Join Dermot O' Connor for an in-depth discussion in this video An introduction to drawing eyes, part of Foundations of Drawing Cartoon Characters for Animation.
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- Now let's look at the eyes themselves. We're going to focus on this and take a really close look at it. So as you can see we have a wide variety of treatments of where we can put the eye line and how we can draw the eye. So let's move through these one by one. This is the classic teddy bear button eye, and we've placed the eye line directly at the halfway point, the equator. And notice the vertical center line as well. This allows us to space them left and right correctly. It's an extremely simple way of drawing. I recommend that if you're starting out and you really don't feel like too confident, this is a really good way to get used to the position of the eyes and the eye direction.
You can also add a few creases if you want to give him a little more personality. It's a simple device, enormous appeal. Now we've gone up in a layer of complexity. This is looking more like a 1940's style classic character. As you can see, these eyes suddenly have a little more anatomy going on. The pupils are still pretty much the same as they were in the teddy bear version, but we've added the curvature of the eyeball. We have the upper eyelid and the lower eyelid each along here. Same on the other side.
And notice the breaks. Now I've color coded these so that you can see them. Each line is helped with its definition by having these little breaks. So the blue, which is the upper eyelid, breaks here, very subtly, and there's a bigger break here and that's our visual cue that this green line here represents the outside edge of the eyeball itself. And the yellow is the lower eyelid. We repeat the process on the other side. And we've even added a little break on the eyebrows. And let me go back one. And now you can see that we're not looking at just a bunch of silly curves.
These are quite sophisticated little lines. Now behind these lines is the invisible anatomy of the balls themselves. Each eye socket contains an eyeball and this line here is the visible edge of that ball. And this ball can be squashed and stretched. So on this side we have a squash and on this side a stretch, which, of course, at least in this example, changes the visible shape of the eyeball. Notice that the volumes are being kept fairly consistent even though you're not going to see these lines probably wouldn't notice even if it did vary, but it's still nice to try to keep it consistent.
And it's also possible to shift the orientation of the eye. Now on the previous eyes, you'll notice that the edge of the corner of the eye is sitting comfortable on the equator, on this gray line here. Let's go forward, and now I've shifted it up just a little bit, and this is a great way to get the classic feminine eye. It just moves you outside of that very, more prosaic eye line. And we can also rotate these eyes up. Notice also that when you do this, it's a good practice to keep the different ellipses different shapes, so the eye closest to you in general will look bigger than the one further away.
And often we exaggerate this and make the further eye ball even a little smaller than it might be because it just gives the drawing much more depth. Similar principle applying here. And I'm just applying some different eyebrow expressions so you can see how flexible this drawing style is. And by making the pupils tiny, it gives them a frightened or a spaced out look. Notice as well that I've pushed the eyebrow over the perimeter of the sphere, of the skull. It's a little cartoony device. Sometimes you can get away with it, sometimes not. And now we have the position of the eye line itself and some variations that we can work with.
We'd mentioned this previously, but it's a good idea to look at it a little more closely. In this case we have the simplest possible formula. The eye line is at the halfway point of the skull's sphere. On this one I've kept it the same. But what I've done is I've moved the eyes down, and you'll see on the top one, the model design for this requires us to position the lower eyelid on the equator, but you can just as easily decide to have the eyes positioned at their corners, here and here, and let that be the model. So we can keep going. We can move the eye line down to a two thirds, and you can decide to have the bottom of the eye sitting on that.
If that's you're construction, it gives you a big wide baby face. Or you can decide again, let's move the eyeball down again and have the corners occupy that privileged position on this horizontal line. Or you could even move it up by a third. So there's no rigid formula to this, so what I'm trying to communicate here is the idea that these positions, you have a wide variety of options, things that you can choose from. And also you're not even limited to orienting the eyes vertically. You can orient the vertical axis of the eyes off of truth north.
In this case, I have moved them by a few degrees, and this gives you a completely different look of the character. Spacing the eyes apart is also important. So you can decide to have maybe an eyeball width approximately between the eyes, or you can make it narrower. But it's very important that you watch the consistency between the corner of the eye and this point here, which will determine the easiest point of reference between the edge of the eye and the next one over. If this drifts too close or too far apart, your character will start to look very different.
So let's take a look at how we will draw some of these images. So here we have a pre-drawn sphere that represents the skull. So what I'm going to do is to draw a couple of eyes in. Let's pick an unusual position. So let's say we're looking up at this guy like he's standing on a podium or a plinth or something, giving a speech and he's looking up in this direction here. So I'm going to make a slightly thinner stroke for the center line. And let's say it's very impassioned.
It's good to have some idea about what this chap is doing. What I'm going to do on this one is, as you can see here, I want to see a little less of the eye and really feel the depth. So in this case if we're looking straight on, the corners of the eye would be about here. Most of it would be above, so his eyebrow would be there, nose here. So let's get back to this. And if he's staring off this way, let's draw in the pupils. And I'm conscious of the fact again that this line here represents an invisible eyeball about there, and we would expect that the eyebrow itself would break on this line here, might be rubbed out.
So what I like to do when I get to a point where I've got my rough, but it's rough, and I want to do a clean up version over that, either I will rub down the drawing so that it's faint and I see a vague outline and I go over the same drawing on the same sheet of paper, or I put a clean sheet over it and draw a fresh drawing on a clean sheet. So in this case, I'm working in Photoshop so I'm just reducing the opacity of that drawing and putting a clean layer on top of it. Again on paper, I would be happy to get an eraser and just lightly rub it down and then do a clean version on top.
So now I'm going to use a smaller pencil stroke. And again remember as I draw these lines what they are. This is the upper eyelid. It's not a line, it's the upper eyelid. Always remember what the object is. Now again, I'm right-handed. I want to rotate this so I can draw it a little more comfortably. And now when I draw these pupils, notice how I draw the full ellipse. I did not do this. That looks flat.
I draw the entire ellipse of the pupil, the retina. I might go even smaller with this because it's such a fine thing, it's very hard to get the subtly of it. That's okay. Now let's draw in the lower eyelid. Same thing over here. So next thing to do is just to add a little bit of darkness for the eyelid area. I knew one very, very good animator who would spend a lot of time really darkening the perimeter of the eyes because he knew they were so important.
Now he's got his seams and this line here, the perimeter of the eye would always look like it had eyeliner on it. So that's my process for drawing a fairly decent set of cartoon eyes. And this is one step up from the button teddy bear eyes, so when you feel a little more confident, I recommend working in a medium like this. We'll be doing more as we go along, but this is a very good foundation I think to get you to grips with the ideas of where the curves go, what they represent. So I'm going to give you a very quick and close up look on the anatomy of the eye.
And this is the similar principles that we've already discussed, but the eye is so important, I really want you to grasp this and never forget this movie of all the movies in the course. So as you can see again I've drawn in the physical curve of the eye in red on this character here on the left. And you can see the arrows representing the corner of the eye, the lower lid, the eyeball, and the eyelid, and so on. So these are the points of control of the eye. When we look at this in profile, we see much the same thing. And again we have the corner of this gray line being the eye line that we set the eye on.
And note to the right of this, I've made a very cartoony stylized character and the same principles apply, it's just that the strokes are much, much simpler, much broader and easier to see. And once again, I've illustrated how we draw the ellipse of the pupil and the retina so these lines curve in, follow those red arrows. Never, ever draw anything that looks like that. Sometimes this happens in flash animation and CGI animation, it's hard to avoid, but if you draw, you don't have to do it. That's the beauty of drawing it.
Various treatments of pupils, if you want to get different kind of emotional effects, these are very funny. The guy on the left looks like he's seen something really horrendous. The guy in the middle, he's tearing up, deeply emotionally moved. And the fellow on the right has the classic hypnotized eye spiral. So these are cartoony devices, but they're very, very useful. One more thing, this is about open spaces and closed spaces. And this is a style issue depending on your character design. Sometimes the entire eyelids area will be drawn closed. Some styles like to have them open.
This isn't a problem either way, but if you do want a different color for the eyelids, then this is obviously going to be very hard to paint if it's open like this. So we tend to use in traditional animation, ink lines would be drawn, and these were in red, so they wouldn't be photocopied onto the transparent cells to be painted, and then they would be inked by hand. It was very complex. On the computer, the process is similar but easier. You would use an invisible stroke to close off that space, so if we're using Flash or Harmony, that's a system that you would want to watch out for.
And all these principles apply to any style. They're basically universal, so what I'm going to do is quickly show you how we apply some squash and stretch to different design styles. So here we have at the top row, our realistic eye, in normal pose, scrunched blink, wide open in shock, and tired. Middle row, the same thing for our typical 1940's character. Bottom row for a very stylized graphic modern one. And now if we look at these up close one by one, this is the naturalistic eye, scrunch, open, tired.
Go back one more time. So you can see the amount of control and flexibility we have even with a realistic one. Here's the cartoony guy, same process. And we have the stylized one. So you might be working in the graphic medium and that would be the method that you would apply. So that's our initial view of the eye, how you draw it, how you space it, how you control the volumes and make it look real.
Follow along with your favorite illustration program, your Wacom tablet, or paper and pen.
- Drawing gesture and attitude drawings
- Creating thumbnail drawings
- Understanding line of action, negative space, exaggeration, and more
- Drawing eyes and mouths
- Drawing feet and hands
- Drawing animals
- Going from rough sketch to full-color drawing