Eyebrows can vary greatly in shape and size. Fortunately, there are a few simple guidelines we can follow to learn how to draw eyebrows convincingly and realistically!
The ‘trick’ to drawing eyebrows (or any challenging texture,
really) is to stop thinking of them as eyebrows, or even hair. Instead, for at least
the first half of the drawing process, we need to think of the eyebrows simply
as shapes and values. This is a very important, but sometimes challenging,
mindset shift! To help alter your perception and learn to view complicated
subjects as shapes and values, take my free Mini-Course, which features video
lessons on these essential concepts.
If I were to distill the process of drawing an eyebrow into three key points, they would be:
The balance of unity and variety (or similarity and difference) is one of the cornerstones of composition, and we can make great use of it when drawing this eyebrow.
Let’s jump right into the tutorial and expand upon these guidelines! Or, download the reference photo of the eye I'm drawing, as well as a guide to the 6 Most Common Eye Drawing Mistakes and an infographic of this tutorial (below) draw along with me!
I will be using Staedtler Mars Lumograph graphite pencils: HB, 2B and 4B.
Get the 6 Most Common Eye Drawing Mistakes guide here!
Get the reference photo of the eye I'm drawing here!
Get the eyebrow tutorial infographic here!
As with most drawings, I begin this one by blocking in the basic, simplified shape or couple of shapes of the eyebrow using line. To determine what the major groupings are, I can squint at the eyebrow, which merges many of the details to create a more defined, solid shape. I also look for major divisions, such as the one between shape A and shape B, which I indicate in my line drawing.
During this block-in stage, my priorities are:
I can do this by lining up my pencil with the peak of the
eyebrow, for example, and checking which part of the eye it aligns with (see the diagram below). Then,
I mimic this alignment in my drawing.
Though I will focus primarily on drawing the eyebrow in this tutorial, because the eye and eyebrow are developed simultaneously, the two are inextricably linked, and I will mention some of the eye-drawing steps when they pertain to the eyebrow. Check out my step by step tutorial specifically on drawing realistic eyes here.
In this step, I'm starting to look for the value structure of the eye and eyebrow: where are the light values, middle values, and dark values? (Check out Lesson 4 of my free Mini-Course to learn how to develop the value structure of your drawing!)
Specifically in the eyebrow, there is a dark shape within Shape B, which I’ll call Shape C (pictured below). This shape is one of the darkest areas in the entire scene. I’ve indicated Shape C on my drawing using a slightly darker value.
I prefer to build up my values gradually: because dark values
are difficult (and sometimes impossible) to erase, I want to be quite certain that everything is in
the right place before I commit to fully darkening them.
I have filled in the rest of the eyebrow with a light value, leaving a slight value difference between the darker shape and lighter shapes.
Notice that I am not at all concerned with drawing ‘hair’ yet!
A key to drawing realistic eyebrows is not to get caught
up in drawing every single hair. Instead, we need to ‘see through’ these
details, initially ignoring them as much as possible, and instead paying attention
to shapes of values.
Though the pupil and iris of the eye are not completely finished, I focused on rendering them so as to have a variable that I am confident and certain in, and can now compare the rest of my
proportions, values, and placement to.
Here I’m beginning to establish the ‘value extremes’ in my
drawing: the lightest and darkest values in the scene (pictured below).
Notice that the eyebrow is already starting to resemble
hair even though I haven’t drawn any individual hairs! Here I've darkened the eyebrow, particularly the
dark shape that I named 'shape C' earlier. The subtle pencil marks I applied are already
starting to ‘read’ as hair, simply because I applied them in the direction of the hair. However, I am still only looking for shapes of value.
I have further darkened and defined the dark shape of the eyebrow, and have started ‘turning’ the smaller forms of the eye, such as the folds in the upper eyelid, and the subtle gradations in the lower eyelid.
Notice that the edges of the eyebrow are still fairly soft. (To learn about the essential concept of Edges, watch Lesson 6 of my free Mini-Course!)
Now that I have massed in as much of the eyebrow as I can, and built up a range of middle values in the eye, I am finally ready to turn my attention to some of the individual hairs in the eyebrow.
Am I going to draw every single one of them? Not at all! Personally, I am not interested in a hyper-realistic representation here. I prefer a more naturalistic look, and can achieve this by selectively choosing which eyebrow hairs to indicate.
To make my decision, I look for:
Once my analysis is complete, I start drawing in some of
these individual hairs, paying close attention to their spacing, thickness, and
length. They are not equally spaced or the same size! To create
a likeness of our model, we must pay attention to the specifics of this particular
eyebrow. As soon as a few of my marks start to look the same in length or
spacing, I know it’s time to look more closely at my model or my reference
photo, whichever I am drawing from.
I am using my pencil and kneaded eraser almost equally
during this step. In particular, I lean heavily on the second technique that I
demonstrate in my kneaded eraser technique video: flattening the kneaded eraser to give it
a sharp edge, and then using it to create some of the lighter separations
between the hairs that can be seen in the reference photo.
Is my finished drawing an exact replica of my model's eye and eyebrow? I'm sure that it's not! However, the likeness and character of this individual's particular eyebrow is there, and that was certainly the goal!
Why not download the reference photo of this eye, and try drawing it yourself!
While you're at it, don't miss my free guide to the 6 Most Common Eye Drawing Mistakes to use as a reminder of what not to do, as well as an infographic of this tutorial to remind you of the steps.
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