How to Draw Cat Eyes with Colored Pencil

How to Draw Cat Eyes with Colored Pencil

Peggy Osborne is back again with a guest tutorial. In today’s post, she’s sharing how to draw cat eyes with colored pencil.

This is Peggy’s reference photo. It comes from Pixabay, but she cropped it to focus on the eyes.

How to Draw Cat Eyes - Reference Photo
Image by natura_photos from Pixabay

She’s working on Robert Bateman Series 110 pound paper with Prismacolor pencils. As I’ve mentioned in other tutorials, you can successfully complete most projects with any good drawing paper and artist quality pencils.

Now, here’s Peggy.

How to Draw Cat Eyes

I think the eyes are one of the most important features in a pet portrait. Once I get the eyes right the rest follows easily. So I’d like to share with you how I draw cat eyes.

While working on the eye, I always look back and forth following my reference photo very carefully.

Step 1: Start by drawing the light and dark areas.

The first thing I do when drawing eyes is draw the highlight with a sharp white pencil so it remains white while I fill in the color. I also add white to the whitest areas of the eye to keep those areas light, as I layer other colors over them.

I lightly draw in the pupil of the eye, being careful not to drag the black into the light colors. (You could draw in the pupil later if it is easier.)

The first color is Cream drawn with a light touch. I use a sharp pencil and draw in tiny circular motions covering the whole eye but the highlights and pupil of course. Then I add a wash of Jade Green to the mid tone areas and the little squiggle lines in the eye.

Step 2: Define the outside of the eye.

The next step is adding an outline with Sepia to define the eye. I go back and redefine this outline as I work the eye. I continue to build up layers with White, Cream, and Jade Green.

Step 3: Darken the areas around the outside of the eye.

Add Marine Green to the darkest shadows under the eyelids and around the outside of the eyes. This helps to give the eye a spherical shape.

I continue to build up the layers using Sand on my mid tones. Then I wash Sap Green over the whole eye avoiding the highlights, followed by a wash of Celadon Green. For both colors, I keep my touch light.

I want to keep the middle of the eye light so that I keep that three dimensional look. So I touch up the very lightest areas of the eye using White with medium pressure. Over this I once again do a light wash with Grey Green. These light washes help to keep everything blended together so the eye looks realistic.

Step 4: Deepen shadows with additional layers of color.

I deepen shadows with 70% French Grey, then continue adding washes of Celadon Green and Jade Green over the whole eye except the highlights.

In the mid tone areas I add Sand with medium pressure.

Then I go back in with black to outline the eye and the pupil again.

Step 5: Draw saturated color with more layers, increased pressure, and circular strokes.

As I get closer to finishing the eye, I add a little bit more pressure but still use tiny circular motions. The eye should have a smooth glossy appearance, so I burnish these areas to fill in the tooth of the paper.

I deepen the shadows under the eyelid a bit more by adding Sepia and Marine Green. I use Marine Green to add more depth around outside of the eye and the area near the pupil.

Again I use Sand in the mid tone areas. I then burnish the whole eye with Jade Green to blend all the colors together. I use either Jade Green or Sepia to place tiny details on the eye to add to the realistic look.

Eyelash reflections on the eye are added with Sepia, then I burnish the lightest areas of the eye with White.

Finally I add slate blue to the white highlight in each eye.

Throughout this process, I follow the reference photo.

I am going to move onto creating the fur around the eyes but will go back to add the final touches and details to the eyes after the fur is completed. Drawing the fur around the eyes helps me judge the values in the eye better.

Step 6: Start drawing the fur by blocking in color.

Since this is an eye tutorial I am not going into a lot of detail on the fur. However I will share some of the steps to create the fur, then I will go back and complete the final details in the eyes.

The fur is built up using layer after layer of colored pencil. I first lay in hair-like strokes following the direction of the fur with 70% French Grey. I do a wash of Cream over this then add more hair-like strokes of 20% French Grey.

That is followed by another wash of Cream, and then more hair-like strokes of 70% French Grey.

These steps build depth to the fur and I continue repeating them until the paper tooth is full and I have the effect I want.

Step 7: Finish drawing the fur with repeated layering.

Building layers and blending is what gives you realistic looking fur. The area between the eyes is a little different than the other areas so to create this, I used a 70% Warm Grey with a sharp point and short hair-like strokes. Then I added a light wash of Peach Beige and more short strokes of 70% Warm Grey.

I burnished this with the blending pencil. The white of the paper shows through as the lightest hairs. The rest of the area I finished using the same colors as mentioned before, following the reference photo closely and building layer after layer, with some burnishing between layers.

I have created a three-dimensional look to the fur. The very darkest points of the fur was completed with Black and Sepia in layers to fill the tooth of the paper.

With my blending pencil I drag the dark color into the light color for a smooth blending look.

The white of the paper shows through as the lightest hairs.

I used Sepia in the darkest points of the fur as a base layer. Here I have completed the fur on the forehead.

Step 8: Draw the nose using the same methods as the rest of the fur.

The nose of a cat has an unusual hair pattern and as always I follow the direction of the fur growth as shown in the reference photo.

I use the same method of layering to draw the nose, but added a bit of Burnt Ochre and Light Umber to the French Greys and Peach Beige.

Step 9: Burnish the layers of color to blend them together.

On the completed drawing, I burnished a lot of the areas to blend the fur throughout the whole picture.

I used Brush & Pencil’s Titanium White mixture to create a few more hairs and highlights throughout the drawing.

Then to finish off the eyes, I added Marine Green in the shadows, a touch of Light Umber in the eye along with Sand, and then burnished the whole eye with Celadon Green, except the lightest highlight.

How to Draw Cat Eyes - The Finished Drawing

Step 10: Compare the drawing to the reference photo

As usual I did a photo comparison with the reference photo and final drawing to check color, likeness, etc.

How to Draw Cat Eyes - Color Side-by-Side Comparison

I also did a side-by-side comparison in black-and-white to check values.

How to Draw Cat Eyes - Black and white Side-by-Side Comparison

That’s how Peggy draws cat eyes.

I hope Peggy has helped you draw cat eyes more realistically.

If you’d like more details on how she draws fur, read How to Draw Black Fur and How to Draw a Long Haired Dog.

If you have questions about this tutorial, leave a comment below. Peggy will stop by and answer your questions.

And if you have a suggestion for a future tutorial from Peggy, leave that in the comments as well.

About Peggy Osborne

See more of Peggy’s work at Pet Portraits by Peggy. You can also meet Peggy in the January issue of CP Magic.

Peggy is an accomplished self-taught artist living in Canada specializing in creating beautiful realistic portraits of pets and family members. She’s had an on going love affair with colored pencils, loving their simplicity, for as long as she can remember.

She started out using graphite pencil so it was an easy transition to carry on with colored pencils. Love of animals and art go hand in hand. Peggy is in awe of what can be accomplished with colored pencils.


  1. Tammy McNally

    I was fortunate to have Peggy do 4 pet portraits for me. The way she does the eyes is just incredible. Every time I look at my fur babies I see their soul looking back at me. Even though they have passed on I still feel them near. Peggy is so talented and compassionate which is what each portrait of hers shows. As always well done Peggy.

  2. Wendy Allen

    Thank you so much for this wonderful tutorial. I am a complete beginner and I’m not familiar with all the terms used. How do I create a “wash” (please pardon my ignorance)? My goal is to be able to draw realistic cats and this has helped very much. Your work is beautiful.

    1. Wendy,

      Thank you for reading the blog and for your very kind words on Peggy’s behalf.

      With colored pencils, a “wash” is a layer of color applied with very light pressure and no visible pencil strokes. You might consider it “tinting” the colors that are underneath.


    2. Thank you Wendy,

      for the lovely compliment and I am glad that I have helped you. I agree with what Carrie has said about the wash. I am happy to answer any questions. We were all beginners. I am still learning things about art and colored pencils.

    1. Laurel,

      Thank you for your compliment, but in this case, Peggy Osborne is the artist who draw this. Her cat eyes are fabulous, but she’s been drawing for a long time.

      If you keep practicing, you’re skills with improve, too.

      Thank you for reading, and for taking the time to leave a comment.

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