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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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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  Hobbyist General 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 Digital Artist

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
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 
Anymouse-68 Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Very nice. Actually clearer than McCloud's.
darkspeeds Featured By Owner May 11, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I actually combined elements from both books - thanks for the feedback! We got Tom and Scott to thank really. :D
daraja1 Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2014
thank you for sharing. 
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
TheDyingButterfly Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much!
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Your welcome!
Pingisky Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2014
Nothing I can type can ever express my gratitude. I'm going to forever refer to this sheet when I'm drawing. How about we go out for some nice hot cup of cocoa?
UntoldPromises Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Love this. Thank you so much.
You did a great and extensive example of faces :D
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
No probs! Glad you are making use of it! 8-)
shastasnow Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Haha this is awesome. You should do smug or something. Greed. 
CazzieWazzie Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2013
The 'What the F' face killed me, it was hilarious. Thanks so much for these, they inspire me! Now my characters won't all have the same facial expression. :P
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Oct 31, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
My pleasure! Glad you find them useful!
JSArtMaster Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
This will really come in handy, thanks!
AriellaMay Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2013  Professional Filmographer
I've had Tom's books for a while now, and I couldn't agree with you more, they truly are a goldmine of tips!! Glad to see you're enjoying them as well, keep up the great work!
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Sep 10, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks! May you do the same too!
SparrowWrightheart Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! :D
rchlisawesome Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
darkspeeds Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
My pleasure.

Lynus-the-Porcupine Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2013
Very nice! =) Do you have any objection if I use them in order to make some new plz accounts? These expressions seem flawless to me
Racingunicorn653 Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2013
lol some of them expressions are so funny
stevep12 Featured By Owner May 10, 2013
very nice work !!!
Bandincorperated Featured By Owner May 1, 2013
Good selection you got here. These will come in handy
Lafrenz Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2013
I'm sure I'll use your chart a lot in the future. ;)
kashirarosea Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
raquel-cobi Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much for doing this! It helped me a lot^^
Lorna-RoseFoX Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you heaps this helps heaps ^^
JAKERED2 Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
bitstrips? or Mysims Agents?
InkyDeLight Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2013
Awesome. I had an artist friend with a similar sheet on his studio wall. It perhaps a hundred of these. He would not say where he got it or how to get one. You have done a real service.
notonly-panda Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
hello! this is really help me to get the expression for my character design, thanks a lot :D
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