Here is a step-by-step technique for coloring realistic looking eyes that look great. I'm labeling it advanced, mostly because many of you won't ever need to get this in-depth into coloring and shading an eye. However, this builds upon a post on coloring eyes I made way back in July. There are a lot of my older posts that I have more to add to, so I'm going to make it a goal to finish up my earlier posts. I have a simple adaptation at the end of the post, so keep reading even if you don't think this applies to you.
Before I get into today's technique though, I just want to let you know that the Certification class in Pensacola and the class in New Orleans in a few weeks are now open to the public. Anyone who would like to attend should call Kris at 866-662-6742
Coloring realistic shaped eyes
You need to read this earlier post on understanding manga eyes before we adapt the same technique to realistic eyes. The concepts are exactly the same, only the shape has changed.
If you look at my diagram, you will see how light hits the eye and causes reflections. The reflections change shape depending on what light hits them. In a room with long flourescent lights the shape of the top glint will actually be more square or rectangular.
Always keep in mind where the light is coming from when you put it in. Also, as you turn your head the glint of light stays in the same place.The hardest part is figuring out how much /how little dark to add and where to consistently place your highlight. As with many things in art, this is a matter of personal taste as much as it is a trick in observation.
On this diagram I start with the gray shadow first. On my other post I add the shadow last. It really doesn't matter, as long as you add the shadow sometime.
Add the light blue, BG01 then layer in the BGo5 and BG09. Notice how I'm coloring the edges of the shape darker as well as the top. This helps accent the fact that your eyes are round. I could also add subtle shadows around the corners of the eyes to really make the white look rounded.
Next, I go back over the whole area with my lightest blue, BG01. This will darken that bottom highlight, so I came back in with a hint of colorless blender to lighten up the bottom color.
Right now the eye looks very believably colored, but it still is missing the last few touches that will finish it up to look shiny, reflective, and natural.
Again, for this last step keep in mind where your light is coming from (the highlight goes on the side closest to the light source) and the shape of the light. If you need some good ideas I strongly suggest going and running a search online to look at the shape of light in eyes.
First, I add some deeper color lines into the iris with my darkest blue, BG09. I keep these radiating out from the center. Then I drew in a few small black lines in the deepest color areas to also accent the iris. Last I go back in with my Opaque white paint and add the final highlights. Don't go overboard on the glints! You can always make it bigger, but it's much harder to make them smaller. Subtle is usually enough. You can also thin down the Opaque white so you can see through it, then add this as your very soft light glint.
On my final illustration of this woman you see that the glint of light in each eye is strongest on the same side that she has the strongest highlights in her hair. The reflection in the far eye is smaller because that eye is farther from the light source.
Remember, this is a matter of personal taste, since my illustration is stylized. I could have gotten away with making the other glint larger, and in hindsight, I think I made her lips a little too off-center with her nose. Oh well, it gives me an excuse to draw more pictures. Looking at photos or your own reflection will be the best way to get the glints correct in relation to the lighting and shadows.
Cute and Innocent eyes
Unrelated to the realistic eyes, here are a couple of sea-turtle babies I drew. The eyes really make this image cute, since they are so big when compared to the rest of the turtle. Obviously, these are supposed to be cute and innocent.
I followed the same steps in coloring the eyes by making the colored area lighter at the bottom, darker at the top, and added two glints of light with opaque white last. These really help to accent the cuteness and innocence of the turtles. Notice how luminous and reflective their eyes look. It's amazing what a couple of flecks of white can do to really make a cute picture cuter.
Green turtle: BG01, G05, G85, G29, Eyes BG01, BV13. Purple: Turtle BG01, BV00, BV13, G85 Eyes BG01, BV13. Sand: YR31, Y28, N3, Blender