Back to Eyes: Part II

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Eyes: Getting into more detail - 
The finishing touches: Part I

In this section and the next one, I want you to start getting a feel for finishing touches on the eyes. We're going to quickly review the eye and it's home in the skull, and add piece by piece, little details that add believability to your drawings. In particular, you'll learn about:

  • maintaining the 3-dimensional spherical shape of the eye,
  • adding, gravity to the eyelids,
  • simple shadowing effects.

And in the next section, a quick introduction to

  • "Crow's feet",
  • eyelashes,
  • eyebrows,
  • and eye "bags". Let's dive in.

Remember, the eyes are round, they're spherical but since you only see a small part of the eye when you look at someone, it's easy to lose that sense. By visuallizing the shapes behind the surface, you'll understand and thus draw more accurate pictures:

Don't forget eyeballs are globes

Adding little hints to get 
a spherical effect

The eyeball is a globe. No big secret. But how do you make that come through in a 2 dimensional drawing? In the illustration above, I've added curved contour lines (the dotted lines) that transform this circle into a sphere: from two dimensions into three dimensions. That's just one simple trick. And you're probably not going to put lines like that into your caricatures. So I'm going to show you one or two small things you can do to add depth to the eyes you draw. But first let's review what you know about the eye.

Quick Review: Rebuilding the eye so you can understand the features, contours, and wrinkles around it

At the front of the skull you have the two bony orbits/caverns where the eyeballs are placed. They're supported in a fatty case within the skull. (I know that sounds so clinical).

The Skull: observe the contour of the orbits

Close-up of the right bony orbit

They've been created so the pupils - the light opening of the eye - faces out at the world where light can pass in, through, and form an image on the retina. Here's an outline of an eyeball superimposed over the the eye "socket":

Eyeball superimposed over/in 
it's bony socket.

Eyelids protect the eyes from damage, keep them moist, and make a small canvas for makeup. (In L.A. a lot of guys wear make-up too, so this isn't the sexist sounding statement it sounds like. For the record I live in L.A. but I do not wear make-up.) The basic shape of the eyelids in a front-on view is almond to triangular-shaped:

Rapid outline of eyelid contour

If you place the this triangular/almond shape over just the globe of the eye, you have something that ends up looking like this:

Eyelids placed over eyeball

And then you superimpose the eyeball and lids inside it's bony home within the skull - i.e. within the bony orbit, it appears something like this:

Superimposed eyeball and eyelid outline

And there you have it, a quick fire rebuilding of the eye. Now lets get back to detailing your drawings - giving them realistic touches that bring out dimension and believability.

Maintaining the spherical shape of 
the eye in your drawings

To maintain that spherical character of the eyes, you could draw those little contour lines I showed you above, or you could do a little shadowing (the real kind, not mascara) at the corners - at the locations the arrows are pointing in this illustration:

So a whole 3-d eyeball has an iris, a pupil, a highlight, lids and a little shadowing and might look something like this next illustration:

In actuality, the lower lid actually serves as the horizontal contour you saw in the globe with the dotted lines above. "Above?"- you know, like in this picture:

So imagine that the lower lid in this picture is really serving as a good reminder of that spherical shape - of that contour line. Note how it curves up at the corners (at the canthii - you remember canthii = plural for canthus) The upper lid curves down to the canthii but takes a more dramatic swoop upwards first.

I think the lower lid gives off a little more of a sense of gravity. By "gravity" I mean in the sense that when you look at it, it feels like the lower lid is doing all the work holding the eyeball up much in the same way an eggholder holds up/supports an egg. I imagine since eggs are on the high cholesterol hit list, egg holders have all but disappeared. (I only read about them in books myself.) So I'll quick draw one for you if you don't know what one looks like:

Egg holder and the lower lid: similar

Do you kind of get what I mean about gravity? It was just a thought. Do look at the the shared line of the egg and the rim of the egg holder and see if you don't see it's similarity to the margin of the lower lid. Notice how the ear-side (the lateral part) of the eyelid curls around the eye the same way the egg holder cups the egg? (Scroll back and forth between the two pictures above.)

So back to the bigger picture. When you add shadowing too you get eyes that exhibit "globulartity" (as in "globe". That is, they look spherical) like this:

Big round Rodney Dangerfield eyes

So lets review what we've covered in this section:

  • The eye is spherical.

  • The contour of the lids help portray that roundness.

  • Shadows at the corners help add dimension

  • The lower lid seems to support the eyeball a little more than the upper lid.

The Dangerfield clip is a great sample of other finishing touches you 'you'll be adding to your eye-drawing expertise. But first here's an assignment:


Draw 6 more eyes (left and right) drawing them with what you've learned here in mind. I'll give you this drawing to start from - but add the iris, pupil, highlight and shadowing at the corners:

  1. Include exaggerating the curve of the lids so the eyeballs' roundness becomes almost palpable. (a big word for "sensing through touch" - like you can almost feel it.)

  2. Add the shadows at the corners (by the canthus - experiment until you sense "sphere").

  3. Include all the other elements you've learned so far: pupil, iris, highlight, upper and lower have this almost memorized by now already if you been doing the assignments, so this should be pretty easy.

  4. Lastly, do a "vase/face" mirror image drawing of each eye you've completed. Don't forget what you've learned in negative space and modified contour.

Finishing Touches Part II

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e-mail: jeffkaz@YouCanDraw