How to


In this article, we will delve into the art of painting eyes and explore the techniques to make them come alive on the canvas. Whether you are painting a portrait or a figure, getting the eyes right is crucial in capturing the essence of the subject. Join us as we uncover the key observations and rules to follow when painting eyes.

Importance of Eyes in a Painting

If there are eyes in a painting, they naturally become the focal point. Breathing life into the eyes will elevate the entire artwork. When it comes to portraits, the eyes play a paramount role. Even if the rest of the face is distorted, getting the eyes right will ensure recognition.

Common Mistake: Lack of Observation

One common mistake artists make is failing to keenly observe the eyes they aim to paint. It is essential to carefully study the intricate details and features present.

Painting Eyes in Portraits Versus Figures

When painting figures, artists have the freedom to create the eyes as they wish, without the need for an exact likeness. However, in portrait painting, achieving an accurate representation is crucial. Pay close attention to the shape of the socket, angles, brow thickness and its relationship to the eye, as well as the curves, folds, and lashes.

Common Mistake: Neglecting the Drawing Stage

One crucial aspect is not rushing through the initial drawing stage. If the drawing is inaccurate, no amount of additional details during painting will rectify it. Keep the lines simple, accurate, and focused. Follow the critical measurements precisely, ensuring you stay within the defined lines.

Observations on Eye Details

Let’s explore specific observations when it comes to painting eyes. We will analyze real-life images to gain insights into capturing the nuances accurately.

Example 1:

  • Shading depicts the roundness and depth of the eyeball and socket.
  • Lashes start at the outer edges of the lids.
  • The thickness of the top and bottom lids tapers towards the inner corner.
  • Shadows under the bottom lid should not be overlooked.
  • Highlights can be surrounded by darkness and can indicate reflected light.
  • The iris is not a solid color; it contains stripes, dots, lines, or even zigzag patterns.
  • Look for lash shadows within the highlight.
  • Observe the soft highlight on the inner corner.
  • Highlights should gently follow the eye’s curve.
  • Sharp edges on reflections suggest a wet surface.

Example 2:

  • Notice fine wrinkles and depict them with light lines.
  • Pay attention to the thickness of the upper eyelid fold.
  • Consider including fine capillaries in the white sclera if desired.
  • Observe and replicate the colors in the skin surrounding the eye.
  • Depict the lids’ thickness as it thins towards the inner corner.
  • Be aware that the reflection of the sky can alter the pupil’s color.

Example 3:

  • Deeper wrinkles tend to be darker, with varying colors like pinks, purples, blues, burnt siennas, or browns.
  • Elderly individuals usually have lighter, sparser lashes.
  • An elderly person’s eye may show a cloudy ring around the iris called the arcus senilus.
  • Glasses can provide additional reflections, which can add depth and tell a story.

Examples 4 and 5:

  • From a side view, the bulge of the eye becomes more noticeable.
  • Note that the underside of the upper lid is only visible when looking up at a person from below.
  • The pupil and iris take on an elliptical shape when viewed from the side.
  • PEARL OF WISDOM: To make the eyes in your painting appear to follow the viewer, ensure they are perfectly round. Our brains interpret roundness as someone looking directly at us.

Example 6:

  • Lighting from below can create an eerie effect, but it is uncommon in typical scenarios.
  • When painting children’s eyes, remember that their eyes are proportionally larger compared to their faces and eye sockets.
  • Newborns have an additional fold of skin covering the inner corner, which recedes as they grow.


Mastering the art of painting eyes requires careful observation and attention to detail. By following the tips and observations shared, you can bring a sense of life and realism to your artwork. Remember, the eyes are the windows to the soul, so capturing them accurately is crucial in portraying the essence of your subject. Happy painting!

(Note: Original images from the previous article have been retained.)

Alexia Young

Hello and welcome to the world of Alexia. I am a passionate and dedicated artist who loves to create beautiful, mesmerizing art for everyone's walls. I believe in the importance of encouraging people to express their creativity and be happy.

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