How to Draw a Dog’s Eye

It’s lock-down, we are all inside to protect the NHS and each other, but, we all need a good project to get through this. I usually hold workshops for pastel pencils once a month in Norfolk and Oxfordshire, however, given the current pandemic I feel that this may be a little easier for now! To keep my current students busy with pastel pencil practice and to encourage others to just give it a go, I have written a full free tutorial for you all below.

None of the products used in this post are sponsored, they are just the materials which I like to use and will help you to achieve the same results. I’m teaming up with the lovely Angie from ‘Paper Story’, a Norfolk based art supply store, who has all the materials you need for this project. See below for details on that.

Ready? Let’s begin and good bye boredom!

As I said above, I have joined forces with Paper Story who are my pastel pencil suppliers and wonderful to use. They have set up an incredible deal for you lovely people with over 30% off the pencils listed below, that’s a lots of free pencils! They also supply the paper, I have linked that separately for you below as well, the pads come with the crystal paper in them.

To order your pencils, click here.

To order your paper, click here.

What you’ll need:

Faber Castel 109 – Vibrant Orange (you could omit this colour and step to keep materials fewer)

Faber Castel 183 – Yellow

Faber Castel 187 – Orange

Faber Castel 186 – Rich Orange (you could omit this colour and step to keep materials fewer)

Faber Castel 184 – Bright Yellow

Faber Castel 182 – Dull Gold

Faber Castel 180 – Mud Brown

Faber Castel 140 – Light Blue

Faber Castel 177 – Dark Brown

Faber Castel 283 – Burgundy Brown

Faber Castel 151 – Dark Blue (you could omit this colour and step to keep materials fewer)

Faber Castel 181 – Dark Grey

Faber Castel 199 – Black

Faber Castel 103 – Ivory (You could use the Naples Yellow 695 instead)

Faber Castel 101 – White

Faber Castel 273 – Mid Grey

Faber Castel 270 – Light Grey

Stabilo 722 – Blue Grey (you could use the FC 230 instead)

Stabilo 695 – Naples Yellow

Clairefontaine Pastelmat Sheet – Light Blue

Clairefontaine Crystal Paper – To protect work

Putty Rubber – I use Faber Castel, but any should do

Reference Photo

You can either draw the outline free-hand or you could trace the eye onto your pastel sheet. A word of warning though, marks do not easily rub out of pastel mat so you are better off, if in doubt, to trace an image or drawing onto the sheet so you have it right first time around.

Step 1

Begin with Naples Yellow (695) to lightly sketch out the bright areas of the iris. These lines should follow the direction of the iris which fans out from the pupil. It is important to have these directional lines in the correct place even on the bottom layers, it will help you later on.

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Dog’s Eye Step 1: Naples Yellow

Step 2

Over this light application of Stabilo (S) 695, use the flat of the pencil by holding it parallel to the table as much as is possible and glaze over the 695 with Faber Castel (FC) 109. This should be a fairly messy glaze with the FC 109 and cover all of the orange areas of the iris. Drag it into some of the other marked out parts of the eye as well, such as iris ring and shadows. This is because we don’t want a ‘paint by numbers’ effect at the end and need to make sure each section joins into the next without a gap of blue paper showing through.

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Dog’s Eye Step 2: Orange Glaze

Step 3

Take the FC 183 and in a jagged motion, outline the area you have coloured in. This is a richer and deeper tone which is important as the edge of the eye and pupil are very dark so we need to carefully bring the tone down around the edges where these two parts meet. We will continue to do this throughout the drawing, tone management is really important. If you struggle to see tone, simply convert your reference to a black and white image to see how dark it is. You can do the same with your own drawing: take a photo of it and turn it black and white.

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Dog’s Eye Step 3: Tone Management

Step 4

Over the top of the FC 183, but allowing layers beneath to show through, deepen the perimeters again but this time with FC 187. You can see from the photo that I am still keeping to the directional lines of the iris to create a varied pattern. The best way to achieve this patterning is by allowing parts of the previous layer to show through, thus you gain depth and detail without labouring over each mark precisely.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 4: Depth

Step 5

Take the FC 186, and glaze over the darker area of the iris which we have been working on, see the photo below. Tip: when you glaze with a pencil, it is best to use a wide and flat edge thus keeping the pressure constant throughout the application. If you try this with the sharp point of the pencil, you will only get tiny shading lines. A glaze is like a filter and so needs to be smooth.

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Dog’s Eye Turoail Step 5: Glaze

Step 6

Now that we have glazed over the drawing again, we have a really good base to add a little more definition on top. Take the FC 184, I used the point but not sharpened, and add in a few light details. You need to be selective, don’t go mad with it and colour everything in yellow or you will lose the tonal range of your work so far and all of the orange.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 6: Adding Detail

Step 7

It’s time to return to those edges and get them much darker now, this always makes your work look quite different. Start with the FC 182, and work in the same jagged way around the edge of the section you have been working on. As we get darker, you want to keep these areas a little smaller, it is easier to make the darks larger but if you cover up too much of the lighter colours, it is very hard to draw them in over the top. You will see me make the dark sections larger as I work.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 7: Tone

Step 8

Do the same again, but this time use the FC 283 which is a deep and rich burgundy colour. This will start to bring a good form and definition to the eye, you want to give particular attention to the dark iris ring near the pupil.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 8: Rich Colour

Step 9

It’s time to block in the dark area around the pupil, which also includes a tricky highlight. To begin with, take the FC 180 and shade around the pupil in areas not caught by the highlight. For the highlight itself, we begin by blocking it in with the FC 140, a light blue. Be warned, blues tend to have a high tint in pastel pencils and will quickly saturate your work, so use them lightly and add more as is needed.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 9: Under Painting

Step 10

Time to colour in the rest of the eye, this will give it some real drama and interest. Take the FC 177 and colour in all of those lovely rich shadows on the eye ball, you don’t want any card showing through. We are working on Clairefontaine Pastelmatt paper, this is great for practising and the tooth of the paper is not so pronounced as the board. At my workshops, I use board as I find it gives better results for a large finished piece, but the paper is far more economical for practising with.

You may need to soften the transitional edges when you’ve done this, if so, use your FC 283 and run it along the edges. We will be taking some of these edges darker a little later on, so don’t worry if you think they need some black.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 10: Outline

Step 11

The last bit of paper left in the eye, is that pupil and it isn’t a regular black pupil. This is fairly tricky as it is covered by a strong highlight, it was a beautiful blue-skied day when I took the photo. We will work in stages to get there, begin by colouring the pupil (I went outside of the pupil as well so that I can blend the browns into it) with FC 181. I have then added a touch of FC 151, the vibrant blue, around some edges, these will mix nicely with the highlight and help with the blue tint. (Tip: ‘tint’ means white with a touch of colour and ‘shade’ means black with a touch of colour).

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 11: Pupil

Step 12

This next stage can begin to look a bit messy, but stay with me, we work in stages and tighten it all up again, have faith! Gently outline the right half of the pupil and shade it in with FC 199. If you look at the photo, the right-hand side of the pupil is the most defined.

Next, take the S 722, (funnily enough this pencil is almost identical to the board), and colour the broad highlight in. You need to press hard is the bright area right at the top and then work lightly over the pupil so that you don’t smudge everything. You may find it helpful to wipe the tip clean after each stroke over the blacks or else you can drag dirty colours into the highlight which is hard to get rid of.

To finish the highlight, gently drag your finger from left to right across the left edge, you can see mine tapers gently out. This is the lost edge, the bottom right corner next to the deep shadow is a found edge, edge management is really important as too many hard edges are very distracting and too many soft won’t give you a focal point.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 12: Highlight

Step 13

To help the last stage feel more cemented, we are going to address some of those edges. Begin with the FC 177 and use this to darken up the brown around the pupil, I have also extended some of the outline on the top left edge next to the orange iris.

Then, use the FC 199 and making sure that it’s sharp, give the found edge of the highlight (bottom left), a really sharp finish and then add more black into the crease between eye and lid down to the tear duct. This is going to increase your tonal range and make the drawing more interesting and solid. Careful not to over-do the black though, you may be tempted to darken all of your edges, however, if you do this you will lose RANGE. When everything is black, you no longer have the drama of the darkest element because it is all dark. You therefore need to pick and choose; I tend to add bits here and there as I work and always add less than I need.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 12: Definition

Step 13

We are now going to add more juicy yellows into the bright top left of the iris which is catching the sun. Begin by tracing a small amount of FC 103 over the area if a random pattern. The same as the black, you need to be selective with your brightest colours or else you will lose structure and range, add less and come back to it.

Into some of this iris and beyond, use a little more of the punch yellow, FC 184, I tend not to have this needle sharp so that the edges are a little softer. There is also a small reflected curve in the eye, just skimming the bottom of the deep brown iris ring. If you’d like to add that in, do it with the S 722. Tip: If something looks too harsh and proud, simply tap it back, it works a treat. Use a clean finger and gently tap the areas which will blend the pastel together.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 13: Adding Light

Step 14

An easy step next and one which packs a punch: use the FC 181 to add in the eye lid and tear duct. Simple shade in the whole area, you don’t need neat outer edges and want the 181 and the dark edges of the eyes to meet so that no paper shows through.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 14: Tear Duct

Step 15

For the rim of the eye, begin with the FC 273 and add a gentle line which is catching the light in the tear duct and around the bottom edge. There are small nuggets of reflection on the upper lid as well, take care to add fewer here though and keep referring to the reference for guidance. To finish the rim of the eye off, add a couple of brighter highlights with the FC 270, you need to add less of this brighter grey so it isn’t overly bright, see mine for guidance.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 15: Highlighting the Tear Duct

Step 16

The beginning of the end, it’s time to add a little fur to frame this beautiful study of yours. Begin by laying down an under painting of FC 199. Whenever you are drawing fur, you want the shading to be directional from the start, it needs to follow the lay of the hair or fur. This is crucial for a convincing finish. It can be quite hard to see which way the hairs are falling and how they spread and fan, so, take your time to study the reference before beginning. For her brown brow, use FC 180 and blend it into the black, a little muddy colour here is fine.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 16: Fur Underpainting

Step 17

When you draw fur, you must make sure your pencil is needle sharp, or else you will end up with dreadlocks and a heavy unconvincing finish, not good! Start with the FC 181, you don’t need to add fur into the deepest shadows, it is nice to leave some areas just black. Once again, you may wish to tap back some hairs so that they recede into the dark shadows.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 17: Fur

Step 18

To finish, use firstly the FC 270 for some of the mid-tone hairs in the brown and on the bottom lid. Here it is really important that you have an accurate direction for the fur as it will show up very clearly. On top of the FC 270, use the FC 230 for a few bright hairs, not too many or she will be old and grey! I also added a couple of hairs into her brow with FC 182 first and a little FC 103 to finish.

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Dog’s Eye Tutorial Step 18: Finish!

That’s it! You can continue to tinker to your hearts content, adding a little more detail or sharpening up a highlight. I find it best to leave a painting part way done and come back to it with fresh eyes to see what needs adding or taking away.

Please comment below if you have any questions, or, send me an email: and I’ll get back to you. Share this with your friends and family, it’s a lovely activity to do together with tea and cake, a sure way to relax and unwind with something different. If you’d like to know more about my pastel pencil workshops just click right here.

You can find all of the supplies you need at Paper Story, I get my pastel pencils from Angie all the time as it’s great to support other local businesses when you can and she always provides an excellent service and price.

Get your pencil pack with a huge discount here.

Find the PaperHere (this is a pack of pastel sheets which are good for practising, also available in larger sizes)

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