How to Describe Eyes in Writing (21 Best Tips + Examples)

Eyes are often hailed as the “windows to the soul,” capable of conveying complex emotions without uttering a single word.

As writers, mastering the art of describing eyes can elevate your storytelling.

Here is how to describe eyes in writing:

Describe eyes in writing by focusing on color, shape, and emotional depth. Use descriptive words like “captivating” or “luminous.” Phrases like “windows to the soul” add layers. Consider eyelids, lashes, and blinking for subtle emotional cues.

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to describe eyes in writing.

1. The Color Palette: More Than Just Blue and Brown

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Close up of a colorful eye - How to Describe Eyes in Writing
I made this image – How to Describe Eyes in Writing

Color is usually the first attribute that comes to mind when describing eyes.

Going beyond the cliché blue and brown can bring your characters to life in vivid detail.

Try unconventional colors and make comparisons to set a mood.

For example, instead of saying, “She had green eyes,” you might say, “Her eyes were the color of freshly mown grass, evoking an undeniable feeling of rebirth.”

Different colors can invoke various emotions or suggest specific character traits.

“Eyes as gray as a stormy sea” could symbolize a tumultuous spirit or an adventurous soul.

Therefore, use colors not just as factual descriptions but as emotional or character-driven statements.

You can even mix colors for added depth, “His eyes were a mix of gold and brown, like a forest floor dappled in autumn sunlight.”

2. The Light Dance: Luminosity Unveiled

The way eyes catch light can describe more than just the setting sun or dim room.

It can tell your reader about the emotional landscape of your characters.

For example, eyes that “gleam like polished stones catching the midday sun” could portray a character in a state of clarity or revelation.

The luminosity of the eyes can also serve as a narrative device, enhancing the emotional undercurrents of a scene.

“Her eyes dimmed, mirroring the dwindling campfire, as she heard the sad tale” can infuse additional layers of emotion into the situation.

This can help the reader feel the gravity of the story along with the character.

3. Shape-Shifting: The Geometry of Gaze

The shape of a character’s eyes can be a playground for creativity.

From almond-shaped to round, the geometry of eyes can offer readers clues about a character’s disposition.

For instance, “Her oval eyes always had a dreamy look, as if she were perpetually lost in thought” can say a lot about the character’s daydreaming nature or thoughtful demeanor.

Don’t forget that eye shape can be dynamic, changing with emotional states or circumstances.

You might describe a normally cheerful character as having “eyes that narrowed into cold slivers when he heard the disparaging comment.”

This not only gives your characters depth but also builds a stronger emotional connection with the reader.

4. Blink Back the Emotions

Never underestimate the power of a blink in conveying emotional subtlety.

A quick blink can express surprise.

While slow, measured blinks could imply a character is deeply contemplating a decision.

For example, “She blinked rapidly, as if trying to ward off the tears that threatened to spill,” succinctly captures a moment of emotional vulnerability.

A single blink can also serve as a pivotal moment in the story.

“He blinked once, slowly, as if imprinting the scene onto his soul” not only adds emotional weight but also signals a significant moment.

5. Mirrors and Windows: Emotional Portals

Eyes can act as mirrors reflecting internal emotions or windows offering a glimpse into the soul.

A character’s gaze can speak volumes, revealing underlying feelings or thoughts.

“His eyes were impenetrable mirrors, reflecting nothing but deflecting everything,” suggests a stoic or guarded individual.

In contrast, eyes can serve as open windows, giving readers insight into a character’s emotional state.

“Her eyes were open windows to her joy, sparkling like stars on a clear night,” indirectly reveals the depth of her happiness.

Using this technique can convey complex emotions in a show-don’t-tell fashion.

6. Crinkles and Lines: The Etchings of Experience

The skin surrounding the eyes can be a treasure trove of storytelling.

Whether it’s laugh lines or weary creases, these “etchings” can reveal a character’s history or emotional state.

For example, “Her eyes were framed by lines that spoke of decades filled with laughter and resilience” provides a wealth of information about a character’s life experiences.

On the flip side, you can use the absence of these lines to highlight a different set of experiences or qualities.

“His eyes were alarmingly smooth, devoid of the wrinkles that often accompany age, as if time itself hesitated to mark him.”

This could signify a range of possibilities—from a sheltered life to a mysterious, age-defying character.

7. The Focus Factor: Where the Gaze Lands

Where a character focuses their eyes can indicate interest, discomfort, or even deceit.

“She couldn’t maintain eye contact and her gaze kept drifting to the floor,” could suggest a lack of confidence or that she’s hiding something.

Here’s another example: “His eyes locked onto the painting, absorbing every brushstroke as if trying to capture its essence.”

The focus of the gaze is telling of the character’s artistic interest.

Or perhaps a deeper emotional connection to the artwork.

Employ focus intentionally to add another layer of complexity to your characters.

8. The Invisible Force: Magnetic Attraction or Repulsion

Sometimes eyes don’t just look; they draw in or push away.

Describing this invisible force can add an ethereal quality to your characters.

“Her eyes seemed to pull him in, a gravitational force he couldn’t resist,” not only describes attraction but also gives it a nearly magical, irresistible quality.

Alternatively, eyes can repel, emitting an almost palpable energy that keeps people at bay.

“People avoided looking into his eyes, as if a simple glance could cast a dark shadow over their day.”

This can set the mood quickly and establish a character as menacing or tragically solitary.

9. Eye-talk: Silent Conversations

Eyes can often communicate messages that words fail to capture.

Describing these “silent conversations” can create emotionally charged scenes between characters.

For instance, “Their eyes met, and in that brief moment, a flurry of unspoken apologies and forgiveness exchanged.”

In a more humorous scenario, you might write, “A roll of her eyes spoke louder than words, a whole paragraph on why the joke was painfully unfunny.”

Use eye-talk to demonstrate the depth of understanding or the lack thereof between characters.

By doing so, you enrichen the personal dynamics in your story.

10. Motion and Emotion: The Kinetics of Eye Movement

The movement of eyes—darting, sweeping, flicking—can indicate a variety of emotions or thoughts.

“Her eyes darted around the room, like a hummingbird seeking nectar, but finding none,” could indicate anxiety or a feeling trapped.

Movement can also be slow and calculated: “His eyes slowly scanned the crowd until they landed on her. It was as though he had found what he was unconsciously searching for all evening.”

Here, the eyes act almost like a compass, guided by emotion or instinct to find a person in a crowd.

11. Veils and Shields: The Role of Eyelids and Lashes

Eyelids and eyelashes do more than just frame the eyes.

They act as veils or shields, expressing vulnerability or defense.

For example, “Her eyelashes were a curtain that she dropped quickly, hiding the turmoil that had briefly flickered in her eyes,” could indicate a momentary lapse in an otherwise strong facade.

On the other hand, “His eyelids lifted slowly, as if reluctantly allowing access to the secrets hidden in his gaze,” paints a vivid image of a guarded individual.

With eyelids acting as gatekeepers and eyelashes as intricate curtains, your description gains a theatrical quality.

12. Icy Stares and Fiery Glances: Temperature Imagery

Using temperature as imagery can add another layer of emotional context.

“Her gaze was icy, freezing everyone it touched, making even a crowded room feel lonely,” effectively conveys detachment and emotional coldness.

Alternatively, “His eyes burned with a fire that could ignite even the most dampened spirits,” suggests passion.

By assigning a “temperature” to your characters’ eyes, you’re doing more than describing.

You’re setting the emotional climate of your story.

13. Twin Moons: Symmetry and Asymmetry

Our eyes are often assumed to be symmetrical.

But describing a character with slightly asymmetrical eyes can add an interesting twist.

“Her right eye was noticeably larger than her left, as if it had seen more of the world and expanded with wisdom,” can introduce an element of uniqueness and intrigue.

Conversely, perfect symmetry can be used to highlight otherworldly beauty or artificiality.

“His eyes were symmetrically perfect, each a mirror image of the other, making him appear almost too flawless, like a sculpture.”

14. Distance and Depth: Proximity of Emotional Connection

The physical space between eyes can symbolize emotional distance or closeness.

“Her closely set eyes, like parallel lines that never meet, made it hard to decipher her emotions,” suggests a character who might be emotionally inaccessible.

On the flip side, consider: “His wide-set eyes seemed to embrace the world, absorbing its myriad colors and nuances.”

This description could indicate a more open, emotionally available individual.

The space between eyes can become a metaphorical playground for writers.

15. Transient Hues: Changing Colors

Some eyes change colors depending on the lighting or the character’s mood.

Describing this can add a mystical or unpredictable quality.

“Her eyes shifted from a deep blue to an oceanic green when she was lost in thought,” opens up a realm of questions and adds an element of unpredictability to the character.

Or you might write, “As he grew angrier, the brown of his eyes seemed to darken, like clouds gathering before a storm.”

Changing colors can make your character seem complex and intriguing, demanding the reader’s attention.

16. Windows or Walls: Transparency and Opacity

The eyes can be either transparent windows to the soul or impenetrable walls.

For example, “Looking into her eyes was like staring into a clear pond, where even the smallest pebble on the bottom was visible,” indicates transparency and vulnerability.

Contrastingly, “His eyes were like tinted windows—no matter how hard you looked, you couldn’t see inside.”

The latter communicates a sense of emotional fortification.

Transparency and opacity serve as tools to indicate how approachable or aloof a character is as a person.

17. Spotlighting: Single Eye Focus

Most descriptions involve both eyes, but focusing on just one can create an arresting image.

“Her left eye seemed to flicker with an inner light, commanding attention and distracting from her otherwise placid face,” can indicate a multifaceted character with hidden depths or asymmetrical qualities.

Or perhaps, “His right eye twitched involuntarily, belying the calm he otherwise projected.”

A focus on a single eye can serve to amplify emotion, make a character more memorable, or highlight an incongruity in their personality.

18. Eye Accessories: Glasses and Contacts

Glasses or contact lenses can be more than just functional.

They can offer insights into a character.

“Her thick glasses magnified her eyes to an impossible size, giving her an air of constant astonishment,” shows how glasses can be used to amplify a character trait.

Accessories become an extension of the character, revealing their choices, desires, or insecurities.

19. A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: Artistic Imagery

Sometimes, describing eyes as artworks can be exceptionally evocative.

“Her eyes were like a Jackson Pollock painting, a chaotic blend of colors that somehow made sense,” can indicate a complex and unpredictable character.

Or perhaps, “His eyes resembled a Van Gogh sky, swirling with depth and endless hues of blue and yellow.”

Artistic comparisons not only make the description more vivid.

But can also provide an intellectual backdrop to your character’s emotional landscape.

20. The Art of Avoidance: When Eyes Are Hidden

There can be significant impact in moments where a character’s eyes are hidden—by hair, a hat, or even their own hand.

“His eyes were obscured by a mess of unruly hair, as if he was deliberately hiding from the world,” can suggest a character who is emotionally unavailable or in a state of internal chaos.

Conversely, “She covered her eyes with a hand, as if blocking out the reality before her,” could indicate denial.

Or, perhaps, a reluctance to face the truth.

The absence or obstruction of eyes can speak volumes, adding a layer of complexity to the narrative.

21. The Blink Code: The Tempo of Eye Movement

The rhythm and tempo of blinking can subtly express a character’s emotional state or intentions.

Rapid blinking might reveal nervousness, excitement, or distress.

Slow, deliberate blinks could convey thoughtfulness or calm.

The blink can be as revealing as any other aspect of eye description, acting as a silent Morse code that conveys underlying emotional states.

For example, “Her eyelids shut tightly and reopened slowly, as though she was steeling herself for what was to come. Each blink seemed to be a word in a private language of courage.”

Here is a good video about how to describe eyes in writing:

YouTube Video by West Hobard English Study Group – How to Describe Eyes in Writing

10 Elements of Eyes to Describe in Writing

To summarize, here are 10 elements (or traits) of eyes that you can describe:

  1. Color: The most obvious characteristic, but it can say a lot about a character. Blues, browns, greens, and grays each have their own set of associated traits and emotions.
  2. Shape: The shape of the eyes can lend personality cues. Almond-shaped, round, or narrow eyes can make a character seem mysterious, innocent, or intense.
  3. Size: Describing the size of the eyes can also give hints about a character’s personality. Large eyes might convey innocence or openness, while small eyes could suggest cunning or secrecy.
  4. Luminosity/Brightness: How bright or dull the eyes appear can reflect the character’s emotional state or overall personality. Luminous eyes might signify vitality or a strong spirit.
  5. Transparency: This refers to how “readable” the eyes are. Are they the proverbial “window to the soul,” or are they more like impenetrable walls?
  6. Intensity: The power of a gaze can say a lot. An intense stare may show determination, while a lack of intensity could signal disinterest or fatigue.
  7. Texture: While not immediately visible from a distance, up close the eyes may have specks, flecks, or distinct patterns that could add uniqueness to a character.
  8. Direction: Where a character is looking—averting their gaze, staring straight ahead, or looking down—can show their emotional state and add context to dialogue and actions.
  9. Movement: This includes blinking, winking, or any other eye movements. Rapid blinking might indicate stress, while slow blinking could indicate thoughtfulness or calm.
  10. Surrounding Features: Eyebrows, eyelashes, and even the skin around the eyes can contribute to the overall impression. Bushy eyebrows, long lashes, or dark circles can add depth to your description.

30 Best Words to Describe Eyes in Writing

Here is a list of words to help you describe eyes in your stories:

  1. Sparkling
  2. Luminous
  3. Piercing
  4. Soulful
  5. Melancholic
  6. Mysterious
  7. Almond-shaped
  8. Twinkling
  9. Radiant
  10. Hooded
  11. Brooding
  12. Furtive
  13. Enigmatic
  14. Stormy
  15. Doe-eyed
  16. Icy
  17. Fiery
  18. Intricate
  19. Haunted
  20. Serene
  21. Playful
  22. Exuberant
  23. Wistful
  24. Calculating
  25. Smoldering
  26. Jaunty
  27. Gleaming
  28. Hypnotic
  29. Bewitching
  30. Opaque

30 Best Phrases to Describe Eyes in Writing

When a single word won’t do, you’ll need phrases for describing eyes.

Check out this curated list of phrases for how to describe eyes in writing:

  1. Eyes like saucers
  2. Windows to the soul
  3. A storm brewing in his eyes
  4. Eyes bright with unshed tears
  5. A twinkle in her eye
  6. Eyes darker than midnight
  7. Eyes that held galaxies
  8. Deep pools of emotion
  9. Eyes like open books
  10. Eyes narrowed in suspicion
  11. Eyes as cold as ice
  12. An unreadable gaze
  13. Pools of molten gold
  14. A piercing gaze
  15. Eyes dancing with mischief
  16. Eyes filled with wonder
  17. A guarded look
  18. Eyes aflame with passion
  19. A faraway look
  20. An inviting gaze
  21. Eyes shimmering like the ocean
  22. A gaze that could cut glass
  23. Eyes soft with compassion
  24. A lingering look
  25. A flirtatious glance
  26. Eyes clouded with doubt
  27. Eyes gleaming with intelligence
  28. An intense stare
  29. Eyes that defy description
  30. Eyes closed in contemplation

3 Full Examples of Describing Eyes in Different Genres

Let’s learn how to describe eyes in writing by looking at full examples in various fiction genres.

Romance

In the dimly lit room, his eyes caught hers, and it felt as though time stood still.

They were deep pools of chocolate, rich and warm, promising sweet secrets and hidden depths. A soft light seemed to emanate from them, casting a gentle glow that could melt the iciest of hearts. It was as though his soul was laid bare, and she felt herself drawn into his gaze, an irresistible force pulling her closer to the love she’d been seeking all her life.

Fantasy

As she walked through the enchanted forest, her eyes changed to mirror her surroundings.

Normally a plain brown, they turned into a swirling mix of emerald and gold, as if her irises were tiny galaxies with stars twinkling within. The transformation was spellbinding, making her appear not just of this realm, but a creature of otherworldly beauty.

Those eyes held power—power to unlock realms and unleash spells, a mysterious allure that could not be ignored.

Thriller

His eyes were like shards of ice, a piercing blue that seemed to cut through the dim light of the interrogation room.

Each glance was calculated, devoid of emotion, revealing nothing yet seeing everything. It was a look that had unnerved many—a gaze that had stared down threats and seen horrors that would break most men.

His eyes were the epitome of a human lie detector, missing nothing, ever vigilant, and deeply unsettling.

Final Thoughts: How To Describe Eyes in Writing

The best way to describe eyes is blending the tips, words, and phrases.

Also, connect the bigger plot and theme to your eye descriptions.

Of course, there is much more than eyes to describe in your story. Read the other guides on our site to learn how to describe, people, places, and scenes in your story.

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