CGing Eyes
By Marie Dillingham, aka The Akamar

I like coloring in CG, and over time, have developed a technique I like for doing eyes.. I have no idea if anyone else does this too, but.. eh… I haven’t seen a tutorial for it, and thought I might as well do one…  I’m bored.  

This is not a technique for doing animetic eyes, but the look is… I think… almost realistic… and quite striking, if I do say so myself.     Saddly, once again, it requires Photoshop, the use of layers… but thankfully, you won’t have to worry about Channels this time.  I’m also hot using a drawing as a basis, so I suppose it’s more of a techniques tutorial.  Those of you intelligent enough will know how to apply it to your CG work.

So, lets start with step one.

Part on… the FIRST thing I did was make two layers… I actually did the tiny black dot first… this gives me a center for the rest of my eye… You want all these layers to line up, or it won’t look right.  Remember, the eye is an orb, and while the iris and don’t curve with that orb, this can be adjusted by squashing and adjusting the angles, or a few other tricks I’ll cover later.  If I remember…  Moving on…


As you can see, here are my layers… I chose a green eye for… well.. eh... I wanted a green eye.   As you can see, I made the black dot larger.   If you want, you can mix, match, and do anything you want with these colors… add more layers, use your imagination… Heck, I even encourage it, you might get some pretty freaking cool effects.

 Just a further note on pupils… the larger the pupil looks, the more open the character’s personality seems… and vice versa with a smaller pupil…  I tend to go for smaller pupils, and choose a dark color just underneath to help make it seem a little larger, so the eye doesn’t look… weird.  Anyway, onward.

 These are just pure, simple dots drawn with the pencil tool.. I opted for pencil, as opposed to the dithered paintbrush of airbrush because we’ll be applying Gaussian Blurs to these next…


... like this… as you can see, it helps blend the layers into each other… use your best judgment.  I used very, very low levels of Gaussian blur on the black pupil and the bottom most layer, just enough to soften the edges.  The most went to the dark color just under the pupil, and a somewhat smaller amount on the lightest green.

Another hint, I recommend erecting a selection around the dots in the bottom most iris layers.   You can do this by Control-Clicking on the layer (in the Layer Panel) before you apply the blur.  This seems to feather the edges, without spreading it all over the image… which is the effect we want.  Remember, don’t apply too much to the bottom most layer, or it’ll feather too much. 

Now, this is where the Fun comes in.   I simply duplicate the bottom most green layer, and move that layer to the top of my stack.  Once again Control-clicking on the duplicate layer (in the layer panel), I select every object in that layer… in this case, the dot.  I then go and apply Noise.

I usually select a Gaussian application, and I turn OFF the monochromatic.  I also tend to apply a lot of noise.  Experiment with this, it can’t hurt, and you never know what effect you’ll get.   Now, you’ll have a layer with a bunch of noise.  The NEXT part is just as important.

DO NOT REMOVE THE SELECTION.  The selection is very important for this step.   Once you have your noise, you’re going to go back into the filters, go to blur and select RADIAL blur.   In the options there, select ZOOM, and BEST, and I usually slide the bar up to about 92 or more… so… a lot…  Apply this, and all that noise will be blurred out in a fashion like above.

This is important too…  You want to change the layer MODE… look in the image, and you see where it says Overlay on the layers panel?  This usually says Normal.  Once again, play with various options of this… some cool effects can be achieved… but for our purposes here, I selected Overlay, for the effect above.  Cool, neh?

*Bunny dance break….*

Now… this COULD be the most you might want to use for your eye… simple, effective.. however, I can love being detailed, and why stop now?  I have some MORE tips that can help umph up that eyeball for you.

Now, I don’t love details enough to draw individual veins in the eyes. Boring…  However, Photoshop has a really awesome feature called ACTIONS.   These are recordings of a series of events that can be found on the actions panel.  If you’ve never toyed with actions before, the only ones that will be loaded into your actions palette are the Default ones.  We want the Texture ones, so you’ll have to load them.  All you should have to do is select load actions, like above, and load the texture ones.  If not, you’ll have to track them down in your Photoshop folders.  Good luck with that.

Now, for this next part we want an action call Psychedelic Strings.  Fun… It’ll work. First, turn down the Texture Actions folder, and find it…  Push the Play button, and wait.


 Now… this happens…  Do not panic.. this is meant to happen.. don’t worry, you don’t loose ANY info.. just gain a new layer, and new adjustment layer. See?

Funky.   Now.. not very vein like yet, is it? This is easily fixed, so don’t panic.  The next thing we need to do is merge that adjustment level down into the white “Layer 6” you see in the pic (that was the new layer that came with the action. Do that, then we’ll create a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

These are typically my choices… as you can see, colorize… it’ll turn everything into a general hue.  In this case, we have a red selected, and as you can see, super saturated, and a bit darkened.  Also, as you can see… we have pink eye.  This is easily adjusted toying with opacity of the vein layers, and with some carefully applied layer masks…

As you can see, I merged the Adjustment layer into the strings layer.  Then I applied a Layer Mask.  Using the Control-Click trick on Layer One, I inverted the selection, and erased everything outside of the circle.   Then, using a very soft airbrush with a low opacity, and the color black, I placed my cursor over the middle on the vein layer, and clicked a few times… just enough to get some dither, some opaque white, and still have some vein showing through.  I didn’t mess with the layer opacity this time, but again, this is something you can experiement with.

Now, we can dink around with highlights.

Usually I use an airbrush, and vary opacities and sizes, but this can take some skill, trial, error, and time.  So… just keep at it…

This eye is, of course, missing things like a socket, and all the shadows that these would make, so it probably looks a bit odd.  However, this is a basic idea.     Use this principle whenever dealing with your eyes, and you should probably do alright.  Don’t forget, anything that goes outside of the lines of your eye socket, can always be masked, erased, and otherwise.  I’ll show you an example here.

Whee… another image, as you can probably see… I think it works quite well.    Make your eyeball orbs, erase or mask everything outside of the eye area, and voila… lovely eyes.

Additional Info:
If you would like to contact Marie, email her at marie [dot] dillingham [at] halliburton [dot] com. Also, depending on what version of Photoshop you're using and if you're using Mac or PC, the GUI may differ from what you see above but the instructions should work regardless.

Tutorial and images are by Marie Dillingham, aka The Akamar. All rights reserved.