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How to Paint Realistic Eyes Tutorial by feavre How to Paint Realistic Eyes Tutorial by feavre
I've had a lot of requests for a tutorial/steps for how I paint. This picture wasn't done with a reference, so a referenced eye would be even more photorealistic. You may also look at other eyes on my portraits to see different color variations.
For more WIPs and resources : art blog
Full paint tutorial:

I used photoshop CS5, and this tutorial is for digital artists, and assumes you have a basic knowledge of these programs.

Step 1: Sketch the eye. I've drawn enough eyes to be very familiar with the shape and proportions. If you aren't, find a reference and work with that.

Step 2: Color blocking, begin to define the brow bone. I'm doing a blue eye, and colors vary widely depending on what color iris--a green eye for example will also have brown and gold. Play around, generally you can use this tutorial for any color.

Step 3: Shading. The top of the iris will always be the darkest because of shadow from the eyelid. This is also applied to the whites of the eyes. Also color the tear duct.

Step 4: I keep darkening the iris and below the lash line. The limbal ring is usually a desaturated, dark color. Darkening it (that's the ring around the iris) makes the eyes more dramatic. And I also define the crease, the skin under the eye, and the waterline.

Step 5: For the most dramatic eyes, with lots of depth, make the pupil and area above it black, as well as the lash line. The whites of the eyes are also high in contrast from the shadow. This makes them look rounder and "glowy."

Step 6: I usually do entire portraits on one layer (best for blending) but I recommend putting the reflection on a new layer. For photorealism, more layers can help. Below I have another box with alternative reflection. They can be any shape, depending on light source. They are nearest to the light, and the lightest part of the iris is opposite that. See the light blue on the right with the reflection on the left.

Step 7: Adding some details in tear duct and waterline. White makes it look wet/shiny. Also use a natural brush to make the base for the eyebrows. Keep in mind that the edge of the iris should be blurry--it's not a hard line. This will contrast with the hard edged reflection. There is also some brown near the edges of the iris. No iris is completely one color. There will be flecks of color blended in. I also added individual hairs on the eyebrow. Using a speckled brush with spacing, dabble in some skin texture. I put this on another layer set to overlay.

Step 8: Put your pen pressure on opacity and size jitter. Then brush in some eyelashes. They will curve outward from the eye, and curve from under and out from the eyelid. I put this on a new layer, set to multiply. Do the same on the bottom, though these will be much smaller. Lashes can be brown or black, dramatic or short. You may stop at this step, but I chose to add makeup.

Step 9: You may make another layer if you wish. A speckled brush comes in handy for shimmer. The color depends on what "eyeshadow" you want, but it will usually be a soft shade that is darker near the crease and eyelid. The brow bone should be defined with a lighter color, and the hollow near the inside of the eye is also darker. I also add lines on the lash line and bottom shading for a more dramatic effect.

Step 10: Tiny details. If you zoom you can see the tiny lines under the eye and specks that make the skin's texture. I also darken the eyebrows to match makeup.

I hope this is helpful to you! If you use it, let me know or link to it in the description.

More tutorials:
Add a Comment:
xx-Anya Featured By Owner Aug 16, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
On one layer?! :/ Witchcraft! 
I have around fifty of those for one single portrait. 
WindySilver Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
This one sure helps me a lot! Thanks for this tutorial! :D
xmilllyx Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2015  Student General Artist
Thank you for this, it's very helpful :p
CMC66 Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2015  New Deviant
Great! Thank you for this tutorial
ike2 Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2015
Hi! What brushes did you use in this tutorial?
MARB-art Featured By Owner Jun 1, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
wow thanks :)
America-Suiteheart Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
What brush tool? I am trying to find a thinner one but I'm always stuck with a fat one. For the sketch, I mean.
skyblue000 Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow, I have a long ways to go if I want to draw/paint eyes like this... x) Thanks so much for the tutorial! I will probably use this in the near future~~ :D
KLeighE Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2015   Digital Artist
Thank you so much! :)
KaHiShiKi-Sama Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
whoa! Amazing! I try myself to draw realistic! I hope this can help me! Thanks you! 
Carolina22 Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you this was very helpful!
Cinderemmie Featured By Owner Oct 18, 2014  Student Digital Artist
I tried it! I'm actually glad on how it turned out. Thanks for the tutorial! [link]
Elvann Featured By Owner Oct 14, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
I followed your tutorial and I really liked your technique.  It will certainly be of use in the future!  Thanks a lot for this awesome tutorial.  If by any mean you feel like checking out the reasult, here the link to my deviation :… :)  I will attack the whole face very shortly! Have a nice day!
MaliziaBleeding Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2014
woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! <3 amazing!
bjorn1992 Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2014
and now i want an easy way to do that som one now how i make my eyes black like a demon?
PSIKOM065 Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2014  Student Artist
Wooah, that's soo far away from mine ;_;
RainbowShine-Mlp Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Kharianne Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014
I am new in digital painting... r u using just PC mouse or graphical tablet? I cant even touch the right place with mouse :-D
feavre Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2014   Digital Artist
xanamaster Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
KeeNahMee Featured By Owner May 22, 2014
Oh yahh, everything  seems soo easy on tutorials)) Anyway, thanks for doing these))
ItaloAmericana Featured By Owner May 4, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you!
Princess-Starflok Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Regesta Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
A big thank you! This will help very very much!
jusabi Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
oggiegonz Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2013
wow....incredible. Just curious, do you know how to paint with regular oils or watercolors?  I never learned with conventional media but really want to do stuff like this.  
Sushiabbot123 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2013
Thank you! 
h4e Featured By Owner Sep 8, 2013
wow <3 
hikarirose13 Featured By Owner Sep 7, 2013  Student General Artist
Used here your tutorial to draw this… THANK YOU SO MUCH!
MusikAndDraw Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2013

is that with copics also possible?

feavre Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2013   Digital Artist
Probably not.  The technique remains the same, but you can't achieve that same realism in the same way.  I'd say it would work better with acrylics, oils, or pencil colors, media that are more opaque.
MusikAndDraw Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2013
Ah ok :D Arigato :))
BlackKingofNight Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Love this tutorial. Tip for the eyelashes; fade out: 17px for lower lashes 19-39 px for upper. Keeps the length right so you don't have to worry that you're over doing it.
Amethyst49 Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2013
Thanks for this tutorial! I have real trouble drawing eyes, and I think this will definitely come in handy :)
feavre Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2013   Digital Artist
I hope so, thank you!
Lebel27 Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2013  Professional Interface Designer
great and very helpful

IndigoRosalia Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2013  Student General Artist
This is so incredibly helpful! Digital art is really hard for me and it usually confuses me (not to say that I'm that great at traditional art either) but this really helped me understand stuff a little more.
feavre Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2013   Digital Artist
I'm glad!  :heart:
Nekooky Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Great work! :D
I really like it :3
Dandybyknight Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2013  Student Artist
This is so cool!! :D awesome made!! :D <3
peri-s Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2013  Student General Artist
damn this is nice you've really gotten good!
feavre Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2013   Digital Artist
You're good too! But you need to keep drawing stuff! you were so popular :D
peri-s Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2013  Student General Artist
yeah i really do....hahaha i wouldn't say i was popular but i was definitely more active! thanks for the encouragement xxx
feavre Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2013   Digital Artist
Me too but life gets in the way of mah dreams!!
keitone Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Wow this is just amazing!! The eyes look so enchanting!! :)
Shin001 Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for letting us know.

I really am grateful!

melii-lilyy Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Very good tuto thanks !
feavre Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013   Digital Artist
jacobmatthew12 Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013
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July 1, 2013
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