How To Draw Manga Eyes
In manga, eyes can be drawn in a myriad of different ways. Its shape can vary from small to large, rounded to rectangular, or even represented as various symbols depending on the expression conveyed. The iris can be shaded in many ways as well, depending on the way light is reflected over the eyes and the shadows created by the eyelids.
In this tutorial, we will first go though the basic construction of manga eyes, followed by ways to shade the irises. Next, we will have a look at…
Manga Eyes Construction
First let’s have a look at the different parts of manga eyes, and how it compares to a more realistically drawn eye. The upper and lower eyelids wrap around the eyeballs, exposing the iris which contains the pupil. The white parts to the left and right of the iris is called the sclera. Notice how the upper and lower eyelids aren’t drawn connected in the manga version? This is a very common feature of eyes that are found in manga. As a result, the eyes’ shape and outline won’t necessarily be obvious.
Basic Eye Shapes
The shape of manga eyes can vary widely, from rounded ovals, to sharp-edged rectangles. Below you can see some examples of various eye shapes.
As you can see above, there are many variations to the way that an oval-shaped eye can be drawn. Even for the rectangular-shaped eye, it is possible to vary the length, angle and size to produce different looks. So it is important that you think of the shape of the eye when drawing the eyelids.
Of course it is also possible to draw the upper and lower eyelids connected, like in the case above. When a “double pointed oval” shaped eye is drawn this way, it creates an eye that looks like cat’s.
Observe the differences between eyes with a clear outline, and eyes without, in the image above. Both versions are acceptable, and can be used to create different looks in a character. Take note that the upper eyelids should be drawn covering a small portion of the iris in the neutral position. There being a gap indicates either surprise or eyes opened wide.
The angle of the eyes can give different looks to your character. A downward-angled set of eyes gives off a laid back vibe, whereas an upward-angled set of eyes gives off a determined, spirited look.
Male vs Female
The differences between a female eye and a male eye in manga is in the way the shape of the eye, the eyelashes, and the iris is drawn.
Rounded eyes have a softer appearance, which is why you’ll find that most girl manga characters are drawn with large, round eyes. Male characters, on the other hand, typically possesses narrower eyes drawn with sharper corners. However, you will find that many younger male characters are drawn with rounded eyes as well.
Another characteristic of the female eye is that they have thick eyelids, with long and defined eyelashes. To sketch these type of eyes, simply draw many overlapping lines similar to the step-by-step pictured above. Often, the outline of the iris is drawn this way as well.
Observe the directions of the eyelashes in both the upper and lower eyelid as indicated by the blue arrows. Use thin lines when drawing them, concentrating on the upper corners. The eyelashes on the upper eyelid should be drawn longer as well. Pair these features with a long, thin eyebrow to complete a typical female manga eye.
Male manga eyes on the other hand can be drawn with thicker eyebrows, which can be used to draw attention to the eyes. Their eyes are narrower and more rectangular as well.
Depending on age and build type, the shape of the male eyes can vary widely in the way it is drawn. You may wish to draw the eyes rounder and less rectangular for your younger and/or cuter male characters.
Shading the Iris
Once you’ve drawn the outer eyelid shape and outlined the iris, it is time to think about the impression that you wish to leave using the eyes. The iris and pupil can be drawn in many different ways depending on various factors such as the light reflection, shadow casting, and iris patterns.
The first things that you can play around with are the highlights that are caused by reflected light cast off the eyes. These can vary in shape and quantity, appearing as “light bubbles” all around the iris. Notice also how the highlight in the lower left creates a gap in the iris’ outline.
On the upper portion of the iris you will sometimes find a shadow forming from under the eyelashes. Refer to the image above for an example of how that works.
Here I some ways to color in the eyes that you can use as an example:
- Small pupil, with a clear white iris.
- Two light bubbles, a rounded medium-sized pupil, with shaded iris.
- A small light reflection off the top, with a tiny pupil.
- Many lines are drawn radiating from the pupil, with one bubble extending out from the iris.
- A deep black shadow on the upper portion of the eyes.
- An oval shaped pupil, with a tiny light bubble over it. Also has a shadow, but not as dark as the previous one.
You can use the template below to practice drawing the eyes’ iris and pupil without having to redraw the outlines every time. Simply print these out on an A4 sized paper.
Below is an example of the steps taken to draw a manga eye.
- Sketch an outline of the eye’s shape.
- Sketch the outline of the iris.
- Draw in the upper and lower eyelids.
- Erase the light outlines so that the eyelids doesn’t connect. Draw a crease above the upper eyelid, and add eyelashes. Then sketch the light reflection pattern on the eye.
- Color in the pupil black, and darken the eye bubbles. Sketch in a shadow line on the iris.
- Fill in the shadow, and draw some patterns on the iris. Finally draw the eyebrows to complete the drawing.
Viewing Direction & Angles
Eyes – Side View
To draw the side view of the eye, use a triangle as a guide for the outline. The upper and lower eyelids form two sides of the triangle. From this angle, the iris and pupil appears as an elongated oval instead of a circle.
You can also vary the shape of the side view of the eye. It is important, however, to match the overall shape with the way it is drawn from the front. E.g. eyes that are drawn narrow from the front should also be drawn likewise from the side.
High vs Low Angles
The picture above shows a cross-section of the head where the eyes are located. Notice how the front of the face isn’t flat, but is instead curved with the eyeballs placed along it? This affects the shape of the eyes and its placement along the face when viewed from different angles.
When seen from a low angle, the eye line curves slightly to form an arch. From the front, the eye line is a straight line. When seen from a high angle, the eye line curves the other way to form an inverted arch. The eyes should be drawn to follow these curves.
Above is an example of the concept as explained earlier, showing the three different angles. When the girl looks up and down, her eyes are seen as though it is viewed from a low and high angle respectively.
Other than the up and down directions, the eyes and eyebrows also changes it shape as the head rotates. You can refer to the above chart to get a basic idea of how that works, as you continue to experiment and figure it out.
Eye Movements & Expressions
If you’re drawing a character looking straight, draw the pupils in the center of the eye. To make them appear looking left or right, draw the eyes tilted to that direction. It is important to draw both eyes looking in the same direction, to avoid a cross-eyed look. The direction of the glance can suggest a character’s thoughts and feelings. A sideways look could indicate that he has spotted something of interest, or he could simply be embarrassed, unable to look directly into another’s eyes.
Manga Eyes Closed
When the eye closes, the upper eyelid moves downwards until it completely covers the eyeball. A crease then appears where the upper eyelids were originally due to the protruding eyeball.
This concept of the upper eyelids moving downwards applies when drawn from the side view as well. Just remember that the lower eyelids remain stationary as the eye closes.
Note the differences in the way the eyes are drawn closed in the picture above. If the eyelids arch downwards, they will appear to be closed. Whereas if it is arched upwards, the entire face’s expression changes to look happy.
As you can see from the variety of manga expressions shown in the collection above, the eyes and brows can be used to really bring out the raw feelings of a character. Think about what emotions your character is experiencing and reveal it with the eyes.
That’s it for this tutorial, keep drawing and have fun!