Cranial neural crest (NC) contributes to the developing vertebrate eye. By multidimensional, quantitative imaging, we traced the origin of the ocular NC cells to two distinct NC populations that differ in the maintenance of sox10 expression, Wnt signalling, origin, route, mode and destination of migration. The first NC population migrates to the proximal and the second NC cell group populates the distal (anterior) part of the eye. By analysing zebrafish pax6a/b compound mutants presenting anterior segment dysgenesis, we demonstrate that Pax6a/b guide the two NC populations to distinct proximodistal locations. We further provide evidence that the lens whose formation is pax6a/b-dependent and lens-derived TGFβ signals contribute to the building of the anterior segment. Taken together, our results reveal multiple roles of Pax6a/b in the control of NC cells during development of the anterior segment.