How to Draw Facial Expression - Sad


A character who is happy all the time can seem 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 corners and her upper eyelids are 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 too!



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STEP 2: Brows and Mouth - Basic

To make a basic sad face, change the eyebrows and the mouth. In the illustrations above, you can see 4 different expressions. Although they are very similar, the minor changes make different faces.

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

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

Mouth: There are four different types 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 line beneath the original image. These small lines make a difference!

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

NOTE: The “M-shaped” mouth indicates that the character is pressing their lips together while the upward arced mouth shows a degree of relaxation.

STEP 3: Tears - Open Eyes

Adding tears to the eyes and face can make the expression more clear and stronger. 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 right 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, indicating that they are trying to create a distance between themselves and the person they are facing. However, it can also mean that they are uncomfortable with their own feelings and don’t want the other person to notice (even though the other person can probably tell)!

Lowering Eyebrows

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

STEP 4: Tears - Closed Eyes

While we're talking about different levels of sadness, having the eyes closed can also create very strong emotions (while keeping those tears, of course!).

Closed Mouth

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

Open Mouth

To make the sadness even stronger than the one before, I have added more tears and opened the character's mouth really wide. Here, the character is crying out loud. Note that there are additional teardrops falling down her face. You can see what small characters can do to exaggerate their feelings.

STEP 5: Tears & Blush

The illustration above shows all the previous expressions, but now I have added blush to their faces and lined them up so you can see the expressions progressing.

When people are crying, their blood pressure increases and their face become red- the harder they cry, the redder the face! Sometimes this is not noted when drawing manga. So, here is an additional optional 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 emphasizes their expression, adding to the child-likeness of their design.


When drawing sad faces, it is important to keep the eyebrows pointing upward towards the center of the face, and to keep in mind that 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 even more expressive with their sadness! Have fun experimenting!


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