The eyes are the window to the soul, and when it comes to anime style eyes say a lot about a character. Thus, it makes sense that when you begin your anime drawing you focus on the eyes. For some, this process comes naturally. If you’ve got experience with realistic drawings, anime eyes will come easier to you. For some, this will be a challenge, but this article will teach you the foundation of how to draw anime eyes and get you on your way.
Mapping out the face is an important part of drawing anime correctly. After getting the correct face shape, draw a single horizontal and vertical line that meet in the direct center of the face (for forward facing characters). The horizontal line marks where your eyes should be. Most often it marks the exact center of the eyes. Naschi on Deviantart has a great illustration of this point.
LOOK FOR INSPIRATION
You can find lots of examples of anime eyes on the Web. Take a look at anime fan sites, Pinterest, bulletin boards, and forums. Of course, watching anime is a great place to get inspired. Try a free anime site like GoGoAnime for starters.
MAP OUT THE FACE
Next, draw lines to mark the top and bottom of the eye. This ultimately helps with uniformity. After that draw circles to generally mark out where your eye will go. Use three identical circles, using one to measure the distance between the eyes. This should be equal to the width of one eye.
This is the stage where you will decide the general shape. Larger eyes typically denote a “feminine” or “good” character while almond eyes are associated with “masculine” or “bad” characters. However, this is a general style guideline.
DRAW THE UPPER & LOWER LID
It would be smart to do this for both eyes at this point to keep uniformity. No one wants to draw two perfect eyes only to find out they don’t match.
The size, shape, and slope of your lids (or lashlines) can say a lot about the character. Again, these are general rules but rigid lines suggest seriousness while more sloped eyelids look more childish.
DRAW THE IRIS & PUPIL
While these are just basic outlines they can say a lot about your character’s emotion. For example:
Large Iris + Large Pupil = Amazed
Large Iris + Small Pupil = Terrified
Small Iris + Large Pupil (Or Pupil is entire Iris) = Not Amused
Small Iris + Small Pupil = Insane
These can also reflect age, as older characters tend to have smaller iris’ than younger characters.
OUTLINE THE SHADOW
There’s always a shadow in the eye caused by the upper lid. While it often has a more exaggerated curve than the upper eyelid, it follows the same general shape. If you are drawing a line or cell drawing this can be a darker line, if you’re planning on shading it draw a lighter line.
Look at references or play around to decide what sort of shadow looks best.
THE EYE LIGHT
If you’ve ever watched a live action movie you’ll notice that most characters have what’s called an “eye light”. These are tiny white spots in the eyes and, psychologically speaking, make the audience relate to the character. It is no different when you are drawing anime. Make sure to take the time to mark this out so you don’t accidentally color or ink over it.
Are there times you wouldn’t want an eye light? Absolutely. Eye lights make a viewer like the character more, it gives a sense of a soul existing behind the eyes (eyes are the gateway to the soul, remember.) Some characters might not have this. Bored, evil, or possessed characters often lack this feature to make a point and show the viewer something about them.
With those five steps, you have begun your journey in learning how to draw anime eyes! Easy right? Well, practice makes perfect. The truth is, there’s a lot more than just what is here to drawing anime eyes well, but you’ll get there. And if you find at the end of the day that you’re struggling, here’s a little bit of homework:
- Study artists and analyze their style. Instagram, Deviantart, Tumblr, and your own favorite series are great examples of places to look for inspiration. Some of these websites will also show works in progress which are always helpful!
- Draw 50 pairs of eyes. The more you can feel comfortable drawing eyes, the more successful you’ll become at it. You can draw them in different styles, different emotions, or different angles! The only thing that really matters is that you get some practice.
At the end of the day, the best advice on how to draw anime eyes is: keep practicing.