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Facial Expressions Buddy Sheet for comics/cartoons


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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]
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Euel's avatar

Nice! This gives me some ideas...