The eyeball is set into a ring of bone, the orbit. What makes every eye unique is the particular way three forms—bony rim, eyeball, and underlying fat—assert themselves.
The inner eye corner is a U-shaped pit where the two lids join (A). It does not sit on the ball but starts where the ball ends. On Asiatic eyes this corner is hidden by a skin fold. The eyeball rests on a pad of fat; the less full the pad, the deeper set the eye. A pouch often forms above the outer corner of the eye (B), softening and partly hiding the upper lid.
The eyeball sits more-or-less centered in the hollow, bony orbit. The eyelids are anchored to the orbit at either corner by small ligaments, the inner of which is often visible (C). The size of the eyeball itself varies very little between one face and another. What makes eyes appear big or small is their relationship to their surroundings.
The curve below the eye (D) marks the end of the eyeball; the globe shape shows through the lid. The upper portion of the eyeball, on the other hand, is more hidden. The rim of the orbit (E) is very distinct along the nose and above and below the inner eye corner; it is usually softened around the outside corner.
In an older face, what's underneath begins to show through the surface. Here you can see the rim of the orbit the entire way around the eye, including the outer corner (F) where it is usually hidden. The entire upper eyeball shows through the lid. The skin has lost its elastic qualities, which smooth over these forms in younger faces.
The circle represents the eyeball, most of which is hidden within the eye socket. The exposure of the eye in profile is very narrow; beginners tend to extend the eye corner too deeply toward the ear. Note the relative curvature of the lids: The upper lid is more arched and, because of its thickness, extends farther beyond the eyeball. The lower lid is thinner and flatter—closer to being horizontal.
In this study for an angel's head by Leonardo, the curving forms of the eyelids are rendered with particular clarity. Note arching of lids around the eyeball on the far eye, and the way the light (from above) separates the edges of the lids from the rest. The thick edge of the upper lid faces downward and is dark; that of the lower lid faces upward and is light. The lids themselves are shaded as full, rounded forms. Note how eye, upper lid, and lower lid all move into shadow together, following the tonal movement on the sphere underneath.
The eye is not symmetrical. The upper and lower lid margins have very distinct shapes. An imaginary diagonal (A) connects the high point of the upper lid with the low point of the lower; these points are not vertically aligned, as they would be if the eye was a simple oval. The high point is closer to the inside corner, the low point to the outer. Also, the inner eye corner, with its prominent notch, is always located below the outer eye corner, not just on Asiatic eyes, as is commonly supposed.
The pupil is always centered in the iris. And the iris should always be visualized as a full circle, even when, as here, it's partly cut off. Dotted lines indicate how the iris continues beyond what we see; crossed Ijnes show how the pupil is centered. Iris width on average is about a third of total eye width. If the iris is drawn much wider, the eye takes on an infantile look, for that's the way it looks with very young children, where the already adult-sized iris dominates the small eye opening.
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