How to tattoo realistic eyes

Everything you need to know about realistic eyes tattoos


It's no news that Realism is one of the most demanding tattoo specializations, if not the most exigent, in terms of practice and technique.

It's quite a challenging style, both on paper and on skin.

When we talk about recreating human figures in a faithful way, by understanding its volumes, proportions, lights, and shadows… we could say that some areas are harder to master than others.

The eyes is an example of this. It’s believed that they are a window to our souls, so managing to loyally portrait their expressions in a tattoo requires expertise, a talent that can be learned.

Want to know how? Stay around to find out.

What is Realism and how to conquer it in a tattoo?

As we exhaustively exposed in our blog post Realistic tattoo: a demanding style, drawing is the basis for every aspiring realism tattooist. So, knowing the techniques needed to fully dominating light and shadow in drawing is vital.

Many people believe that tattooing can be learned only by practising with the machine and needles, but this is far from reality.

While tattooing over synthetic skins is useful to learn how to manage the tools, practising drawing over different surfaces is what determines achieving greater results.

Understanding how shading works and how light should fall on objects is essential for obtaining a tridimensional aspect in your drawings. An ability that takes time and dedication to be learnt, so it’s useless to rush it.

If you truly want to become a professional realism tattooist, then we recommend that you educate yourself all that you can and practice even more.

And for that, you can take a look at our MasterCourse in Realistic Tattooing, a full exhaustive training where you can learn all the technique and methodology from a Master’s experience. It has lifelong access, so you can make it at your own pace!

Should you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to reach us!

Realistic eyes tattoos, from where to start?

Well, if you’re beginning your journey in this trade, it’s our responsibility to warn you that to success at this, you first must have patience.

It’s key that you don’t speed up the learning process if you want to tattoo Realism.

If you’re impatient about seeing immediate results, then you can end up frustrated, as skipping a single step in Realistic tattooing leads you to a dead end. Every stage is important and takes time.

Realism is complex, yet not impossible. Believe us, we’ve been where you are now, perhaps longing to get there fast and see results as soon as possible.

It’s natural to be impatient, that’s why we humbly suggest you to go one step at a time.

A face’s faction can tell a lot from a person… expressions, grimaces, highlights. But to achieve a mesmerizing gaze, you have to go further on tattoos and drawing.

Eyes are too expressive, they reflect emotions and usually communicate more than words.

Besides, they are particularly glassy, which allows us to add reflections, a characteristic we should pay attention to.

They function as a mirror both literally and symbolically… isn’t it amazing?

Details in the gaze such as shadow, eyelashes, and shape of the eye determine the emotional intention of the portraitist and the portrayed.

It all depends on interpretations, and the eyes are special for this.

Emotional weight of an eye tattoo

One of the much symbolism of a realistic eye tattoo is clarity, profundity and soul wisdom.

It’s said that eyes can reveal a person’s truth and express the soul’s emotional state.

Besides, they are also linked to protection against negative energy and bad luck. Likewise, in some sorts of designs, they can signify purification.

Many religions see them as an openness to the infinite, the supreme, the divine, and the spiritual.

Nonetheless, they can also pay tribute to a beloved person, when the eye portrayed belongs to them.

With no question, eyes are strictly connected to our emotions.

Now, the million-dollar question is, how to capture all that in a tattoo?

First things first. You already know that drawing in realism is essential, that's why, if you want to learn to tattoo realistic eyes, before wondering "how to tattoo", first ask yourself...

How to draw realistic eyes?

Drawing well is crucial for these types of tattoos. No realism artists will say it otherwise, practicing the shading, traces, perspectives, and volumes over the paper helps you train as a tattooist.

Although working over synthetic skin is important to learn, mastering your technique with both ink and pencil is key to achieve fine results.

Here you have a few essential tips to help you conquer this complex art.

  • Make a sketch. Whether you use graphite and paper or digital tools and apps, begin by tracing an eye and outlining its shape.
    This would be, the iris, the eyelids, the pupil and —most importantly— its highlights. We’ll refine everything later, don’t worry.

  • Draw the iris. First go for the black of the pupil and then define irregular shapes, to give texture to the iris. Take your time and never over-tighten the pencil, always use 2B pencils or similar, and if you are drawing digitally, use soft strokes.
    This way, you gradually mark areas of higher and lower contrast. Remember that the iris is one of the cornerstones of realistic portraits.

  • Add shadows. Shading is the foundations of this style. Practice all that you can. Allow yourself to make mistakes and start again if needed. No drawing can be improved without trial and error.
    Add shades little by little under the upper eyelid to give depth to the eye and presence to the look. Then, gradually shade the iris, the eyelid creases and the tear duct.

  • Now outline the eyebrows with soft lines, and, finally, fill in with eyelashes. Always remember to go from less to more.

Time to tattoo!

The tattooing process will be similar to that of the drawing. By using the stencil as the final guide for your design, you'll begin by softly outlining the most significant parts of the tattoo.

Then, you'll continue with the fill-ins, by shading with superficial strokes, to finalize and adjust details.

We should point out that in tattooing, we have a process called maping, which is basically a guide for lights and shadows that is created by studying the original image during the stencil making.

Inks and needles will depend on the characteristics of the piece, as shading determines the technique.

Needles are too different from each other, and so are their effects. Therefore, choosing the right needles is crucial.

But if you want to know more in depth and specifically learn how to make this type of tattoos, we recommend you to enter here to learn How to Tattoo realistic eyes.

In the course, you will learn all the techniques, types of inks, how to dilute them, which needles to use, what is the ideal voltage for it, and how to study lights and shadows to perfectly capture them in the tattoo you are going to make.