In this tutorial, we’ll discuss the basics of drawing cartoon eyes, how eyes work, and how you could use these concepts to develop and experiment with stylistic renditions of the eye.
For additional guidance, I recommend looking at live or photographic references, even if your goal is not to draw realistically or from life. A mirror can also be a great way to get a quick glance at proportions and how the face generally “works”.
Even when drawing stylistically, it is still important to note how the eye itself works. I like to think of this as a case of knowing the rules so you can effectively break them.
So, let's start with the eyeball. Generally speaking, the eyeball is a spherical shape. Note, we are not necessarily talking about the eye as it normally looks on the human face—just the ball. Note the rounded surface here, indicated with some simple cross contours in pink.
However, we obviously don't normally look at eyes this way—without eyelids and independent of the face. Why, then, should we consider the eye's shape?
Well, I like to think about the relationship between eyeballs and eyelids much like fabric on an object—eyelids wrap around the eye. They are not flat or straight on the eye. Instead, they're rounded, going around the spherical shape of the eye. This premise is illustrated in blue, below.
The iris is the round shape in the eye that typically has color. The pupil is the dark, round shape inside the iris. It expands and contracts, typically in response to light. Humans have round pupils, but you may see other shapes in different animals. Cats, for example, have slit-like pupils.
Generally speaking, eyes tend to be an equal distance apart, with about one eye's distance in between. Again, this is in terms of realistic proportions—stylistic works may exaggerate these proportions.
Keep in mind, however, that "breaking the rules" can have mixed results! For example, larger eyes might turn out visually appealing, but eyes that don't have a strong, visual relationship to each other could come off as unusual or visually awkward (unless that's what you're going for!).
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