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Coloring Anime Eyes in PaintTool SAI is easy! Using Gradation, the Pencil, Shape tool, and blending modes like Shine and Multiply, you can color your character’s eyes in as fast as five minutes. 

My name is Elianna. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration and have been using PaintTool SAI for over seven years. As a freelance character designer, I use PaintTool SAI to create my pieces and have explored various techniques to bring them to life. 

In this post, I will show you how to color anime eyes in PaintTool SAI using various tools and blending modes. 

Let’s get into it! 

Key Takeaway

  • Use Gradation to quickly add depth to the eye
  • Use Ctrl + D to deselect a selection. 
  • Use Ctrl + T to transform a selection. 

Understanding Anime Eyes 

There are a variety of anime eye styles that trend from realism to fantasy. How artists render eyes is one of the most recognizable features of the anime style. 

Within the artistic genre, there are various executions of this style, with some artists trending more towards realism while others fully embrace the freedom of 2D and create visuals that don’t exist in real life. However, across all variations there exist a set of similarities. 

Pupil: In almost all anime styles the pupil is represented by a simple black oval and in some cases, multiple pupils can be drawn. In some styles, the pupil can vary in shape and can include hearts and even stars when fantasy is involved. 

Iris: The iris is the colored portion of the eye and has the most variation in anime. Iris sizes can vary from small to cartoonishly large. All colors are acceptable in this style, including unusual mixes and gradients. 

Shadow: Shadow adds depth to the eye and can be present depending on the style.

Highlights: Highlights are where light reflects off the eyes and are represented by white blocks of color that are usually circular but can take on other shapes. Various amounts of highlights can be added depending on the style. 

For this tutorial we will be recreating the coloring style of the most recent production of Fruits Basket, using the main character Tohru Honda. 

How to Color Anime Eyes in PaintTool SAI 

Follow the steps below to learn how to color anime eyes in PaintTool SAI. 

Step 1: Open your PaintTool SAI file with your anime eye outline.

Step 2: Fill in the whites of the eye using the pencil

Step 3: Using the Magic Wand, select the iris

Step 4: Click on the Gradation Tool and select a color of your choice on the color wheel. For this example, I am making my eyes brown. Click-and-drag to apply the gradient with the darker side on the top.  Use Ctrl + D to deselect the selection when finished. 

Step 5: Create a new layer over your eye and name it Shine. Set the blending mode to Shine and lower opacity to 50%

Step 6: Using the Pencil and a lighter color of choice, draw in the shine. Lock the Layer Opacity.

Step 7: To add more visual interest, add a gradient to the Shine layer using the Gradation tool. 

Step 7: Click on the Shape tool and select the Ellipse. Set your color to white. 

Step 8: Click and drag to create the highlights. They will show up as Shape layers in the layer panel. Use Ctrl + T to transform them as desired.

Step 9: Using the pencil, adjust the shape of the highlights as desired. 

Step 10: Merge your layers from the top down. 

Step 11: Create a new layer above your eye and set the blending mode to Multiply. Set the Opacity to 41%. Select a gray-blue color on the color wheel.

Step 12: Using the pencil, drag a shadow under the eye lashline.

Step 13: Enjoy! 

Final Thoughts 

Coloring anime eyes in PaintTool SAI is easy by using tools like Gradation, the Magic Wand, Pencil, and blending modes like Shine and Multiply.

However, these are not the only tools that can be used to create anime eyes, and there exist endless strategies to execute the same effect. Experiment to find which approach is the best for you.

While many different styles of anime eyes exist, similarities exist with highlights and shadows. There is no limit to the stylistic choices you can pursue, so research and find which one you like best. 

How did your anime eyes turn out? Let me know in the comments below!