How To Paint Eyes In Alcohol Ink Part 1

First we have to observe . One of the many joys of painting is the pleasure of observation.

What do you notice when you look at an eye? (A)

Map Girls Eyes
A (Click to Enlarge)

Pupil Shape
Eyebrows, eyelids,
Eyelashes – direction, length, color, shadows on the eye
Reflection (windows)
Sclera color and shading
Difference between the right and left eye


eye structureHere’s a quick diagram of the anatomy of an eye (B)



Let’s look at some more Human examples: (C)

Human Eyes
C (Click to enlarge)


Iris patterns





Primate and Horse
D Primate and Horse (Click to enlarge)



How about some animals? (D)




E (Click to Enlarge)



I love frogs. (E)





Can we paint them? (Scroll to see excerpts of some of my alchol ink eyes)

In Part 2 I’ll demonstrate how to paint eyes with Alcohol Inks.


Playing with Transluscent Yupo Paper

I belong to wonderful groups on Facebook – Alcohol Ink Artists, Alcohol Ink & Mixed Media and KW Artists and Friends.  There are over 2,000 members from all over the world.  Our theme this week at Alcohol Ink Artists was abstracts.  I decided to post this abstract fun 2picture:

My dear friend, Birdie came up with this method of folding paper with the ink inside.

I added a white gel pen to emphasize the shapes.

For this post, I’m going to take you through how it’s done.

YupoYupo Paper comes in different weights. I usually use 74# Cover Paper.  For the above picture I used 62# transluscent paper that is lighter and easy to fold.  For the following I used #104 Transluscent paper which wasn’t as easy to fold but worked fine.


Step 1: Step 1 pour Pour ink onto the paper. I used Bottle, Mountain Rose and Wild Plum. I did not use any blending solution.




Step 2: fold the paper with the ink still wet Step 2





Step 3: Fold some more Step 3 fold





Step 4: Open Step 4 open






Step 5: After more foldsStep 5 more folds






Step 6 start to outlineStep 6: Start to outline the color patterns with a white gel pen.






abstract funHere’s the finished piece.  You will notice that because it is translucent you can see my writing on the back (my bad).





Here’s one more piece done in this style. It’s fun. abstract fun 2_0001

Using the Values of Your Inks (Colors, Hues)

Once you have determined the values in your reference photos you’ve got to figure out how all of those paints you’ve got translate into value numbers.

color rings


I take each of my inks and put them on a little piece of photo paper and punch holes in them so I can arrange them by hue (color).  I have a separate ring with all of my colors by value.





For this example I laid out all of my green color chips:


Then I laidgray scale match the gray-scale sheet on top of each chip to assign a gray-scale number.  It’s not always easy, but if you do it a few times you’ll get used to it.


Here are the green color chips arranged by gray-scale value from darkest to lightest.

Greens by value

JG2 Mermaid CG4 Bottle Meadow Lettuce CG3 LG4 Lake Mist
JG3 LimeGreen RainForest Botanical Citrus

I’vechui cropped copy also experimented by painting the “correct” value and the “wrong” color.

Here’s Chui,  a cheeta, that works because the values are correct.   Let me know if you ever see one with these colors.

(click to enlarge)

Love My Shoe

Love My Shoe smallerI’ve wanted to paint this image for the longest time but I was afraid that it would be too monochromatic.  Turned out I loved painting it because it looks like my Golden Lab/Retriever – Bobbo.  The shoe was much more time-consuming than the puppy.

This is Alcohol Ink 8.5 x 11 on Yupo Paper.

I did lay down a base color and then painted on top of it.

The Role of Values in Your Paintings

One of the aspects that make my paintings unique is the intense attention paid to values.

Sea Turtle Finished Painting

What are values? – the range of light and dark in your painting, also called “tone.”  We usually focus on the Hue (color) but the value can be even more important.  Here are two versions of Sea Turtle by Nancy Sklaney at Paintmyphoto



Here is the original and another with the values reduced.  The second one seems dull and not lifelike.

With the contrast reduced, dulling the contrast between light and dark

How do you discover what the values are?


Sea Turtle Black and White  Print a copy of your reference photo in black and white.

Grayscale with holes  Use a gray scale to map out your picture.  A gray scale is a chart from white to black in varying number of steps of gray in between without any apparent color.  I punch holes in mine so I can lay it on top of the black and white photo to identify the values.

gray scale match

Here’s an example of the gray scale on top of my picture and there is a match at 4 and 10

A good exercise is to map out the values on your black and white copy.

turtle map


Here’s a few values mapped on the turtle photo.


In the next post, I’ll talk about how to figure out what value your colors (hues) are and how to use them.

In the meantime, here’s a very nice article about values and hues at

How to Select A Reference Photo

I spend hours looking at reference photos hoping to fall in love.  I decided it would be interesting to look at how to pick a photo.  These are pictures that I took of a cactus blooming in my backyard.  I wanted to paint the details of the inside.

Pink Cactus 1

This picture is at an angle from above which doesn’t draw you in but it lets you see how little this guy is.





Pink cactus 2This one lets you see the details but there isn’t enough light contrast to be interesting. This is the most common issue I find is that there is not enough light contrast. Also two flowers doesn’t feel balanced.



Pink Cactus 4 weird focus



This one has weird focus on the back flower but I do like the sky behind.




IMG_3009 copy 2

Great light and details.

Good contrast with the rock shadowOMG there’s a grasshopper on it. But I think we can get rid of it. (click to see it)

This would be the one!


Tracing Example

I decided to show you how I trace and paint a cat’s eye.  This is from Audra Timas at PMP “Ema”.  First I print out a black and white version of the photograph.  I have found that if you take the element of color out of the equation it is easier to see where the value changes of light a dark are.  I still have to use the color reference when I paint but at this point it’s about tracing.
eye tapedI put down a sheet of Yupo Paper, tape the black and white image on top and slide carbon paper between.

I draw a line every time the light/dark changes. I use a green pen so know where I have traced aeye with green tracingnd where I haven’t.


Here’s the tracing on theye tracinge Yupo.  I didn’t get everything but there as much as I found at the time. (sorry for the shadow)

(Click to enlarge)

eyeThe next step is to paint the eye.  I hold my iPad with the image on in close by so I can try to replicate the colors I see in the picture.  I used bottles of ink, markers, pens and the magic touch of the Chameleon blending pen.


EMAAudraTimasPMP eye only

Here is just the eye of the reference photo.  The painting will look much better when there is fur around the eye.