Tutorial: How to draw realistic eyes with Soft Pastel?

In this step by step tutorial I will show you how to draw realistic eyes with soft pastels. Every step is illustrated with pictures and details of materials used.

 Materials used:

  • Canson Mi-Teintes (Cream colour)
  • Derwent Pastel Pencils 72
  • Unison Colour Soft Pastels Portrait 36
  • White acrylic paint in a small tube

Use the toothed side of the pastel paper.


Step 1

Use a light brown colour pastel pencil to draw the outlines of the eyes, eyebrows and nose. I have used Derwent Naples Yellow P070.

01 step

Tip: If you are unsure, you can first draw a light layer with pencil which is easier to revise and erase. Just make sure to not use too much pressure as it might shine through later.


Step 2

I start by layering the skin tone first. Some people like to do the eyes first and the skin tone at last. Personally, I prefer to do the skin tone shades first, but you can do this step at last if you want.

03 step

In the picture you can see the different layers of shades. I used Unison Colour Pastel Re 13, RE 7, BE 9, Grey 11, and Grey 27 (which is actually not grey but nearly a white tone… strange choice of naming).


Step 3

Blend the skin tone colours.

04 step

Tip: Use your fingers for blending. I know it makes a mess, but using a paper towel takes off the pastel pigments and leaves you with a pale colour. Have a wet little towel next to you to wipe of your fingers whenever blending new colour parts to avoid smudging unwanted colours together.


Step 4

We start with the left eye. As a ground colour I used Unison Grey 11. Apply and blend in carefully.

05 step


Step 5

Using Unison Grey 9, add darker highlights to the corner of the pupil. Blend in lightly.

06 step


Step 6

After setting the ground colour it is time for more detailed work. For this we will use sharpened Derwent Soft Pastel Pencils. The advantage is that you have more control over the single lines and as such can draw finer details. Derwent Prussian Blue P350 to draw small thin lines in the middle of the pupil.

07 step


Step 7

Use Derwent Aluminium Grey P680 to add more fine lines next to the previously drawn ones.

08 step


Step 8

A blue eye is never just blue. So let’s add more accents with Derwent Dark Sanguine P620.

09 step


Step 9

Time to set darker accents at the corner of the pupil and especially under the lid, using Derwent Indigo P360.

10 step


Step 10

Indigo is not dark enough, so take Dewernt Graphite Grey P700 and add more darker highlights to the corners and start darkening the iris in the middle.

11 step


Step 11

Add Derwent Prussian Blue P350 in little lines to the inner circle of the pupil.

12 step


Step 12

Again go back to the non-blue colours. Take Derwent Vanilla P010 and put a few accents in the middle of the pupil.

13 step


Step 13

In this step I have used four different colours (Powder Blue P310, Cyan P340, French Grey Light P670, Blue Grey P690) to set more accents. Just keep on adding, and layering the colours until you are happy with the result. Keep in mind to follow the natural direction of the pupil lines.

14 step


Step 14

Almost done. For the final details take Carbon Black P710 for the eyelashes and iris; Terracotta P640 for the highlights in the eye waterline and above; and the eyebrows, and the eyelid. Done forget after adding a bit of light grey in the white parts of the eye apple (those parts are never totally white), add some accents with white to imitated the glassy look.

15 step


Step 15

I have used white Acrylic paint to set the last highlights. Simply because the white pastel pencil doesn’t properly cover the dark blue. With acrylic paint it is easy to set shiny white spots in the pupil and in the white around the eye.

16 step


Step 16

Repeat with second eye.

17 step


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