Digital Realism: Eyes

This tutorial will cover how to illustrate wonderful, lifelike eyes using Photoshop 6.0. Unlike my older digital realism technique, this one is more detailed, and likewise, more time consuming. For this particular tutorial, we will be using mainly one tool, the airbrush. Ready? Lets begin!

Tools you will use

  • Airbrush
  • Smudge Tool


1px brush size

1px brush size

2px brush size

2px brush size

Step 1

Sketch out your image, either in Photoshop, or with a pencil. I will not go over cleaning up scans, as I assume you already know how to do that. If you choose to sketch in Photoshop, your sketch should be somewhat clean, like the one above, though it doesn't need to be perfect.

Step 2

Now, using the paintbrush tool, with a brush size of 13px, block in your fur colors, and eye colors. Do not worry about the pupil, we will add that in later. For the fur, use the smudge tool to smooth the area where the colors meet. This will help later, when you add in fur.

Step 3

Now, using the airbrush tool, with a size of 1 px, I select a a slightly darker brown, and I begin detailing in the eye. Note the placement of the coloring. It is not perfect all around, because in nature things are rarely perfect. Everything is full of blemishes and imperfections, including eyes. This particular eye has some darker spots, streaks, etc.

Step 4

Using an even darker brown, I work to re-enforce my previous design. Now the eye is starting to have texture, and some slight variation.

Step 5

Using yet a darker color, I add in more subtle details, mainly around the rim of the iris, and in the pupil area. A few flecks of this darker color are added to the iris in some spots, purely for variation.

Step 6

Now using a color much lighter than our original base color, I start adding lighter marks and streaks. Now our eye is starting to look more like, well, an eye!

Step 7

Using a VERY dark (almost black) bluish/grey color, almost black, I detail only the rim around the iris, and the pupil.

Step 8

It may look like I have skipped a few steps, but all I have done is added a highlight to the eye. Remember, highlights are almost NEVER pure white, with the exception of the white 'dot'. Note the blue reflection in the eye. That is the sky. Eyes are very glossy, and therefor will reflect the color of the sky abit. In this case, the sky was pure blue, therefor the reflection is blue too. I also added a few flecks of white near the bottom, just to enhance the effect.

Step 9

We now begin by using the same dark blue/grey color that we used in Step 7 to add shadows to the skin around the eyes. Keep in mind that this skin isn't smooth, so make sure to include the skin texture, be it pores, creases, etc. It makes your image look more natural.

Step 10

Using a lighter grey/blue, we now add highlights. Again, this area around the eye is moist, and will to an extent, reflect abit of color. In this case, the same blue that is seen in the eye. I can't stress this enough, highlights are almost never white! I also added some lighter brownish tones near the corners of the eye, for variation.

Your eye is now done! You can now work on adding in the fur around it, and you are set! The technique you just learned can be applied to just about any eye, ranging from human, to wolf, to tiger, or whatever else you can imagine!

Other Examples of Eyes

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