Strong emotions are central to the mystique of Japanese animation.
Anime and manga facial expressions are often bold and exaggerated, widening features such as the eyes or mouth to unrealistic proportions.
This serves to clearly communicate the character's emotions. You can use this facial expressions reference guide to apply 13 different expressions to your favorite character.
This drawing guide focuses only on anime facial expressions. If you'd like draw the same anime girl step-by-step, see this tutorial.
Anime Facial Expressions
In the following facial expressions tutorial, you will see that many features change from drawing to drawing - the mouth expressions, eyebrow expressions, and openness of the eyes, for example.
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But notice too, the aspects that don't change in each facial expressions reference drawing. The placement of the eyes, nose, and mouth, for example, don't alter between the expressive anime faces. Think back to using a guideline grid to place them.
Practice drawing each of the female facial expressions in our list. Can you translate the same expressions to male faces?
Drawing a Tongue Sticking Out Facial Expression
Sticking out one's tongue can be playful or it can be an expression of derision. Look first at the eyebrows - they are slightly lifted on the outer edges, halfway between a neutral and angry expression.
Lines or wrinkles are visible at the top of the nose.
The mouth is a frowning curved line with the tongue drawn beneath it.
The eyes are closed, represented by thick curved lines.
Drawing a Surprised Facial Expression
When you feign a surprised expression, you open your mouth to gasp in air. Your eyes widen and your brows raise.
The same is true of your anime character. Start by drawing round, wide eyes. Use the negative emotion eyebrows, slanting them up where they meet at the nose.
The mouth should also be open and round, an "O" shape.
Drawing a Smirking Facial Expression
Smirks can be smug, conceited, self-satisfied smiles, or they may arise from silly moments. Either way, a smirking character is smiling but not really happy.
To draw a smirking face, start with a wide, thin, "U" shaped mouth.
Use neutral eyebrows, and draw a curved line across the top of the eyes to indicate lowered lids. For round-eyed female characters, this will transform the eye into a masculine rectangular shape.
Drawing a Smiling Facial Expression
This smiling face is different from the happy face below. This smile is a bit sheepish or even embarrassed, like when you see your new crush.
Use a wide, thin, "U" shaped line for the mouth - not quite as wide as the smirking smile above.
Keep the eyes open wide, and use a negative brow shape. Even though the character is smiling, this brow style indicates a possibility of embarrassment or discomfort.
This is further exemplified by the small horizontal ovals placed off-center below the eyes. These indicate a blush on the cheeks.
Here is a step-by-step drawing tutorial to practice drawing an anime smile.
Drawing a Shocked Facial Expression
A shocked character takes the emotion of surprise to a higher level. Use wide eyes and negative brows. The brows should be upturned near the nose and spaced higher above the eyes.
Use an oval for the open mouth. Notice that it is wider than the "O" shaped surprised mouth.
Drawing a Scared Facial Expression
Scared characters have wide eyes and high negative brows like the shocked character above. But several other features set fear apart.
Notice that the pupils of the eyes have contracted, becoming small. This mimics the way real people react to fear with widened eyes and contracted (rather than dilated) pupils.
Note, too, the vertical lines on the forehead, from the hairline to just above the eyes. These "blush lines" are often blue, black, or purple in color. They are a visual indication of the "dark" emotions the character is feeling.
Finally, the mouth is a wide, rounded triangle, with its bottom corners turned down in a frown.
Drawing a Sad Facial Expression
Sad anime characters have wide eyes and frowning down turned mouths.
Notice the variation on the negative eyebrows. These sad eyebrows are upturned at the nose, and some wrinkling of the skin can be seen. But the brows are also curved toward the eyes, exaggerating the upturned appearance.
For another take on drawing sad anime face, see this step-by-step tutorial.
Drawing a Happy Facial Expression
Happy facial expressions have neutral eyebrows, but the joy is seen in other parts of the face.
The eyes are closed, formed by wide, inverted "U" shaped lines. Small blushing ovals appear on the cheeks beneath the eyes.
The mouth consists of a horizontal straight line and a "U" shaped line, indicating a smile with teeth.
Drawing an Embarrassed Facial Expression
Like the fearful expression, the brows of the embarrassed face are curved toward the eyes.
Diagonal blush lines cross the cheeks, and the mouth is formed using a wavy line.
Drawing a Crying Facial Expression
The crying face has slanted negative brows, closed eyes, and a wide-open, rounded pentagon mouth. Lines indicate the tears.
To practice more details, see this anime guy crying step-by-step drawing tutorial.
Drawing a Crazy Facial Expression
A smile and negative brows pair with eyes of different sizes to indicate emotional instability.
Drawing a Blushing Facial Expression
Use neutral eyebrows and an open mouth. The main feature of the blushing face is the diagonal blush lines, often colored red.
Drawing an Angry Facial Expression
The angry face has a frowning mouth and angry eyebrows slanted down toward the nose. Curved lines on the forehead indicate a bulging blood vessel.
See also the How to Draw an Angry Anime Girl step-by-step tutorial.
What to draw next?
You can master ALL of the anime expressions we just discussed!
Many artists in training have found it beneficial to practice drawing different facial expressions on the same character - making a facial expressions chart for that character, as it were.
Start with any of the facial expressions from the reference drawings above. You can use the female character from the illustrations, or create your own.
Why not try to adjust the expression of this crying boy? You might even develop a story about why he felt each emotion.
Once you've created an expressions chart for your character, hang on to it as a reference for drawing future comics.
We have one of the greatest online resources for drawing anime. If you desire to study how to draw anime, you're in the right place. You'll find all easy anime drawing tutorials on this page.