The Eyes have it!
Level of Difficulty: Working knowledge of Photoshop (tools are not explained in depth)
You would think something as simple as eyes would not be that hard to do. Well, you would be partially correct...sure they are easy to do...but to get them to look great is the hard part. A lot of people just use flat colors for their eyes...and to be honest it looks like crap. Eyes are round, not flat...do your eyes look like a pancake...no, if they do...stop reading and get to a doctor. So what we are going to be doing in this tutorial is working on a realistic approach to full colored eyes. Heroes and villains like Storm, Mystique, ummm...Gambit, kind of....ummm, well I'm sure there are others...I just can't think of any right now. You could also have an original character with full eyes...so there is another use for you. :)
Let's get started shall we.
Here is our model:
When working on a model with full eyes, realize that everyone is going to be looking at the eyes. Why? Other than blue skin what is one of Mystique's best known features? How about Storm, Gambit, and those other heroes. :) Eyes. So you better make them look pretty damn good, as they are an important part of the character. So I create a new layer called Eyes and begin painting in the eye shape, or I could use the Pen Tool to create a path selection of the eye, either way works. Please note I'm using grey as my color, we will use one of Photoshop's color utilities to get our end color later. Once you have the shape, grab the Smudge Tool and with the strength set to a low amount (10% in this example) stroke around the edges and smooth out the shape. Rinse and repeat for the other eye.
Okay, time to get to some details. Notice in the following image the arrows are pointing at the natural reflective highlights on the eyes. Since we are not changing the lighting we want to use the original eyes as a base reference.
I switch over to the Dodge Tool and set the Exposure to 15% and the Range to Highlights. Then on the Eyes layer I just stroke the areas until I get a similar result to what the actual eyes have. Don't worry if you mess up, you can use the History tab to undo your last few actions, or you can just paint over it with grey...whatever works for you. Before moving on I knock down the sharpness of the strong highlights by hitting them with the Smudge Tool a little, just eyeball it for what looks best to you. Note the middle image...it's just me showing you the light direction. So even though we've added the strong highlights to the eyes, we still need to add a lower general highlight to the eyes to get them to appear round. Easy enough, just change out the Dodge Tool's settings, set the Range to Midtones and stroke the middle section of the eyes. On the model's left eye (your right) the highlight will be a little more towards your right as that eye is openly facing the light. You can see my final results in the right-hand image below.
Now to finalize the shape of the eyes even more. We have highlights...now we just have to do the shadows. Break out the Burn Tool and set the Range to Midtones and the Exposure to whatever works for you. Darken in the corners of the eyes by stroking the edges with a soft brush, work the shape the best you can. You will consistently be trying to get this to look right, it's very rare I get it on the first try. Don't be discouraged...just work the shape the best you can. We are about to help define the shape even better with some eyeliner.