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Monday, September 15, 2008

Painting Eyes - a Susan Alison rush through some pointers

The eyes in a painting can bring it to life or kill it.

These are just a few points to bear in mind when painting eyes in animals, although these pointers can be helpful when painting human eyes, too. The illustrations will be dogs. (Surprise!) Ooh – except for one bear…

Take a good look at an eye – someone else’s, your dog’s or your own if there’s no one else about. Check it out for shape. It’s not flat. It’s not totally round either, but totally round in a drawing is better than totally flat. It’s not a perfect oval, either – there’s the corner of the eye to think about.

Bear in mind that the eye does not sit ON the face – it is part of the face and fits into its own socket. The shape of the skin and bone around the eye, especially the eyelids (top and bottom), gives more of an impression about the roundness of the eye itself because so little of it is actually seen.

Thinking of these things will encourage your drawing to be lifelike. An eye is just part of the whole.


The iris of an eye – the coloured bit - is not a solid tone but has streaks of colour in it and is nearly always dark around its edge. The iris is round. The pupil ie the dark/black bit in the middle of the iris – is round, too.

Remember the rims of the eyelids often show, depending on angle, and quite often there is a highlight (white usually) on the lower eyelid, as there is usually a shadow across the eye underneath the upper eyelid. Light and shadow are always important all through a picture.

You can see the darker colours at the top of the eye and the lighter at the bottom in… HER SPECIAL HAT below

The white of an eye usually has slight colour through it and is not often pure white.

Pure white is best for highlights. The highlight in the eye can be one dot of white or two or three – it can be round or a curved square (curved because the eye is round…). Try to bear in mind what direction the light is coming from when deciding on the highlights.

In KITTYFLIES ATTEMPT TO CHEER UP FRED you can see the highlights are curved – they suggest that the grumpy bear’s eyes are not flat.

Placement is important – eyes halfway up a head create an entirely different feel to an image where the eyes are two thirds of the way up…

In Pretty in Pink she looks a little flighty because of the placement of her eyes.


The shape of the eye will change depending on the expression on the face as a whole eg when laughing, eyes are more closed than open, or when startled the reverse is true.


This is especially true when drawing/painting a picture that is more of a cartoon/illustration – when, of course, you can ignore everything I’ve said and exaggerate all the wrong things in order to get a particular expression to work.


Or, if you don’t fancy tackling the eyes today, then cover them up…


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Paper Moon Delights said...

Thanks for this great Blog, your little eyes are all wonderful! Love all your paintings! :) Lisa

Joann said...

EYE think your blog is was eye opening!

tgfleet said...

Wow- great post Susan! Appreciate the tips and info!