How To Draw Facial Expressions

drawing procreate Jul 09, 2020

Recently, one of my favorite things to do is draw facial expressions - it's something that can make or break a sketch, so let's MAKE it! It's seriously so fun to watch weird and funky faces come to life in my drawings.  

Hi everyone! My name is Victoria, otherwise known as @vrpspam and I'm pumped to share this tutorial with you! 

Learning expressions is a great way to show off the personality of your character and really visualize how they would react in certain situations! For those exact reasons, I'm bringing to you, my process of drawing expressions for my own characters. Let's get emotional (in the drawing, I mean...)! 







  • iPad - any tablet will work!
  • Procreate 
  • Apple Pencil - any stylus will work!    
  • Reference Pictures

If you’re a traditional artist, feel free to live your best life, and use a pencil + paper


Step 1: Find a Reference



Depending on what facial expression you choose, you can really find a reference anywhere. Whether it be through photography, online sources like Pinterest, Google, etc., or even yourself! I often use my own face for facial expressions on characters, and today is no different! I'll be using my own face for the tutorial today. 

If you're following me with using yourself as your reference, I set up my phone on a table and placed an LED light behind it to brighten up the picture. I took quite a few pictures with different expressions then chose from those which ones I preferred over the others. 



Step 2: Observation and Study



After you’ve selected your reference image, you need to study it. When I say study, I mean look at the expression and how the facial features contract and pull in different directions. 

In my reference picture, these are a few things I noticed:

  • The eyebrows are shifting downwards
  • Wrinkles in the skin from the eyebrows and mouth movements
  • The mouth is pulled up slightly to one side
  • The eyelids are mostly hidden because of the eyebrows, note that my eyelids are hooded.



Step 3: Proportions and Placement



After you’ve studied your reference, you’re ready to start sketching! Woo, we made it this far! Keep the picture in sight at all times so you can keep looking back at it for reference. This is where we draw our rough sketch of the face, focusing on the proportions!

Some things to notice on our sketch:

  • Eyes are 1 eye width apart
  • The outer corners of the mouth line up with the center of the pupil and diagonally line up with the end of our eyebrow
  • Outer nostrils line up with the inner eyebrows



Step 4: Building Detail



After we finalize the proportions with the sketch, we can start building up detail! Always reference your image and use your observations from step 2.  Feel free to include hair or clothing, you can always use your reference as a guide and change things up!

Below are a few things I added to mine:

  • Added hair
  • Added wrinkles
  • Changed the direction of the pupils from the reference to make her look up!
  • Added eyelashes and eyeliner
  • Added eyelids


Step 5: Tweaking and Exaggerations



If you like where your sketch is going, it's normal for people to stop at this point. BUT! I'm going to tweak my sketch slightly so she looks more angry than annoyed. I also always like to exaggerate the facial features of my sketch for a little more oomph! Feel free to go above and beyond, even add some anime elements if that’s your style! You can do so much here to give it some personality!

Here are some things I tweaked in my sketch:

  • Tilted the eyebrows slightly
  • Squinted the eyes even
  • Thickened the eye line
  •  Made the hair messy-ish (making the hair messy helps demonstrate a character’s agitation, tiredness, etc.)
  • Deepened the frown



Step 6: Add Final Details



After we're happy with our character's expression, we can move onto the final details.  Adding lining and colors is how we're really going to bring our character to life. Feel free to leave it as a sketch if you’d like! For a deeper look into how I did my coloring, watch my process of me coloring this check out my YouTube channel!

I hope you guys found this tutorial useful! If you happen to post your work using this tutorial please tag me on Instagram! I'd love to see what you guys create! 




My name is Victoria Pritchard from Melbourne, Australia and I'm an Animation student! I'm also an illustrator and animator for my channel @vrpspam. I’m a digital artist who started her journey using only a laptop... that’s right I used to draw with a trackpad! I wasn't given my first graphic tablet until 2 years into making digital art and my work has continued to evolve ever since. Along with my YT channel and Instagram, I work as an animator for the Red Cross Victoria Social Media Team. My animation work has led me to various internships with the Melbourne Museum, as well as one of my short animation films receiving the honor of being in the Top Designs Exhibitions in 2018. I recently partnered with Channel Frederator Network on my Youtube channel and I've loved working with a ton of different people! Find out more about me and my art at vrpspam.pb.design