Tom Benson Creative Writer and Artist
Tom Benson           Creative Writer                                      and Artist

Graded Pencil - Eyes

Professional artists, designers, architects, draughtsmen, and those who teach art will all have personal favourites regarding pencil manufacturer. If like me, you are a mere mortal your results will depend more on effort and acquired skill than how much you paid for your materials.


Pencil grades can be confusing, so we'll sort the grade issues first.

HB (hard black) is the most commonly used. If you buy a generic pack of pencils they will most likely be HB.

H (hard) has a harder compound than an HB.

The mark made by an H will be feint unless extra pressure is applied.

2H, 3H, 4H, and so on become progressively harder and draw ever more feint lines.


B (soft) is softer than HB and will leave a darker mark without much effort.

2B, 3B, 4B, and so on become progressively softer and draw ever darker shades.


A simple guide is to use a five-grade range when learning the uses of grades.

Until content with the results, use 4H, 2H, HB, 2B, and 4B


Please do not use an eraser until directed, which is late in the process ...

1. The human eye, if created properly in any medium is in my opinion a work of art. With this in mind, I am hesitant to complete the eyes in a portrait until the remainder has been captured accurately. I may add sessions done on the other features, but for now, the eyes have it ...

When using a pencil, the early lines drawn for any subject should be feint to allow for good  'construction' and positioning.

Start work with a 4H. Hold the pencil high and in a light grip as if using a paintbrush. This will create a feint image.

Work quickly and don't worry about excessive lines - they'll be dealt with much later.

Draw an almond shape at whichever angle pleases you.

2. As before, continue to use the 4H pencil, hold it like a paintbrush and don't apply undue pressure.

Work quickly, and don't worry about excess lines.

To draw the pupil, draw a circle within a circle.

Don't fret if the edge of the outer circle doesn't touch the almond shape.

3. Change pencils and miss out the 2H. 

Use the HB pencil and hold it nearer to the lead, in a convetional grip using thumb, forefinger and middle finger.

Draw an oval which 'squeezes' the upper and lower parts of the outer circle.

Ignore the original almond shape which will be absorbed as your drawing progresses.

4. Tighten the extreme corners of the new smaller almond shape.

Try to make the two 'corners' align with each other through the centre point of the pupil. If it helps, draw a feint line between the three objects.

Draw an X inside the inner circle to use as a guide where the 'sparkle' of the eye will be.

With a little pressure, darken what will be the main parts of the upper and lower eyelids.

Bring the lids together at the outer edge, but not the inner edge (shown by the arrow to the left).

5. Change pencils again, and this time select the 2B.

Use a conventional grip because you're starting to work in detail.

Shade pupil, but without too much pressure.

Leave two small areas of white to show up.

Draw lines of the iris by 'flicking' the pencil point inwards from the outer circle. Lift the tip at the end of the stroke.


Don't aim to connect the iris lines with the pupil. 


6. Draw lashes with a flick of the pencil point, starting from the eyelid. (See the arrows and lashes example to the right of the main sketch.

Each eyelash should begin from the base of the previous one, working from left to right across the upper eyelid.

The lower lid has fewer lashes and not all touch each other.

Darken the edge of the upper and lower eyelids.

Darken and define the pupil and the outer ring of the pupil.

Define the iris with a few more strokes to darken those under the upper eyelid.

7. Change pencils and now work with the 4B.

The grip should remain conventional to give maximum control.

Lightly shade area below upper eyelid.

Add darker tones to both eyelids.

Redefine the lashes to darken and thicken. Use same flick technique.

Define outer part of upper eyelid.

Darken pupil, outer ring of iris, the lines in the iris, and the 'corners' of the eye.

8. Change pencils and work with the 2H, held in the conventional grip.

Estimate position and shape of the eyebrow - and use a few feint lines, but no detail.

Work from left to right and draw individual hairs as shown in the diagram.

Hairs should work from the top downwards, and bottom upwards, so they meet in the middle.

When content with the general appearance of the eyebrow, change to 2B pencil and define the eyebrow, emphasising the heavier part.

Use a few extra strokes underneath to create a shadow.

9. Using the 2B, lightly shade area above, to left and right of eyelid.

imagine the shape below the eyebrow, or check your mirror.

Add shade leading from left of eye towards the nose.

Lightly use your pinky to 'blend' the areas you've shaded.

Remember to ensure your fingertip is clean and dry before using it to soften, or blend pencil marks.


If new to using your fingertip for defining shade;

using a piece of scrap paper, use a 2B or 4B pencil to create an area of light shade. Apply varying pressure of your fingertip to see how it affects the shading.

10. Use 4B to define the pupil, iris, eyelids, lashes, and the eyebrow.

Blend shaded areas with your fingertip until you have the detail as you'd like.


Now, you may use an eraser.


Ensure the eraser is clean by rubbing it on a sheet of clean paper.

Don't 'rub', but 'dab' with the eraser to remove any unwanted lines, and to highlight areas like the central area between the eyebrow and the eye.



Wednesday 13th June 2018


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