Cartoon eyes typically have less detail than a realistic rendition of the eye. How, then, do you know which features to include and which ones to omit? How do you draw in a way that still looks like an eye, but isn’t true to realism?
Personally, I find that the key is keeping in mind how the eye works. Your viewer will have preconceived ideas about eyes, how they should look, and where they should be on the face.
Below are three different, stylized approaches to eyes. Notice that, even though they are quite different, they all visually “read” as eyes on the character’s face. We can break plenty of rules here without necessarily losing that communicative quality.
So, why is that?
Well, at the most simple, communicative level, viewers often associate eyes with two circles on the face. That's often a key part of drawing from a stylistic perspective—finding the balance that you like between communication and proportion. There is no right or wrong answer on that!
This idea of communicating in symbols is sometimes a barrier to overcome when trying to draw from sight (i.e. drawing what you "see" versus what you "know"). For example, look at the image below. We all "know" that eyes don't actually look like this in our day-to-day lives. However, we recognize this as an eye. We know that this symbol represents an idea.
So, when drawing cartoon eyes, we can use both of these ideas—how the eye works and how to communicate this concept with the viewer. In fact, we can take these ideas and further use them to communicate things like emotions or even general character traits.
Here are some examples. The only difference between the two is the eyes. However, notice how the first example looks rather sad and innocent, while the second looks stern. Elements of art like scale and shape can help visually communicate concepts like this.
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