How to Draw Facial Expression - Sad


A character that is happy all the time can see a little creepy, don’t you think? Even though, your character might be an expressionless cold hearted character - perhaps there is a time when they aren’t so emotionally stiff! So why not give then some other emotions as well? Here, we will look at another basic facial expression - sadness. 

STEP 1: Have a Character Designed

As always, we will need a character. Here is a random expressionless character. Although the character is not showing any expression on her face, as indicated by the rather flat eyebrows and mouth, you can see that her eyes are drawn with sharp outer corner and the upper eyelid is flat - this is an indication of her rather cold and distant personality. But we are going to change that and make her show her softer side!



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STEP 2: Brows and Mouth - Basic

To make basic sad face, change the eyebrows and the mouth. In the illustration above, you can see 4 different expression, although they are very similar, the minor changes makes for different faces.

Below the illustration are circles indicating the face of the character, and some arrows indicating the eyebrows and mouth.

Eyebrows: All the eyebrows here, point upward at the inner corners and arc downward in a little in the center - for more expressive eyebrows, you can make the arc steeper!

Mouth: There are four different type of mouths shown here - the first is the standard upward curve while the second is “M-shape”.To create the third and fourth mouth, I only added one small lines beneath the original image. These small lines make a difference!

The first two shows that the character is starting to realize their emotion and is beginning to slowly showing them. While the third and fourth ones shows that they character has been feeling sad for quite a while and is about to say something to express it.

NOTE: The “M-shape” mouth indicates that the character is pressing their lips together while the upward arced mouth shows somewhat more relaxed mouth.

STEP 3: Tears - Open eyes

Adding tears to the eyes and face can make the expression clearer and more strong. You might have also noticed that the eyes of the character on the left have been narrowed while the eyebrows of the one on the left have been lowered.

Narrow Eyes

Narrowing the eyes makes the character’s expression softer and more delicate. When the character is looking away, they are also showing that they are feeling uneasy, so they are trying to create a distant between them and the person that they are facing. However, it can also mean that they are uncomfortable with their own feeling and doesn’t not want the other person to notice (even though that other person can probably tell)!

Lowering Eyebrows

Keeping the eyes the same size and lowering the eyebrows (and adding some creases between the brows) makes the expression more aggressive and exaggerated. Here, I have also drawn her with more tears accumulating at the bottom of her eyes and thin stream of tears down her cheeks.You can see some clear differences between this expression and the previous expression. Play around with the eye and eyebrows to create different different level of sadness!

STEP 4: Tears - Close eyes

Talking about different level of sadness, having the eyes closed can also create very strong emotion (while keeping those tears, of course!).

Close Mouth

In this illustration, you can see that the character has her eyes closed and the “M-shape” mouth - this type of expression shows that she is at her limit of holding back her sadness - which leads us to the illustration.

Open Mouth

To make the sadness even stronger than the one on the right, I have added more tears and have the character open her mouth really wide; here, the character is crying out loud. Note that there are additional teardrops fall down her face. You can see what small character can do to exaggerate her feelings.

STEP 5: Tears & Blush

The illustration above hows all the previous expression, but now I have added blush to all of them and lined them up so that they it looks like the expression is progressing.

When people are crying, their blood pressure increases and their faces become red - the harder they cry, the redder the face! Sometimes this is not noted when drawing manga. So, here is an additional step! Personally, I like to add more blush on younger looking characters, because although they are crying and sad, it makes them look cuter and also emphasis their expression which adds to the child-likeness of their design.


When drawing sad faces, it is important to keep the eyebrow pointing upward towards the center and the shape of the mouth will help you determine how sad the character is. Oh, and don’t forget those tears and blush if you want the character to be strongly expressing their sadness! Have fun experimenting!


★ Click HERE to download BLANK FACE TEMPLATE

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