Draw manga eyes

How you can express emotions with minor changes

The eyes are an important part of your illustrations. You can use them to express emotions and give the overall picture ‘that certain something.’ Jessica Hohl gives you step-by-step instructions on how to draw manga eyes and has brought along some variations to serve as inspiration for you.

You will need these materials for a manga eye:

Step 1: The rough sketch

For me, every picture starts with a rough idea that I put to paper, preferably using a 0.5 mm HB pencil. For one eye, I’ll start with the upper eyelid and then work my way along until I have the rough shape of an eye in front of me. Manga eyes are frequently very large in order to convey strong emotions, but you can also draw them smaller or narrower – it’s completely up to you. 

Tip: Test which pencil hardness you like best. For me it’s HB, the “standard” among pencils. However, some artists prefer harder (H) or softer (B) pencils. So test them out!

Step 2: The detailed sketch

Once you have the rough shape, you can use details to make the eye more lifelike. These include, for example, eyelashes or details inside the eye such as the pupil and shading. Here as well, it’s up to you as to how many details you add and what you personally find most beautiful. For example, I leave the interior of the pupil lighter so that I can represent light reflections using color later on.

Step 3: Line art

If you are satisfied with your sketch, you can trace it with a black (or colored!) fineliner. Once you have everything traced properly and let it all dry, simply erase the leftover pencil marks and your line art is finished. A white eraser, such as the MONO plastic eraser, works best here since it is particularly gentle on the paper and does not erase the pigments from fineliners as much as pink erasers do, for example.

Important: The fineliner should be waterproof and you should test it in combination with the alcohol-based markers and the Bristol Paper in advance so that your beautiful eye does not smear right away!

Step 4: Coloring

In my opinion, coloring is the most fun part of drawing because this is where more color finally comes into play! In this example, I decided on a blue eye color, however, you can select the colors that you personally like best, of course.

To prime the iris, I use the ABT PRO Marker 502 and color everything evenly first. I then use the same marker to create shading, because with alcohol-based markers, you can very easily create a contrast – even with just a single marker. You can apply the color in several layers, one on top of the other, in order to achieve a more intense color. For more depth, I add shading using the ABT PRO 476. In general, the upper part of the eye is darker because the eyelashes and upper eyelid cast a shadow. How much contrast you want to add is up to you – I also use color 539 in some places for a stronger effect.

Tip: For smooth color transitions, the blending method works well. To do this, first shade with the light color, then add the dark part in the shadow, and then blend directly over it again using the light color on top. This takes some practice, but it’s very helpful. You can also use a PN00 colorless blender as an aid for this. Simply use it over the area you want to make softer to get a smooth transition.

Around the eye I also use P910, P881, and P772 for the skin color. I then make the eyelashes and eyebrows darker with P848.

Step 5: Highlights

In order to make the eyes really shine beautifully, you can also add light reflections using a white gel pen, ink or acrylic paint. This step is optional since you can just leave the spots white from the start if you want.

Finally, I would just like to say: Be creative and have fun trying out different colors and shapes! Not all eyes look the same and, especially with manga eyes, there are no limits to your imagination.

Try it yourself and share your Manga picture under #tombowinspiration with the Tombow family.

About the author


- Jessica Hohl

Jessica Hohl, a 25-year-old creative therapist and illustrator, was mesmerized by animé and manga as a child, and she began to draw her own characters and develop stories at the age of 12. These days, she inspires and motivates her viewers on YouTube with time-lapse videos and tutorials, showing tips and tricks for manga drawings.
Her motto here: Whether young or old, everyone can learn to draw. There is an artist in every person!

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