond shaped, being careful to get the exact curves and angles will individualize the eyes you are drawing. As you look carefully at the eyes, keep in mind:

–  the eyeball is round and the eye lid fits over this round shape.  Notice how the light source defines the shape of the eyelid, just as it would any round object.  There will be a light side and a shadow side.

-There is usually a shadow on the eye itself underneath the top eyelid.

-Generally the iris is partially covered by the eye lids.

-The white of the eye is not always white – watch for shadows here too.

-Each eye is unique, don’t assume they are the same!


Drawing eyes is fun because eyes are so expressive.  Start looking closely and you’ll see.


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