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January 30, 2012 / rosedcartoons

Lesson 3: Facial Expressions

Here we are with Lesson 3: Facial Expressions! Facial expressions tell a story, or add on to an environment to make it more plausible, that the character is involved with it. For an example, a drawn character with a shocked face as if they were just fired from their job. Their eyes would be wide and mouth would be open, or jaw-dropped. Another example would be a character with a smirk look on their face because they had tricked someone into falling for their evil scheme. There are many kinds of expressions out there, even ones that humans can not do. That’s the magic of cartoons!

In this lesson, I will base most part of it from Lesson 2: Drawing a Head. I will go into more detail about changing up your characters facial expression with each area. The nose, eyes, and mouth.


As we all know, noses come in various shapes and sizes. From chubby bottom noses, to skinny boney looking ones. Noses are relatively easy to draw, and some look better when you add the sides of the nose for the nostrils. Also, depending on the type of nose, it might take a few lines. For the sake of not just making a simple curved line.

First off, think of the type of nose you want to draw. If it’s not one that I draw out in steps, try implementing my procedures.

Step 1: Bone Structure of the Nose

Before drawing the nose, like I mentioned before, consider the type of nose you want, and the size. After that, think about the bone structure. A nose isn’t a straight line, it extends away from the face. Here are some example of the beginning to a nose.

Step 1: Bone Structure

It may not make much sense yet, but to some it may, but you have started the bone structure of the nose. Now let us add the kind of curve we want to determine the kind of nose it is..

Step 2: Noses have Curves

Step 2 - Noses have Curves

Was that not easy? You created a nose, whether it is a chubby one, or a sharp pointy one, it’s still a nose!


Eyes are the windows to a cartoons soul. If they had one, haha. Actually, eyes will display the characters emotions, and sometimes lead viewers to another portion of the cartoon, if an environment is involved. Basically, the drawing of an eye is either a line, or numerous circles. Don’t worry about eye lids or eye lashes for now.

Step 1: The Outer Eye

One of the most important parts about drawing an eye is the “Outer Eye” or, simply the Eye Socket. It can be drawn in so many ways, but I will stick to a few different types, just like I did in with the noses, in the previous step. First, draw an oval like shape on its side, or two lines meeting at one point, giving a 45 degree angle like shape, try different approaches.

Step 1 - The Outer Eye

Step 2 – The Inner Eye

Now the final step to creating your eye, is the eye ball itself. The eye should reflect the cartoons emotion. Small pupils might give a shocked look, while wider larger eyes with an added wave of tears will display sadness. All you have to do is draw circles, and think about how the eye should look….and DONE!

Eyes 2 - The Inner Eye

If you were able to accomplish drawing any of those types of eyes, give yourself a pat on the back! Or…a high-five! Some people find this to be a bit of a nerve-racking step. You DO NOT want to make the eye or expression NOT fit in with your overall comic impression. (If you choose to create a scene, or a reason to why your character has the drawn expression, that is.) Now let us add on a few more details, such as skin lines or eye brows, or even eye lashes. It just adds a bit more realism.

Step 3 – Additonal Features

This is an easy step. But before proceeding on, read the following, please..

“Draw slowly and lightly! There will be erasing, possibly!

It’s true! A lot of people can make mistakes because they are in a rush. (What’s your hurry?) But the key is to draw/sketch your lines slowly. It’s all about your line work. Focus on shades of color later. Eye brows, skin lines, and eye lashes are all simply lines. If you use your pencil lightly, and you make a mistake, you can easily erase it! πŸ™‚ Nothing is worse than the feeling that you ruined your drawing because there are so many big, messy eraser marks.

Now you’ll notice the additional features I added, I hope! (I labeled them under the eye example, for your pleasure.)

Eyes 3 - Additional Features

See how those additional features add a sense of realism? It is simple too! As long as you remember to take your time and create the effect that really shows the portrayed emotion!


This is the last section of Lesson 3: Facial Expressions, and it is just important as the “Eyes”, and in fact a little easier too! I will show you two different, effective ways in drawings mouths that will let you utilize it to create most facial expressions! I will divide this section of the lesson into two separate components. One, drawing mouths with a simple curved line, and two, using a upside down “bean-like” shape.

Component 1: Curved Line Mouth

This component will be easier out of the two, and it starts off with drawing a curved line, like in the image shown below. (Do not worry about the mouth titles yet, they will be explained soon.)

Mouths 1.1 - Curved Line Mouth

I would hope your curved lines look like these. Unless you already knew this, and wanted to try something a little different. Which is always a great way to tell that you have a sense of creativity! πŸ™‚

Now here comes the fun part, thinking of the kind of expression you want. If you are following my examples in the image above, this will be a breeze, and could turn out a little different from mine! I will mention what should be drawn in addition to each mouth, to make it complete!

Regular Smile – If you want to be simple, add another curved line on each end of the larger curved line, but make them smaller, and have the arch of the small curved lines facing outwards.

Over-joyed This one is kind of like the “Regular Smile”, but the small curved lines should be bigger and the arch of them, facing inwards. Adding a sort of lip, or skin line, cheek blemish will help accomplish this expression.

Buck-tooth – An easy, nerdy like expression to create. Add two large teeth (square-like shapes), and then smaller teeth to the sides. But you don’t need to create a bottom row of teeth.

Mouths 1.2 - Curved Line Mouth

And…..done! See how easy it is to go from a simple curved line, to an actual mouth with expression to it? Of course you could get into open mouthed smiles, which I will add in before moving on to the next method of drawing mouths. Just add and connect a curved line below the already existing curved line. Like these..

Mouths 1.3 - Curved Line Mouth

A simple few lines can make a difference, hey? Have you ever thought about if I was going to show you how to draw a tongue? Well, now I will, it’s easy!

Creating a tongue, using my method uses two lines. Just like the curved lines used to make a mouth, but more narrow, and a wrap around to give the tongue its full look.

I will show you the steps in drawing a tongue in the existing open mouth smiles I drew in the last component.

Mouths 1.4.1 - Curved Mouth Line

There’s one part of the tongue so far. Again, it’s just one curved line, after another, on an angle. The angle should depend on how big the mouth space is. As you can see, I have created two different sized tongues.

Mouths 1.4.2 - Curved Mouth Line

Finished! If your tongue (not your physical one) looks pretty much like the ones I drew. You accomplished the easiest and efficient way to create a tongue!

Component 2: Bean-shaped Mouth

Did you think I would forget about frowns and other kinds of expressions? Wrongo! Those will be covered in this component, because this method will (or atleast should) make it easier to create them!

Drawing a “Bean-shaped” mouth should look like a 2-D bean, when put on its face. So that all you can see is the side. Like this..

Mouths 2.1 - Bean Shaped Mouth

Now do you see what I mean, when I say that they will look like upside down beans? I drew them without titles so that you could use it as a PRINT OUT! (Yes, feel free to print them out and try making your own expressions with them, it’s fun! I will include it in the “Print Outs” section of the blog.)

Next, let’s add some eyes, and other facial features to make the mouths complete!

Mouths 2.1 - Bean Shaped Mouth

There you have it! Multiple different expressions using the same mouth shape, again!

Whew, this was a long lesson to plan and type out. But I made it! My next lesson will be on drawing humanoid shapes, and the method of drawing random shapes and creating characters out of them! I hope you enjoyed this lesson, and that your skills are improving! πŸ™‚ Oh and, if you have a moment, drop by a line or two on my gallery, quick sketches, projects, if you have any questions or comments!

-Rose out!


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