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Regina's References

A side blog for all the reference posts I've collected over my time on Tumblr. Main blog at heartch.

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Anonymous asked : Could you please do a really quick step by step set of drawings on how you draw your eyes please? They're really good, and I can never get mine right, which is bad because they ruin the piece if they aren't good :/ I never know how to fill the eye in either, with the pupil and light detail.. Thank you :D


Sure. 8)  BTW, I’m gonna use “you” in the general sense— not you in particular.  Not targeting you or anything. :)

First of all, let’s get this out of the way, though: When somebody asks me for something art-based, “really quick,” it is the first indication that they don’t know enough and need help.  And that’s fine!  Just be aware of this.  There aren’t many things about learning art (or most things) that come “really quick,” which is why it’s not quick to talk about, unless we’re all in a hurry to suck at it.

I know other people can make step by steps on how they draw certain things, but I can’t.  I don’t always draw eyes the same way.  Not all lighting/angle/narrative situations are the same.  Because of that I have a problem with step by step art tutorials in general (ignoring exceptions).  They teach people to copy things as symbols, without really thinking about the fact that you’re drawing objects that interact with other objects.  If you copy a symbol from a step by step, your learning is limited, you’re usually at the mercy of whatever angles the tutorial gives you, and you don’t know how to change a pose or vary your art.  Booooooring! 

Look, all I’m saying is that it’s a crappy feeling when all of a sudden you want to draw your OTP kissing and you’re not sure how to draw in 3/4 view or profile, or if you’ve gotta turn someone’s head up at an angle, etc. (because IMO the hotter kissing is when they start turning their heads and really getting into it), so boooo~

Sorry if none of this is what anyone wants to hear, but hey— ask me how I do a thing, and I’m gonna tell you how I learned it, no bullshit.  Don’t worry, don’t be intimidated, and know you can always have drawing skills if you’re willing to put the work in.  I don’t care who you are, that’s how it always works. 8)  That being said, let’s talk about eyes:

Oh shit, did I go there?  I bet that makes people roll their eyes, but this is how I learned— by tons of hours spent drawing naked people in front of my face, or drawing my own face.  If you want something else, go ask someone who learned by copying tutorials.  I’m not that person.

So.  As a warm up, before actually going into whatever final drawing or final style you’re gonna work in for the main picture, spend some time drawing your own eyes from a mirror (you are your cheapest, most available life model).  DRAW. WHAT. YOU. SEE.  Don’t worry about the end product, warm ups are NOT finished work. If you don’t have the patience to warm up before a drawing (“eww, this is hard!”), I don’t know what to tell you.  

Warmups are good— they get your eyes and hand active, and there’s no pressure to be perfect, and it feels natural when you go into your main drawing.  I warm up before drawing, just like I would before exercising.  Don’t use your final art to warm up on and make mistakes all over; it messes with your head.  Start with fifteen minutes of this, though, and when your skill goes up, you can make it ten, I guess.

Hey, the more you put in, the more you’re gonna get.  When will you be tired of sucking and start working away from that— next year? ;)  Anyway…

If you wanna try other angles that you can’t do in your mirror, there’s always Google images, or stock photography sites if you can’t get a friend to sit (seriously, though, that’s better to do).  Just go draw some eyes, already, and don’t worry about the anatomy in your warmups, yet.

I won’t go into an anatomy lesson, because people write books about that stuff (Burne Hogarth’s Dynamic Anatomy has some eye info), but here’s what I think about when drawing eyes:

  • Placement/Alignment:  
    image When the eye is placed right, you can have lots of different shapes (even dots for eyes!).

    There’s a boundary on the human head where eyes sit, and it’s defined by the height of your ears.  The tops of the ears match up with the browline (at rest), and the bottom matches up with where the nose is fused to the face. (And all of these things line up along an arc— not a straight line, because the head’s not flat).  Eyes are aligned along this space, and they’re roughly sitting one eye width apart from each other.

    Also, you’ve gotta check the height/alignment of each eye along this axis, because this is where lots of people screw up. (if you’re scared, you can also align the pupils/irises)  Otherwise, you get that weird, floating eye.  Check to see if it’s there by viewing your image backwards:

    (Cool, we’re doing okay. What about the next sketch?)


    Hm, let’s flip it:


    EWW STARFIRE YOU LOOK LIKE SOME WEIRD ALIEN and I mean that in a derogatory sense!  My poor bby…

    When you watch the alignment and placement, it lets you use just about any shape you want for eyes (even dots!). Speaking of that:

  • Form
    Drawing eyes is usually just drawing how skin and muscle flaps will cover an eyeball that’s sitting in a socket on someone’s head.  Even though they work the same, on an individual basis and especially in stylization they tend to have different shapes.  How you draw that is sorta up to you (and should be informed by your observations from life and what your hand naturally does. Remember those warm ups).  They’re not perfectly symmetrical, but for many creatures from Earth (or Tamaran.  Or Azarath!) you want consistent forms in both eye shapes, as they sit across the face:

    image What I did in blue is draw the basic form of Raven’s left eye (our right), and placed it on top of a small grid.  Important “checkpoints” were dotted in pink, and those are mostly what I use to make sure the shapes look consistent.

    After that, I literally copied/pasted this shape, flipped it backwards, and shrunk the width in Photoshop to show what her right eye should look like at a 3/4 view.  I don’t actually do that before drawing out a face, but I’ve done it here just to show what to look for.  Just make notes of important parts of that eye shape and make sure it’s consistent, and make sure they align over the arc across the face, just like before (these align on a straighter axis, because those eyes are eye-level with the viewer).

Placement, alignment and form are the most important things to me.

…is secondary.  IT IS.  Pwitty highlights and nice gradations are pointless when the figure’s right eye is floating off of the face and lopsided because you didn’t check your forms and alignment.  You can add textures and highlights/details later— just look in the mirror or look at photos for reference.  Lots of beginners use excessive shading to hide bad form. 

…But I can see it.  And others will, too.  8)

No, seriously, that explains why all of these are effective pics (to some degree).

  • Details?
    (Starfire’s eyes are just really quick lines and Red X’s eyes are just quick scratch marks, but they’re in the right place.)

    (These actually are a little misaligned but the forms are consistent and strong enough to get by.  Light detail, what’s that?)

    (Shading?  Not really.  Pupils?  Nope.  Not even a fun little accent highlight, because her face is in shadow here and that bright green is quite enough of an accent.)

    (Okay, I know that’s not fair because I use pupils and highlights, but they’re considered.  Here, it’s important to put at least a little detail in her eyes because we’re looking for her expression.  Again, though— worthless without consistent form and alignment.  Um, the little highlight dots are coming from the direction the light’s coming from?  It’s barely an issue here.)image(What the fully rendered nonsense is this??  I know there’s a Starfire up there with no pupils and no highlights, but here we see them because  they’re in the dark with a cell phone, but also because those highlights become a little romantic, like the atmosphere in this picture.)

  • Final Size
    Considering that picture up there, though, I want you to notice something:

    high detail is lost in the picture’s final size.  This is another reason why detail and shading are often secondary.  

    If you’re really concerned about how these eyes were painted, though… I mean, after getting my forms worked out, I paint from “big to small” (talked about in this “tutorial”), and “back to front*.”  

    * (Back to front is pretty simple— paint what’s behind first, and then get better edges when moving onto objects closer to the foreground later on. The eyeballs here, are considered what’s “back” because they’re under the eyelashes.  I paint the full circle shape of those irises first (they come out rounder/more consistent) before painting the flesh and eyelashes on top of it.)imageANYWAY there are detailed shapes in the eye and they’re nice to have, but if you plan to have them go to print or be displayed on a site, what’s more important is your final size.  How the viewer is going to primarily experience your work, that’s key to what you put into the picture.  This is one of the things that’s being nailed into us at the moment in art school (I’m going through a pretty boss illustration program).  Do things because they make the final version look good.  Nobody, including you, should be pressing their eyeballs to the screen to view some microscopic corner that doesn’t take the entire image into consideration.  Look at Dick’s eyes up there— the one in shadow has way less detail, because it’s receding anyway.  Detail while being extremely zoomed in doesn’t matter.  Case in point: 
    This is the largest size in which viewers are meant to see this image.  If I were to add highlights like I had so often done in the past, they would just awkwardly wash out some weird part of the eye after resizing.

I think that’s about it— please take this info into consideration instead of worrying about “draw an o-shape and add speckles” or whatever people do. Oh yeah, and of course, keep at it and practice lots! You can do it.

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