How to Paint Realistic Eyes in Oil

Eyes depict a number of emotions and painting them on a canvas isn’t an easy task to perform. Painting the expressions of fear, sorrow and joy within a human eye requires your artistic skills to come out in full flow and imprint them upon a canvas. An understanding of standard physiological features of an eye can add further elegance in the painting. You better keep practicing on rough pieces of canvas before trying to create your master piece. Try experimenting with different colours and expressions, and you will get an expert in painting an eye.


  • 1

    Begin by drawing two circles, which will represent the eyeballs, one third down from the top of the face. A hard pencil should be used and you must not too much pressure while drawing the circles. Ample space should be kept between the two circles, the same as the distance between two eyes of a human.

  • 2

    Use the pencil to draw a small circle within the larger circle, which shall become the pupil of the eye. The size of these smaller circles depends on you. Larger pupil is a symbol of youth or excitement, whilst smaller pupil represents age or fear.

  • 3

    For making the iris of the eye, you need to draw a border around the pupil. Use the pencil gently and don’t press it too hard on the canvas.

  • 4

    Now you have to draw the eye lids around both circles. Curve the eye lids around the eyeballs to give a natural look. You might overlap the iris with eye lids in your painting if you desire.

  • 5

    Now start painting the upper eye lid with oil paint and an angled brush. Choose the colour tone of your subject’s skin before painting the eye lids.

  • 6

    Shading properly is very important for natural look. Make shadows around the edges of the eyeball and you need to highlight the peak position of them i.e. the portion above the iris.

  • 7

    Choose a bit darker colours for the lower eye lid and this will add further natural beauty to your painting.

  • 8

    Then you should fill in the iris of the eye according to your choice. Once you have painted it, you have to add striation radiating from the center of pupil towards its edges. Use slightly darker shades than the pupil’s colour.

  • 9

    You have to paint the pupil with black colour and then draw a thin black line around the iris.

  • 10

    The area around the iris has to be painted white or red. You can draw tiny red veins to indicate fatigue, sickness or age.

  • 11

    Highlight the pupil and iris white to show the presence of light upon the eye.

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