How To Draw Basic Expressions

How To Draw Basic Expressions

Drawing expressions for your Manga or web comic characters might just be easier than you think.  Liz Staley, from the web comic Adrastus, explains the four basic expressions, then how to combine them for more complex emotions.  Using a headshot of her comic’s main character, Sarah, Staley demonstrates how to draw character expressions.

Most basic expressions can be achieved just by manipulating the eyebrows and the mouth.  Staley’s video shows you how to create the four basic expressions.

Blank Expression
Mouth:  Very straight
Eyebrows:  Also kind of straight
Effect:  Very neutral, no real emotion

Happy Expression
Mouth:  Curves up in a smile
Eyebrows:  Curve down, like an upside down U shape
Effect:  Pretty, smiley, happy

Sad Expression
Mouth:  Curves down in a frown
Eyebrows:  Angled up toward the middle of the forehead, then curved down toward the outside of the eye
Effect:  Sadness

Angry Expression
Mouth:  A little open, gritting teeth
Eyebrows:  Pulling down, starting high on the edge and coming down toward the nose (for really angry, pull down brows a lot, even over the tops of the eyes, and put a crease in the center)
Effect:  “I wouldn’t want to be the person who made Sarah this angry!”

Staley also demonstrates combining those expressions to create more complex expressions.

Confused Expression
Mouth:  Like pursing her lips, pulling one corner of the mouth up and pushing one down
Eyebrows:  Angry brow on one side and sad brow on the other side
Effect:  “She definitely doesn’t understand what’s going on here.”

Staley recommends figuring out expressions while drawing by making expressions in a mirror.  When you see what your face does, you can draw from that.  Another option is to feel your own face to see how each element changes.

Watch the video below to see Staley in action.

Using basic character expressions as a starting point, you can change create characters who express almost anything.