Watercolor Tutorial: How To Paint Eyes Step By Step

Learn these basic tips to start working on your watercolor portrait eyes with Sol Barrios

The eyes are the element of the face express the most and bring the most personality to a portrait. Therefore, it is important that we dedicate special attention and detail to them in our projects.

In this tutorial, Sol Barrios (@solbarrios), watercolorist and muralist, teaches us how to approach the drawing of the eyes step by step in a watercolor portrait. You can follow the process in the following video:

1. Mark the contour of the eyes and paint the iris

We will use fine brushes to begin our painting and first mark the eye contours [/b]with the darkest colours we have used for the skin. For example, we can add a sepia-brown spot above the eye, and some violet underneath to mark the dark circles under the eyes. Remember that, if we are not working on a realistic portrait, we can take certain liberties when painting and choose colors to achieve greater expressiveness in our portrait.

To paint the iris, we will choose a color like Payne Grey to apply a first layer. It's OK to stray into the inside of the pupil, as its color will be darker, and it will cover the color we have chosen for the eyes.

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2. Use pencils to add detail and shadows

The graphite of the pencils is a perfect complement to the watercolor portraits. Once we have allowed the first layer of paint to dry, we will use the pencil to add details: we will outline the upper lashes, the pupil and the edges of the iris. We will do this gently, and never before the watercolour has dried, to avoid making grooves on the paper or spoiling it.

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Once we have marked these lines, we will use the same pencil to blur the lines of the eyelashes and add the shadow projected on the iris of the eye. We will do this with soft circular movements. If we notice that the graphite is too predominant in our portrait, we can always use an eraser to gently remove it.

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3. Add whites of the eyes

Despite its name, the whites of the eyes should not be pure white. [/b]Add any shades we have used on the skin and some Payne Grey to give depth to the area, and take advantage of this to further mark the shadows on the base we have prepared.

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4. Paint the eyebrows in wet

To make the eyebrows look realistic and particular, wet the area we want to paint and start injecting the chosen color so that the resulting stain is irregular.

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5. Add shine to the eyes

Once we have the eye painted, it's time to bring it to life with some shine on the pupil.

Choose the smallest brush we have, ideally number 1, and use the white watercolor directly from the tube.

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These steps, will help you achieve an initial approximation of the eyes that will mark the personality of your portrait and let you focus on the rest of the face.

If you liked this tutorial, remember that you can learn how to create intimate and suggestive portraits with water, color, and brushes, on Sol Barrios' online course Watercolor Portrait from a Photo.

You may also like:

- Watercolor Coloring for Comics and Illustrations, a course by Sergio Bleda
- Illustrated Portrait in Watercolor, a course by Ana Santos
- Watercolor Illustration: Recreate Your Most Iconic Scenes, a course by Carlos Rodríguez Casado


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