How To Embroider Realistic Eyes (For Animals And Humans)

Whether you’re looking to embroider the eyes of a stuffed animal or an embroidery of a human eye, this comprehensive tutorial will show you how to embroider realistic looking eyes in no time.

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realistic animal eyes

How To Embroider Realistic Eyes

The key to realistic looking eyes is to use a technique called thread painting. This uses mostly the long and short stitch to blend colors together similar to painting, and it allows you to add lots of fine detail.

The best way to make something look realistic is to find a good balance of shadows and highlights. This allows your work to have enough contrast, which is the difference between light and dark colors. This is the key to making something look 3-dimensional and lifelike.

If you look closely at an animal or human’s eye you will see all of the different darker and lighter colors.

While you don’t necessarily have to completely copy every small detail and color, it is important to learn how to observe the way the colors and features work together.

It is extremely important to have a good reference photo to go off of so you can clearly see the changes in color, highlights, and shadows.

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • DMC 6 stranded cotton floss – Amazon
  • Embroidery Hoop – Amazon
  • Cotton or linen fabric
  • Size 9 or 10 embroidery needle
  • Water Soluble Solvy – Amazon
  • A micron marker

Getting Started

transfer embroidery design
Tracing an embroidery design onto water soluble Solvy stabilizer.

Using a reference photo, trace the eye and make note of any color changes.

Trace this design you made onto the water soluble solvy using a micron. (Be sure to test whatever marker you use on a scrap piece of Solvy and fabric to be sure it doesn’t stain the fabric when you rinse it off.)

Place the Solvy on top of the fabric and place them both into the embroidery hoop.

Embroidering A Realistic Animal Eye

This first tutorial is a very easy and straight forward one. It’s really not too complicated at all to create an animal eye that looks real. This example is a simple one that you can apply to any animal eye.

You only need a few colors for this one:

  • light grey
  • dark grey
  • black
  • white
how to embroider a realistic mouse eye
  1. The first thing I like to start with are the darker colors of the eye. For the mouse, the outside of the eye is completely black. Fill in the black areas with horizontal long and short stitches.
  2. The inside of the eye contains some grey, so the next thing to do would be to fill in the grey portion of the eye with long and short stitches. (If the animal has a colorful iris, you would fill this in as well using a few different shades of whatever color it is.)
  3. Add some highlights on top of the darker areas you stitched using a few vertical satin stitches.
  4. Finally stitch the eyelid. Depending on the animal, you may want to stitch the eyelid using black or brown thread. For this example, I used light grey and made split stitches. You can also add in any highlights you see along the edge of the eyelid and inner portion of the eye.

Instant Access To Exclusive Tutorials

If you’re interested in step by step tutorials to help you learn the art of thread painting, which includes many tutorials about animals and pet portraiture, please consider joining my Patreon community!

When you join the Serious Stitcher tier, you’ll get instant access to:

  • a monthly thread painting pattern
  • behind the scenes content and progress photos
  • ability to vote on future embroidery patterns
  • instant access to video tutorials, PDFs, and helpful resources

Embroidering A Human Eye

how to embroider a realistic human eye

While you may think there are only a few colors in a human eye, there are actually many different shades of colors you will want to use to create a realistic looking one.

Most of the eye is stitched using a long and short stitch as well as the split stitch for any eyelashes or lines.

  1. I like to start with the darker colors in the pupil and iris first using the long and short stitch to fill them in.
  2. Then I work my way up to some of the lighter colors. (In this example, brown). Finally, I add in the highlights of the pupil using white thread.
  3. The next part is stitching the eyelid. Match colors to the reference photo you’re using and begin stitching along the upper eyelid.
  4. Stitch the shadows in the corners of the eyelid and continue filling the rest of the area in.
  5. For the white of the eyeball, I like to choose a light grey or off white color. Pure white doesn’t look as realistic, and choosing a slightly darker shade will allow you to add extra highlights of pure white to make it look more realistic.
  6. Stitch the pink area in the corner of the eye and add in any necessary highlights.
  7. Add highlights to the edge of the eyelid and eyeball.
  8. Finish the eye by adding in eyelashes using a dark brown or black color.


  • If you feel like your embroidered eye looks kind of flat and not realistic enough, you may need to add in lighter and or darker colors. This could mean adding in some lighter colors to the iris or adding darker shadows in the corners of the eye to make it look more pronounced. Using colors that are too similar will make your work blend together and it will be hard for your eye to pick out the differences in the colors and values. You can read more about color contrast here.
  • If you feel like the colors you used aren’t accurate to the reference photo, you can always stitch over top of the area you want to fix.
  • Achieving a realistic look to your embroidery takes time, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t get it perfect the first time!

Embroidery Patterns

Check out some of these realistic animal embroidery patterns if you’re interested in more step by step tutorials.

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