Illustrator and Copic fine art instructor Brandi York shares her techniques for creating a realistic eye with Copic markers.
Rendering a realistic eye starts with understanding a little about the anatomy of an eye. If you are unfamiliar, Google “anatomy of the eye” and you’ll find all sorts of amazing images of the construction of the eye itself. The iris itself is cone shaped, leading back into the eye and the pupil. With that in mind, it’s easier to understand how the light bounces through, a key part of this tutorial.
Knowing that my light source will be coming from the right side, I start an eye with a bit of shadow, using BV20 and BV23, creating a bit of depth within the eye. Because of the cone shape of the iris, the light coming from the right will actually bounce off the left side of the eye, with the shadow deepest on the right. For sake of ease, I will put the light reflecting on the eye back in at the end with a white gel pen.
I use the BV20 under the eyelid as well, as the lid and lashes cast a shadow on the eye, deepened within the cone of the iris:
Next I add a little color. In this case, I decided to go with a blue eye. Using B41 and B45, I mimic the light pattern I started with the BVs previously. There’s also a slightly darker ring around the iris, which I lay in here with the B45:
Using B52, I darken the ring of the iris, as well as create the shadowed lines within the iris. Take a close look at an eye, whether your own in the mirror or from a close-up photo. There is more to an iris than just one color! There’s a great deal of depth and shadow as well as a shift of colors (in some cases, some people have multiple colors to their irises):
I come back in with my BV23 to add a little more depth in the shadow beneath the eyelid, before adding some skin tone around the eye with R01 and BV20 just to make it pop a little more. I also used the Colorless Blender to smooth out some of the shifts in tone within the iris. Here, I’ve taken a Multiliner and started edging around the iris just a bit. T0 also comes into play, softening the shadow in the white of the eye:
Next comes a little more work with the Multiliner, adding lashes, edging a bit more of the iris and darkening the pupil.
Once I’m satisfied with the depth of color, I’ll add the finishing touch: the reflected light in the eye is added in with a white gel pen. See how much the eye suddenly pops and looks more real?
Lastly, I add a bit of color into the tear duct, using R20 and BV20 for a bit of shadow. I also add a bit more T0 around the eyelid, to give the illusion that the eye is set back into the skin around it. And last but not least, some lower lashes (you’ll notice not right up against the eye, as there is a ridge between the eye itself and the lashes):
Depending on how realistic you wish to get, you can add a little or a lot of detail. Though eyes are small, they are important pieces of the face, creating a depth of character and soul. Play and experiment; use photos and yourself to really look at the details of the eye to add a sense of realism that you may not have tried before!
See more of Brandi’s illustrations on Copic Color, and add your own work while you’re there!