Drawing the iris is pretty easy. It’s basically laying down strokes that point toward the pupil. You blend these and repeat! This method works for both digital and analog art :)
1. Draw a big circle to make the iris and draw a smaller circle to make the pupil
The pupil is located in the center of the iris. It might help to first mark the center of the iris and then create a circle around that marked spot. Feel free to use a compass!
2. Lay down a base layer
Lay down a base color. This flat base color should be lighter than the darkest part of your iris but darker than the lightest part. Go for a dark midtone I’d say.
3. Darken the edge of the iris and darken the pupil
Darken the outer edge of your iris. This doesn’t have to be super dark yet. We can always go back and darken it more (as we will do in a later step). Darken the pupil as well. For now, I use the same value for both the iris and outer edge.
4. Darken the edge of the iris
Next, we darken the iris again. This time it’s a ring inside the outer edge we darkened in step 3. Darken around the pupil as well using the same value.
5. Lay down strokes to mimic the texture of an iris
Next, we make strokes so that we get that specific iris look. Using the same value as in step 4, we will make strokes that point towards the center. We repeat this step but this time we go from the center of the pupil towards the outer edge of the iris.
Lastly, we pick a value that is lighter in color than our base color and we add it to the middle of our iris.
6. Start blending from the outer edge towards the center
If you work digitally this step is suuuuuuuper easy. Grab a hair brush and start smudging from the outer edge of the iris towards the pupil. The hair brush I use comes from this Procreate brush pack. Make sure that all of your values are on one layer though.
Then start smudging from the pupil towards the outer edge. Lastly, smudge your lightest value.
7. Darken the pupil and add, blend, and repeat
Darken up the outer edge of your iris. Up the lightest value you put down to create extra dimension (see image below). Keep playing until you get what you’re looking for. Doing all of this increases contrast and dimension.
After that redefine the pupil by darkening it.
8. Add a highlight
Add a white highlight and slightly lower the opacity.
9. Add a highlight, imperfections and darken the top
Use another hair brush and add in the reflection of your eyelashes. Add imperfections by adding some spots. If you look at a reference of an iris you often see these kinds of ”cavities”. I draw them by adding a spot, lowering the opacity, and at 100% opacity I add an outer edge.
Lastly, you should darken the top half of the iris. We do this because the eyelid casts a bit of a shadow over the iris. But please avoid darkening the highlight as well!
10. Adjust your values and blur the edge
Lastly, take a look at your iris. Increase contrast if needed. Slightly blur the edge and you’re done!
Pretty easy right? Here is a simple recap:
- Draw two circles: a big one to represent the iris and a small one to represent the pupil.
- Lay down a base color and color the pupil
- Darken the outer edge of both the pupil and the iris
- Lay down a pattern of strokes that mimic an iris. Make use of the same values
- Blend those strokes in the direction they go in
- Repeat step 4 to create more depth
- Add a highlight and add imperfections
- Increase contrast if needed and blur the edge
An actual eye has its iris covered up
To see how this works when drawing an eye you can check out my realistic eye tutorial here. When drawing eyes you’ll notice that you typically don’t draw a full iris. The top is usually covered by the eyelid as you can see by the questionable drawn eyelids in the image below: