How to draw a face

10. Exaggerate emotions

Two sketches of a man shouting

Make your characters over-act

Once you’ve got the basics it’s time to have some fun with your figures! As a general rule, try to make the character over-act, to really convey the emotion in your drawing. I usually start with a super-quick gesture drawing to capture the emotion I’m after. Look in the mirror and exaggerate your facial features. Try to put feeling into the drawing.

11. Use photo references

Sketch of a woman with her head twisted to one side

Try out different expressions in a mirror

When drawing characters, try to get into their mindset: how they’re feeling and where they’re coming from emotionally. Then act out the expression, using a mirror or photo reference to capture the emotion. Always try to get that perfect snapshot moment, and make it look as dynamic as possible.

12. Add creases

Drawing of a woman yelling

Remember to consider the character's age when adding facial lines

Adding facial lines to characters can emphasise an expression, but it’s important to bear in mind the age of the person. The more character lines and emotion lines you depict on a face, the older a character will look. Men usually have harsher lines and females have fewer. Younger characters will have also have fewer lines around the eyes, forehead and mouth. This is a good excuse to put together a reference library of faces young and old.

13. Make subtle tweaks

A drawing of two worried looking figures

A creased eyebrow can instantly make a character look anxious

Sometimes, though, subtlety is required. A slightly raised eyebrow or smirk can be very effective. Adding just a touch of emotion or quirkiness to the character can make them feel natural and life-like.

14. Try new facial expressions

Drawing of a woman with her cheeks puffed up

Push the boundaries with your characters' expressions

Grab every opportunity to experiment with the expressions. Try to push what you’re used to drawing, and look at yourself in the mirror to see how the face can move. Try and be whacky with the different facial expressions, but be careful not to hold your breath for too long!

15. Explore feature close-ups

Drawing of a close up of a mouth

You don't need to show the whole face to convey emotion

Both the eyes and mouth are expressive. A powerful technique when drawing a comic page is to use a close-up of one of them. Consider illustrating an open mouth, snarling teeth or stern lips. Using just one area of the face will really push you to convey the emotion and sell the drawing.

16. Remember body language

Two drawings of an angry looking man

It can help to draw outside the panel

While drawing heads you also have to think of the figure’s body language, which will show in the close-up. A tilt of the head or shrug of the shoulders can emphasise an emotion. I draw beyond the panel to check that the body language is working and is anatomically correct. Remember to have fun and try out new things!

This article was originally published in ImagineFX, the world's best-selling magazine for digital artists. Buy issue 160 or subscribe.

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