By: Elyse                Categories: 3D AnimationInspiration

By Richard Tilbury

Software Used: Photoshop

In this tutorial we will be painting a human eye. The first thing to do is to gather as many reference pictures as you can – including a mirror! You will notice that all eyes are unique in both color and shape, and that the skin will vary in every image. Lighting also plays a key role in determining how reflective the lens looks, as well as the skin itself.

Fig. 01

Step 01 Once you have enough references at hand, start by deciding on a light source and then putting down some very rough shapes and colors using a standard Chalk brush. In Fig.01 you can see that I have laid down a basic template to build upon. I created the skin tones on a single layer and then added the white of the eye (or sclera), the iris, and the pupil all on separate layers. I added some Gaussian Blur to the three eye layers to avoid any sharp lines. It is good practice to keep these layers intact for now to ease the process of making any color alterations as we progress.

Fig. 02a

Step 02 In Fig.02a I have added some provisional detail to the eye on the same layer as the iris – just a few random squiggles that emanate outwards from the pupil, as well as a darker outline. You can also use the Smudge tool to soften the edge of the iris, as well as to destroy the perfect symmetry. I added an extra layer on which I painted in some more flesh tones to soften the image.

Fig. 02b

In Fig.02b you can see some of the darker paint strokes that define the eyelid, as well as some pinker shades that run around the sclera. There are also some lighter accents that help form the bottom lid. Try and vary the colors across your painting, whilst keeping them within a similar tonal range. You can select pale reds through to yellows, browns and even some cooler bluish tones. Remember that variety is the key to creating a convincing look!

Fig. 03

Step 03 In Fig.03 I have refined the corner of the eye where the eyeball curves inwards, and have softened the surrounding skin area. More crucially, I have added a new Shadows layer set to Multiply and painted in some gray/brown tones under the eyebrow and top of the eye itself, to help refine the form.

Fig. 04

Step 04 I then created a new layer to add in the eyelashes using a fi ne Airbrush, as seen in Fig.04. I also painted in some grayish tones under the upper lid to denote some shadows which are also being cast across the top of the eye. You will notice that I have also used the Smudge tool to add an inconsistent edge to the iris, as well as painting in some small blood vessels and subtle pink tones towards the corners of the eye. One other layer has been added to inject some light into the eye. Here I have used a pale blue and green color and made some random shapes around the pupil, and then set the blending mode to Screen which helps bring it more to life.

Fig. 05

Step 05 To further enhance the eye I selected a dull green and on a new layer set to Color Dodge, painted a random shape covering most of the lower right side of the iris to create some highlights, as seen in Fig.05.

Step 06 The one vital aspect still missing from the image is a reflective highlight across the cornea. This will add a necessary touch and breathe life into the image. This is done using a pure white on a new layer with the Opacity turned down to around 80%. It is up to you where you paint the highlight and the type of shape you choose as it is very subjective anyway. I have chosen a window shape using some sharp lines to describe a framework, and faded the edges somewhat (Fig.06). Reserve a pure white only for a small section of the highlight. I have also painted in some small highlights in the corner of the eye and along the bottom lid. At this stage it may be a good idea to flatten the painting if you are happy with things.

Fig. 07a

Fig. 07b

Fig. 07c

Step 07 We are almost finished now, apart from some subtle color overlays which will be used to improve the skin tones. In Fig.07a you can see that I have masked out the actual eye, and then on a new layer applied a gradient across the image from corner to corner using a pale pink and yellow. I then repeated this process but this time using a much grayer denomination of the previous colors, as seen in Fig.07b. Set the blending mode of both these layers to Soft Light at 100% Opacity and see the results in Fig.07c (compared with Fig.06). The tones are now much warmer, and the shading softer.

Fig. 08a

Fig. 08b

Fig. 08c

Step 08 One last thing which we can do is use a Spatter brush with a little scattering to help break up the skin tones and show some highlights around the pores. You can either do this on a new layer or paint onto the flattened version. Select a Spatter brush and reduce the size down to between 7 and 12 (Fig.08a), and begin painting in lighter marks below the bottom lid to create a textured surface. You can also increase the scattering from within the brushes palette to paint in some varied tones which are just visible above the eye area (Fig.08b).

I used a standard dry brush to begin with and combined this with the Dual Brush function and some scattering for this area (Fig.08c). To finish off the image I added one final layer using a pinky purple color (171, 112, 126) set to Overlay, which just increases the redness around the eye to suggest the blood vessels beneath the surface. Then, using the circular Marquee tool with some feathering, I altered the color of the eye through Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation. I increased the Hue slider to create some brown around the pupil, and gave the eye a greener, gray color.


Excerpt from Digital Painting Techniques by 3D Total © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group.  All Rights Reserved.

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