How I Draw: Facial Expressions

Facial expressions are one of my favorite things to draw. It’s incredibly fun for me to create a character, express their personality and emotions, with just their face. Of course I also enjoy drawing poses–which helps express character and feeling as well–but we won’t get into that today. Now, onward!


To start, here’s a basic, blank, facial expression. Happy, looking somewhere, not really doing anything…

Facial 1

Now, let’s change things up a bit. By just adding two eyebrows like so, you have a wondering look. One down, one up, this is a basic ‘what’s happening again?’ look.

Friendly Questening

But if we just change the eyebrows (or eyes) to be slanted inward, covering the eyes a little and sharply drawing back sort of like a check mark–you have an angry, determined face.


Or we could tweak it a little, put some wrinkle lines to give him a sorry look.

Hurt Sorry

See how easy it is to completely change the expression?


Now, moving on to ears. You have to remember that animals express themselves with things like ears, tails, stance. But today we’ll just focus on ears. For instance: Laid back ears (especially in a less realistically-drawn animal) can mean many things. Guilty, sad, angry, tired, etc. (You can express some of these emotions without the ears laid back, but you see what I mean.) Here we have a look of annoyance.

Annoyed Ears

But you have to do more than just ears. Remember that the eyes/eyebrows, wrinkles/other facial features, and mouth still need to exist and express. Just laid back ears could mean anything.

By just changing the mouth a little, we can have him looking differently.

Heh Yeah Ears

Or by lifting the ears a little and changing some other features, he’s suddenly happy, content.

Happy and Content

But if you’re going for a really crazy character, you might want him to look insane. For this I would shrink the pupils, and really make him look strained or just–well–insane. For instance, adding wrinkles and bony spots, the like. I like to shade the shadows to throw all of their features into a more dramatized look, but I’m just sketching for an example. 😉 Oh and if he’s really gone crazy, chances are he hasn’t been taking care of himself very well. So maybe make his fur looks clumped and spiky. For these types of characters, I think their ears can be positioned however you want and they would still look okay–unless you’re going for a very specific emotion.


Kind of creepy? Maybe.

Now very briefly we’ll talk about designing characters. I’ll use a cute, young character for an example… Maybe make his pupils kind of big, a small smile (or a big one, depends) on his face, very few wrinkles and soft features. And hey, why not add some fluff to him. Notice the ears are perked.

Cute Char

Aaaand that’s all for now! Please keep in mind that these are not ALL of the expressions that can be drawn, all of the details, or anything. My sketchy examples only begins to describe it, and the real way to learn is to start practicing. 😉

If there’s anything else you would like a walk-through on, just ask and I might do it. 😉


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