how to draw anime eyes step by step

How to Draw Anime Eyes? A 14-step Breakdown for Beginners

XPPen 2024-06-24 10:31:47 15 min read

Ready to make your characters speak volumes with just a glance? This guide will be your one-stop shop for mastering how to draw anime eyes.

Unlike realistic eyes, anime eyes are all about drama and expressiveness. Bold shapes, vibrant colors, and exaggerated features tell a story without words. We'll show you how to use these techniques to bring your characters to life, whether you want to draw glossy eyes that sparkle with joy or smoldering eyes that radiate intensity.

This beginner-friendly guide breaks down everything you need to know. From sketching basic shapes to adding depth with shadows and highlights, we'll take you step-by-step. You'll even learn pro tips for creating realistic reflections on the eyeballs offered by our guest illustrator ChrissaBug.

How to Draw Anime Eyes 101

1. Proportion

Realistic eyes are closer in size to each other, with the distance between them matching roughly the width of an eye. The width of the whole face, in realistic drawings, would stretch across roughly five-eye lengths. On the other hand, anime does not stick to such rulebooks. Here, eyes take center stage, often much larger and dominating the face for a more expressive look.

It's worth noting that female characters in anime often have eyes proportionally larger than their male counterparts.

2. Structure

In anime eyes, certain features are emphasized to convey emotions effectively. The iris and pupil are often enlarged to highlight expressions, while the eyelashes and eyelids are stylized for added drama. The shape of the eye itself, whether round, almond, or angular, plays a critical role in defining the character's personality and mood.

3. Variations

Anime eyes exhibit considerable variations based on perspective and angle. This is where learning how to draw anime eyes from different viewpoints becomes crucial. Frontal views often feature large, detailed eyes with prominent highlights. Side views may compress the eye shape, emphasizing the curvature and thickness of the eyelashes. By understanding how to play with depth and dimensionality from different angles, you can enhance your character's visual impact.

Two Must-have Tools for Drawing Anime Eyes

1. Animation Software

Mastering how to draw expressive eyes digitally allows for capturing nuances and details with ease. Programs like Clip Studio Paint Pro offer user-friendly interfaces and a vast library of customizable brushes. This lets you create sharp lines for a determined gaze or blend colors for depth in emotional scenes.

2. A Drawing Tablet with Stylus

A drawing tablet with a pressure-sensitive stylus provides precise control, perfect for drawing nuanced and expressive anime eyes. Look for shortcut buttons, tilt functions for natural strokes, and high-pressure sensitivity for detailed lines. These features will help you translate your creative vision perfectly onto the digital canvas.

When choosing a drawing tablet, consider screen size as well. A larger display can provide a more natural drawing experience, especially for detailed work. XPPen's Artist 24 Pro is a great example of a drawing pad that features a large, high-resolution display alongside the essential precision features, making it ideal for mastering how to draw anime eyes.

How to Draw Anime Eyes? A Step-by-step Guide

Starting from scratch to draw anime eyes can be challenging if you are not familiar with Clip Studio Paint. Luckily, we invited @ChrissaBug to share her precious drawing tips with us. Here are the takeaways we summarize. To view the full workflow, hit the view button on the video at the end of this section.

1. Position the eyes

Make a light sketch of your character, then divide the face vertically into four sections. Instead of centering the eyes, place them higher up, taking up about three of those four sections. This gives anime characters their signature big, expressive eyes.

2. Sketch out the shape of the eyes

You need to outline the shape of the eyes now. Anime eyes start with closed shapes (circle for cheerful, sharp angles for brooding). Soften the curves of feminine characters, and sharpen them for masculine ones.

3. Contour the lines of the eyes

To define your eyes, add eyelashes. Use a thicker, gently curved line for the upper lid, following the eye's roundness. On the lower lid, use a thinner line. To create depth, gradually thicken both lines towards the outer corner of the eyes.


4. Fill in a gray undertone

Create a new layer for coloring the eyes. Now add a pinkish-gray base instead of flat whites for a more natural look. This tone will create a better foundation for adding other colors and allow for smoother blending later. Using the Smooth Watercolor brush, soften the tear duct area.


5. Color the iris

Consider your character's personality and the desired mood to choose the iris color. You can also match it with the background or your character's hair color. On a new layer, use a hard-round brush to fill this color in.


6. Make the iris deep with a cooler shade

Pick your base iris color and find a shade slightly cooler than it using the color wheel. Here's a pro tip: “lock transparency” for the iris color layer before adding shadows. This keeps the new shade within the iris lines, preventing messy bleeding.

Use a large, soft airbrush to create a gradient on the part of the iris that’s closer to the light source in the sketch. If the light is coming from the upper right corner, focus on the darker shade there.


7. Add paler hues on the iris

Next, pick a lighter hue of the iris color, and using the soft airbrush again, gently apply this color opposite to the darker gradient. It creates an illusion of light reflecting off the iris.


8. Paint the shades of the eyelashes

On a new “Hard Light” layer, use a grayish-purple tone and a hard brush like Clip Studio’s G-pen to block the shadows of the lashes on the eye. Here’s another pro tip: if the light is coming from the right, make the shadows stronger on the left.

Switch to a softer brush with a transparent color to smoothly blend the hard shadow lines, making sure you’re not applying too much pressure while doing so.

Now return to the base layer and use the Smooth Watercolor Brush to select a very light white and apply it below the darker shadows.


9. Sketch the pupils to a proper scale

On a new layer, add the pupils for your character's eyes. Make them small to dial up intensity or large to radiate innocence and wonder. While black is the go-to hue for pupils, you can experiment by adding a pop of color at its center.


10. Introduce more texture on the iris

Add more texture to the iris by using a lighter complementary color. You can select the Watercolor Brush for a natural blend.


11. Deepen the iris’ outer ring

Grab a slightly darker shade of your iris color. This shade will define the limbal ring, the thin border where the iris meets the white. With your textured brush (like Clip Studio's Watercolor Brush), carefully stroke this darker shade around the iris's outer curve, following its shape. You can even use this shade to darken the pupil's outer ring for a sharper, more defined look.

11.deepen the outer ring.jpg

12. Embellish the irises with reflective glints

Place small white highlights where the light hits the eyes. Use a hard brush for ovals or experiment with shapes that reflect the environment, like squares for a window effect. Play with size and number for dramatic or sparkly eyes.


13. Portray the reflections on the eyeball surface

Create a new layer and use the lasso tool to carefully select a crescent shape on the upper part of each iris. Choose a light blue color and switch to the soft airbrush, gently applying this color along the bottom edge of the selection.

Now deselect the area and use the smooth watercolor brush to blend the hard line where the reflection meets the eye. Adjust the layer opacity to make the reflection more subtle.


14. Enrich the details inside and around the eyes

Now it's time for personal touches that reflect your style. A pro tip from Chriss Bug is adding rings to the iris. You might also consider anime-inspired eye makeup.

Besides, to make the eyes stand out, add another layer, change its mode to ‘Glow,’ and use the airbrush to softly paint areas you want to intensify. This creates a luminous, glossy effect. 

How to Set Clip Studio Paint Pro on a Drawing Pad?

1. Download and Install

Head over to the Clip Studio Paint website and choose the version that suits your needs. After purchasing, you should receive a download link. Click on the link and follow the on-screen prompts to install the software.

2. Connect and Launch

Make sure your drawing pad is properly connected to your computer. Once the installation is complete, launch Clip Studio Paint Pro from your desktop.

3. Pen Configuration

Depending on your drawing pad model, you might need to fine-tune the pen settings within Clip Studio Paint Pro. This usually involves adjusting pressure sensitivity, shortcut buttons, and other preferences specific to your pad. Clip Studio Paint Pro often provides auto-configuration for popular models, but you can always access the settings to customize for a perfect experience.

4. Test It Out

Create a new canvas or open an existing file to test your setup. Try drawing a few lines and experimenting with the pen pressure to see if Clip Studio Paint Pro recognizes your drawing pad's input correctly.


As is commonly believed, the eyes are the windows to the soul. It’s one of the secrets that make a lifelike anime character. To add soul to the sketches, drawing techniques, the right gadgets, and practice are the key.

This in-depth guide revealed the step-by-step process of how to draw anime eyes. You've mastered shapes, color, and detail, breathing life into characters with every stroke.

With various drawing tablets with screens available, you can elevate your art even further. We explored how essential digital drawing software and high-performance drawing tablets can help you render textures with remarkable precision.

Now, you’re ready to draw anime eyes that capture a spectrum of emotions. Don’t hesitate to get a drawing tablet in our store, and start sketching!

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