How to Draw Facial Expression - Happy


Who doesn’t like a happy character? Even grumpy or evil characters have something that makes them happy, although you probably won't be able to tell just by looking at them. But that’s a different story! Here, we will look at how to draw happy and smiling characters, and I will show you how tiny changes can make a huge difference. We'll focus mainly on how simply changing the eyebrows and mouth can create an entirely different mood.

STEP 1: Have a Character Designed

First, we have an expressionless character. The eyebrows and mouth are relatively flat - we cannot see what he is feeling or what his personality is like. He’s just there… staring blankly into space… maybe into your soul! Facial expression plays an important roll in manga, because what the character is thinking, feeling, and expressing should be clearly shown on their face, and we can do this by simply changing the brows and mouth. 



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STEP 2: Brows and Mouth - Basic

Here is a simple happy character - they aren't overly excited about anything. The expression on his face is rather content. When drawing this face, raise the eyebrows upward and make sure that there is a visible upward arc. The mouth should be an inverted shape of the eyebrows-- a gentle downward arc.

The higher the eyebrows, the younger the face will look, while lowering the eyebrows will make the character look more mature. However, if you raise the eyebrows, be careful not to make them too high or off the forehead or they can look disproportional. 

This type of smile is well-suited for characters who are demure, quiet, calm, etc.

STEP 3: Mouth - Open or Close

It's important to consider the personalities of the character and how they would likely respond to the given situation when choosing what type of mouth to draw. Below are some examples of just a few different types of mouths.

Open Mouth

The mouth is slightly wider and open. The upper row of teeth, as well as the bottom row of teeth and tongue are visible. Th artist can choose which details of the inside of the mouth to draw given their preference. 

(*Note that the bottom row of teeth looks like a C. The top row of teeth is C-shaped when looking at them from a lower angle).

This type of smile is well-suited for characters who are innocent, playful, child-like, easily excited, etc.


Showing Teeth

This time, the mouth is open, but the teeth are clamped together. Here, the mouth of the character is even wider than the ones in the previous drawings. The size of the smile determines how big the personality is- the wider the mouth, the more clear their personality can be shown.

This type of smile is well-suited for characters who are cheeky, playful, child-like, energetic, etc.

Tilted Mouth

This is an odd one, isn’t it? This is an “off-sided” smile. Although the character is technically smiling, the happiness on his face is kind of wishy-washy! While some people might say that he has a satisfied smug on his face, others might say he is just being goofy. Either way, those are all positive emotions related to happiness, right? 

This type of smile is well-suited for characters who are fun, awkward, and/or generally goofy and funny, etc.

"W-Shaped" Mouth

Here is another example of a happy character with a closed mouth. This type of mouth is a little different from what we saw in the beginning- there are more curves here. The overall shape is a "W," mimicking the shape of an animal's mouth.

This type of smile is well-suited for characters who are innocent, playful, and/or have animal like behaviors or features, etc.

STEP 4: Brows Matter

The eyebrows on 2 and 4 are focused in the center and closer to the eyes with the outer tip of the brows point up. This changes the character from innocent, playful, cheeky, and child-like to wild, mischievous, spoilt, and even arrogant. There are so many different types of eyebrows that you can draw, so give it a try! Then try drawing at different angle to show different types of happiness. Such small changes will make a huge difference!

Below are some examples of other emotions mixed with happiness that I have drawn by changing the eyebrows and using the 4 main types of mouths discussed above.


It is nice to see our characters happy-or at least smiling. Raised, upwardly arced brows express happiness best.

However, you should change the mouth and eyebrows to match the character's personality or create mixed emotions.

Have a go at drawing all types of happy faces to create an expressive character with personality! Have fun! 


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