How to do “extra” facial expressions!
Drawing basic facial expressions is not the hardest. Most people can draw a sad face, a happy face, angry etc., but making more multidimensional expressions is more of a challenge. I have gotten a lot of compliments on how I draw facial expressions, (specifically “angsty ones”) telling me that they are very dramatic and well… expressive! And there are actually only a few things I think about when I draw faces that take them to the next level, so I thought i’d illustrate them all here!
SUPER IMPORTANT TIP BEFORE WE START: Look at your own face when you draw faces. Even making the face when you are drawing (you don’t even have to look at it), will give you some sense of how the face muscles pull and where things fold and stretch, because you can feel it. You are the best reference when it comes to facial expressions!
Draw the head in an angle that matches the expressions you want to make. It is not a requirement, but is going to add to the effect.
Symmetry vs asymmetry
A face is rarely symmetric. Unless the face the character is making is 100 % relaxed or even dissociating, the eyebrows, mouth and facial muscles will have different placements of their respective side. This image shows the dramatic impact asymmetry has on a face:
That’s the difference between a smile and a smirk!
The first one’s like “oh yeah?” and the second is like “oH YEAH??”
The “balloon squishing principle”
This is something I did subconsciously, and I didn’t know about until I made this tutorial. And this principle goes hand in hand with an asymmetric face. Basically, if you squish one part of the face, you need to even out the empty space by “inflating” the other part of the face so that it doesn’t appear shrunken. The picture hopefully explains it:
Don’t forget to add the gum when the mouth is open to its full potential!
Squinting and folding
Adding folds around the eyes when a character is squinting makes a HUGE difference. It makes a smile more genuine and a growl more intimidating. Adding folds to the face in general makes your characters more lifelike and ‘visually relatable’. Like, they look human, and less plastic or fake.
and so on..
Pupils and irises
The placement of the iris and pupil in relation to the eyelids is very important! The less of the white you see, the more relaxed the character is.
And then of course eyebrows and eyes go hand in hand!
Gestures, spitting, sweating…
Adding more elements than just a face is key to making the character actually look like they are feeling what you want them to feel. Just the tiniest sweat drop adds to their anxiety, spitting adds frustration to their rage, slouching shoulders, waving hands, a double chin, extreme angles, the list goes on! Add whatever and see what kind of impact it makes! Does it do the trick? Great! Add it!
Remember that you can almost always exaggerate more. Don’t be afraid to do draw “too much” because you’re just experimenting. See what works and what doesn’t. What do you like to exaggerate?
Now that you know some theory, it’s time to practice!
The 25 Essential Expressions (a classic! I’ve done it multiple times)
And the one I do when I’m bored:
Fill a page with circles and fill them in with different expressions. Try and exaggerate as much as you can!
This is mostly for experimenting. They are quicker to draw than complete faces, but the same rules should apply!
And that’s about it!
I don’t know if I covered everything in this tutorial, since some things might be obvious for me, and this post perhaps only scratches the surface. So feel free to send me a message if you want an explanation about something more in depth! Thank you for reading! And now DRAW!!! ✨🎨
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