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How to place eyes correctly when drawing a face

The eyes are arguably the most captivating part of the human face but, without a doubt, hard to draw well.

When drawing portraits, it is essential to correctly place the eyes on the face in the early stages of your drawing. So in this post, I share some tips that I find helpful in quickly getting the proper placement and proportions of eyes in my portrait drawings.

Where do eyes go when drawing an average human head?

The eyes are positioned in the vertical center of an average human head and are spaced one eye-width apart. The tear ducts line up with the sides of the nose, whereas the outer edges of the eyes align with an imaginary line connecting the lips’ center to the nose’s wings.

The eyes are in the verticle middle of the head. The corners of the eyes align with the sides of the nose and the center of the lips.

How far apart should the two eyes be when drawing a portrait?

When drawing the face from the front view, it is pretty easy to figure out how far both eyes need to be spaced apart because the gap between the two eyes roughly equals the width of one eye.

The eyes are one eye-width apart.

However, placing both eyes gets a bit more tricky when drawing the face at an angle such as the 3/4 view. This is because the perceived distance between both eyes varies depending on the angle and proximity of view.

Generally, the eye closer to the viewer appears to be bigger than the eye that is further away from view due to foreshortening.

Personally, what works for me when drawing eyes on a face is to mark the outer edges of the eyes first and then indicate where the inner corners would go by observing the extent of foreshortening. From my experience, the perceived gap between both eyes of an angled face is the average of the perceived lengths of both eyes from the viewer’s perspective.

Drawing the eyes correctly relative to the nose and lips

The sides of the nose line up with the tear ducts, and the outer edges of the eyes align with the center of the lips and wings of the nose.

One really helpful tip that I recently learned is to check the position of the eyes relative to the nose and the lips. For most people, the outer corner of the eye lines up with an imaginary line extending from the center of the lips and the wing of the nose.

Unfortunately, I forgot where I learned about this, so I can’t give credit to the person responsible for this excellent tip. Ever since I learned about this, I have been fascinated by how precisely these three elements of the face always seem to line up within this imaginary triangle.

When drawing portraits, this additional check helps give me the confidence that the major landmarks of the portrait are in their proper place before I dive into more detailed rendering.

How many eye widths fit across an average human head?

The average human head is about 5 eye-widths wide when viewed from the front.

The front view of the face is five eye-widths wide.

Personally, I only use this guideline occasionally when drawing a portrait in front view because if you’re drawing someone, say in the profile view, you’re not able to see the entire width of the eye, making it an unreliable tool for checking proportions of the face.

One thing I like to do when drawing someone in 3/4 view is to estimate the eye widths between the subject’s eye and ear that are closest to my view. From my experience, this gap is usually 1.5 to 2 eye widths wide, depending on the head’s angle.

The gap between the eye and ear in 3/4 view usually works out to around 1.5 to 2 eye-widths.

Tips for placing the other eye correctly when drawing a face at an angle

Here are some tips that I find helpful when I can’t figure out the exact placement of both eyes due to a challenging pose.

  • The eye away from the view will always appear shorter in length and height than the nearest eye.
  • The upper corners of the eyes are usually adjacent to the browline. The lower corners of the eyes may or may not be adjacent to the browline, depending on the angle of the head relative to the view.
  • The effect of perspective and foreshortening of the eyes becomes more apparent if the subject is closer to the view or if the reference photo has been captured very close to the model’s head.
  • Before defining the outline of both eyes, try and establish the perspective lines that will contain the upper and lower edges of the eyes. These perspective lines must also follow the curvature of the skull.
  • Mark the outer corners of the eyes first and then indicate the inner corners by observing the degree of foreshortening.

John Dow

Sunday 21st of April 2024

How do you figure out how deep to place the eyes?


Monday 22nd of April 2024

Thanks for writing in John. Two things that seem to have helped me improve the placement of eyes in portrait drawing are a) using the Loomis Method for a structured and systematic way to figure out where everything on the face needs to sit relative to one another, and b) studying Bargue Plates to absorb the construction of the skull, fat and muscle around the eyes.