My crea­ture’s eyes al­ways end up look­ing dull and dead – help! Brian Quast, Poland

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Mark replies

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.

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