In human portraiture, it’s been said that the eyes are the most important part. That’s no different with dog portraits! And there are lots of good tutorials out there about how to render eyes so that they look realistic, deep, and well lit— but none of that will help if you don’t get the shape, position and expression right first. That’s what this post is all about. I’ll show you 6 concrete methods to make sure you get everything down in the right place, so that when you apply rendering techniques you don’t accidentally create a tribute to Dave Devries’ Monster Engine.
Dog eyes are tricky because the different breeds have a much wider variety of facial shapes than you see in humans, so making “one rule” for where facial features sit in relation to each other is more challenging. The methods I’m going to teach you in this post will work for any breed, but will rely on your knowledge of that breed’s specific anatomy. For easy navigation, I’ve divided the subject into several sections: 1. Eye Position 2. Eye Size 3. Eye Shapes from Different Angles 4. Internal Eye Structures 5. Dog Eyelids
1. Eye Position
Before you start looking at details such as expression and shape, you need to define two key points: where do the dog’s eyes sit on the skull, and how big are they? We’ll start with location: the first thing to keep in mind is that a dog’s head is a round, 3D object, and what you’re trying to do is translate 3 dimensions into 2. Because of this, 3/4 views are the most challenging: one eye will be a different shape than the other, and they will be in a different positions relative to other identifying features, such as the eyes, ears, and edges of the head. Notice how the distance between the eyes and side of the head changes as he turns? Figuring out where the eyes sit in the front and profile view will help you figure out where they sit in other, more challenging angles. I advise starting here with your subject. Where are the dog’s eyes? 1. a) Vertical Positioning
Your dog’s eyes lie somewhere between the base of her ears (as seen from the front) and the top of her nose. As your dog looks up and down, the distances between nose, eyes and ears change. See how the space between the lines changes in these examples?
Even when your dog’s nose is at or above her eyes, her pupils still fall somewhere between the top of her nose and the base of her ears. You can see the same effect from the side.
2. Eye Size
3. Eye Shape
A dog’s eye shape is mostly caused by eyelids; in your reference material notice how they cup the eyeball itself and fold to stay out of its way. Dogs also have a third eyelid – it’s that weird white part you see when they’re dreaming.
- A dog’s head is round
- The eyes’ position relative to the ears and nose will change depending on where the dog is looking
- Unless the portrait is in a perfectly straight, front-facing position, the eyes will be different shapes