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Facial Expressions Buddy Sheet for comics/cartoons by darkspeeds Facial Expressions Buddy Sheet for comics/cartoons by darkspeeds
If you need a helping hand figuring out how to draw some facial expressions on your next character sheet then download the full size image (just to your right, there's a download dropbox), save it as a PDF and print it in either A4/A3 paper size (A4 for portability - those who are mobile in between classes and need to whip up a reference sheet from your folder and A3 for the studio kind - where you can have it right next to your drawing table while critically designing your character).

Now you're wondering why I've made this, well I had recently purchased copies of Tom Brancroft's books:

  1. Character Mentor: Learn by Example to Use Expressions, Poses, and Staging to Bring Your Characters to Life [Paperback, 2012]

  2. Creating Characters with Personality: For Film, TV, Animation, Video Games, and Graphic Novels [Paperback, 2006]

And after studying those for a bit it got me thinking more about character design and the elements that bring life to a character.

I got inspired by Tom Brancroft - his cartooning experience at Walt Disney, his enthusiasm and passion for designing great charactes, and his mentor-ship that was carried throughout his two books.

If you are in the middle of designing your unique character or have plans to do so - please, stop what you're doing and go GET THESE BOOKS.

They're a goldmine of techniques that will help sharpen your wits on approaching character designing and help strengthen the presentation of your characters when they're completely designed. Also his books are just plain fun to read, he's a real inspiration that guy and I thank him for the hours of joy I've spent either reading this on the bus while I'm on my way to graphic design school in the city or at the home studios where I just want to chill and learn some new cool stuff.

Anyways there are few things I'd like to point out before I work on my next assignment for GD school:

  • The thing I've learnt most from one of Tom's chapters in the 'Character Mentor' book is the relationship between the EYE & EYEBROWS. I didn't realise how important it was to understand it's relationship and how (when the two are combined really well) it can solve half the equation of drawing CLEAR and ACCURATE facial expressions of your character.

  • So that's half the equation - what's the other half you say? Well the other important thing I've learnt is the other half of the equation and that's the NECK. The meaning and intensity of a character's facial expression can completely change just by adjusting the angle and tilt of the head via the neck. Try this yourself and you'll be amazed at the difference of drawing an expression from a static-stationery stance (ie the above expression sheet - where the face is literally looking at your from the center) to a more dynamic-active stance (different angles, different positions, movement).

  • The list is a combination of Tom's suggested expressions from his book and Scott McCloud's own collection (a massive and well studies collection btw! All of it can be found on Chapter 2: Stories for Humans). I've also included three of my own just for kicks - the first three on the third row from the left.

I've got a long way to go before I can master character expressions, I'm at the point where I'm only just scratching the surface! I hope you can learn something from this experience I had reading Tom Brancroft's fantastic books about character design. Have fun drawing, stay creative and don't ever stop learning!

:bulletred: [UPDATE]
Additional resources:
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tomtomasino Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2019  New Deviant
sandjonya Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2018
Merci génial
KaizenKitty Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2018   Writer
:hug: Thank you so much!
Kekoa-Noe Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2017  Student Traditional Artist
This is great!
BringBackTheDodo Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2017
Very helpful! Thank you for sharing. :)
LuluTheBee Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2017  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Awesome! I looked for something like this a long time and now I found a perfect one ;) thank you for this!
DRamos97 Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2017  Student General Artist
Very helpful. Even in 3D stuff.
StanxKyleFan Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
This is so incredible, thank you!!! <3
ABMike Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2017
Extremely helpful .. thanks for posting :)
LordD2 Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2017
Wow, nice sheet, I think it would be very useful for learning how to draw expressions.
zancecreator101 Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks so much for this! I printed it out and will be using it for all my future comic strips =3
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2017  Hobbyist General Artist
Good on ya Andrew! All the best with your comic strips!
pinchback Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2017   General Artist
Very useful, thanks!
Alinwa-Abiska Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is so great! THANK YOU
B-BK Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
Powered by Scott McCloud
JudasCain Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Awesome, I may use this in the future! :)
Revan005 Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2016
ToddNTheShiningSword Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is great.
But darn. I was hoping "neutral" would be on here too as a control/baseline.
KosmoKOYOTE Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you! :) (Smile)
This will help me immensely!
gladstein Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2016
Thanks so much for this resource. They really helped me get a cartoon project…

done on time.
Erica-theansweris42 Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Really helpful, thank you!
Jvinnit71 Featured By Owner Apr 28, 2016  Professional Digital Artist
Very useful, Thanks!
ya7yabakeer Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2016
nice work
Wink/Razz Dance! 
cowsareawesome16 Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2016
Thank you it helps me practice :D
Nathaliathepony Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
thank you so much buddy this will help out allot with my story , you draw very well ^-^
teapotcutie Featured By Owner Edited Feb 3, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you! I needed some facial expression ref!
Fabique Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2015
Thank you so much for sharing your references.  The expression sheet, helpful, helpful. Have-a-nice-Day!
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Your most welcome! You have a nice day too! ;)
jweinrub Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2015  Hobbyist Filmographer
I do 3D animations and there are times I need a expression sheet.   Glad you posted this.
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Glad that it'll help ya!
coreycartoons Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
I've been doing strips for a few years and occasionally still get stuck on the "simple" thing. This reference sheet is great. Thanks for sharing it. 
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
My pleasure! Glad this will help ya out! ;)
GoreSmitten Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2015  Student Digital Artist
I appreciate the work, this was very helpful.

Thank you.
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Your most welcome! Glad that it helped ya out!
forgottenwhispers13 Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2015
This was really helpful, thanks! :D
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
My pleasure!
adoreadoor Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2015
ShinozakiHyuna Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2015
You should add "creepy" or "insane" , "drunk" , "high"

For more variety
PercyPo Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2015  Student Filmographer

When it comes to expressions, I would certainly go by what John Kricfalusi says: "Sometimes, there are expressions that you can't even give a label."  Not the exact quote but it's close. :XD:

I for sure would say that watching people like a creepy staring bug-eyed nutcase is a great way to learn. Another thing to consider is that no two characters should have identical expressions. They should each have their own take on a particular emotion/expression, such as happiness. Happiness can be drawn in a billion different ways, and it's that little extra emotion you put into the art that shines through! :D

Tracy Butler is my favorite artist to point this out! Her Lackadaisy work is just sick it's so good. Not many people have that kind of perception. More than anything what makes an expression cool is the artist's individual take on it.

You make great points man. Keep up the great work!
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
And thank you for your pointers too! :)

Tracey Butler's work is exceptional, she's pretty much a class of her own! 

Now I'm starting to see the inspiration behind your drawings and how they portray so much in their expression - via  John Kricfalusi's quote.

I look forward to seeing more stuff from ya - funny, whacky or serious - they are all entertaining. ;)
MeIsGeanie Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
thank you for this!
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Your most welcome!

Credit goes to Tom and Scott McCloud for the inspiration for this guide!
Dynamoe Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2014
A treasure trove of information ;-)
Fumetsu-Enkon Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2014  Student General Artist
Great thanx you
etmattson Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2014   Artist
Great reference. Thanks.
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
My pleasure!
Revenge-teen Featured By Owner May 31, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
very good 
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