My creature’s eyes always end up looking dull and dead – help! Brian Quast, Poland
Eyes are often the first thing a viewer latches on to, so pay close attention to their appearance and make them the focal point of your image and character design. If the eye-nose-mouth triangle area is done well, the viewer will forgive or maybe even overlook faults or looseness in other parts of your illustration.
Use references for the structure of the eyes and study the shape and proportion of the pupil, iris and sclera (the white area) of various animals. Paint them as realistically as possible within the reality of your imagined world.
For this creature design I’m using a 3D sculpted base, but without any textures. Before I start I only have big grey spheres as eyeballs – I intend to solve everything with painting techniques.
First I block in the colour and shape of the iris and the recognisable pupil of the goat eye. I use much more saturated colours than the skin or the horns, but try to stay within the same palette to keep the face consistent. This already gives me a characteristic eye. But I want to mix it slightly with the humanoid eye, so I hint at the sclera, which a goat eye doesn’t have.
After I finish painting the eyeball I add the reflections in multiple passes, going from the slightly blurred reflections of the surroundings towards the sharp highlights of the light source. A lot of people forget that the eyeball reflects the edge of the lower eyelid and any light that originates from the side of the nose area, so adding these can be a nice subtle touch.
As a final touch I paint thin eyelashes, to enhance the human side of the creature.
Creating eye contact between your creature and
the viewer will enhance the image. The best way to create fantasy realism is to reference a familiar thing and slightly alter it. Here I’ve combined the key features of a goat’s and a human’s eye.