Drawing appealing cartoon eyes is probably the most difficult thing to do. Eyes are the window to the soul and so many things can be said using only a quick look. You can also notice the same phenomenon is the wonderful world of 3D animation. Characters often don't feel realistic because eyes look lifeless or too shiny. That's why learning to create believable eyes is definitely something you should aim for.
Performance of eyes can vary from one creature to another. We already know what our eyes are capable of, but did you know that even in the middle of the night, an owl can see a prey move from a distance of 200 feet? That dogs don't see colors very well? They mostly see things in black, grey and white. Some creatures like worms don't have any eyes at all.
It's always a good idea to study the subject of a tutorial before proceeding with the step-by-step lesson. In this case, let's take a look at the picture of a real human eye. First, you can see a basic eyebrow on top of this one (1). Only a few hairs are needed to illustrate this part of the body.
Next, you need to sketch the upper (2) and lower (3) eyelid using long curved lines. Eyelashes (5) are also connected to these two basic parts. Finally, in the center of the eye, a large pupil (4) can be seen. This one can be green, brown or blue. Eyes are filled with textures and reflections which make this specific area more difficult to get right.
To understand a little bit better what we are dealing with, let's convert the picture into a basic illustration. You can see that eyebrows are made from several short straight lines. Eyebrows can be light, dense or even much longer than the eye itself. Both eyelids are represented by long curved lines.
A few eyelashes are created on top and bottom of the eye. Speaking of the eye, this one is drawn using an unusual shape. The left side is round while the right side is pointed. The pupil is made from a large circle (in blue) and a small dot (in black). Great! Now that we are more familiar with this part of the body, let's draw one!
First, draw a large circle to form the pupil of the eye. Then, sketch an oval shape near the bottom of the previous addition. The left side is perfectly round while the right side is sharp and pointed. Inside the pupil, draw two more small circles. You can now erase the part of the pupil that is visible outside the eye. On top of the image, draw a long eyebrow. Small lines are added on the left side of this new shape.
Under the eye, create a tiny eyelid. A few eyelashes are sketched on top of the eye. Complete this step by adding a few basic colors. Remember that this is a cartoon version of an eye. That's why you can skip a few elements and still end up with an appealing result.
Eyes can be made using a wide variety of techniques. If you are looking for something simple, but still effective, then dots are more than enough (1). If you want to create a more expressive character, adding two oval shapes can also be a good alternative (2).
The last four examples are incorporating more features and are closer to reality. The fifth one even includes basic textures inside the pupil and a large reflection near the right. We used the fourth image for our step-by-step lesson.
I hope you had fun learning to draw cool cartoon eyes using the tutorial on this page. Don't hesitate to use more realistic models to achieve your goal. Meanwhile, you can also try more fun lessons from this site featuring simple and complex eyes made from basic elements. Have fun!
External resources: How to draw an eye