How to show expression with the mouth!


This was a request and at first I wasn’t sure if I had anything to provide with, but as it turn out it got a little longer than I expected because there were actually things I had to say!! Wow!! 

Anyway, this is some guidelines I follow when I try to make the face expressfull, more specifically the mouth! It is often neglected, since it’s actually pretty hard, I’ll admit. But I’m here to help (hopefully…)! A mouth expression tutorial as per request. Enjoy and hopefully it will help some a little. ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ

Draw the teeth at the right angle. 

This is super important. The upper jaw follows the angle of the head, and the lower jaw will depend on how open it is. Make sure you have a rough estimate of where the teeth are, and how much of them you’re going to see!

The lips will VERY roughly follow the same angle as the teeth. It really depends on the character, but it gives you a sense at least. 

If you DON’T do this, you’re going to lose so much volume and the mouth is going to end up looking unrelatable. I showed this example in this tutorial:

It’s not just the lips! 

The cheeks, chin, and tongue play a role too! 

Try look at your own mouth or references! I have a very pliable and large mouth, so that’s one reason why my characters have it too lmao.

ASYMMETRYYYYY (ง ͠° ͟ل͜ ͡°)ง

I cannot emphasize how important asymmetry is when drawing expressions. It applies not only to the eyebrows to achieve the Dreamwork Face™, but also the mouth. Seriously if you draw a symmetric mouth I will deliver myself to your mailbox and then shout at you until you fix it. 

Look at the difference between these two for example: which one has more “life”? 

I think you get the idea.

Push and squish – give it flow

Here’s an old drawing I have but it illustrates how I think when I squish the mouth, and use folding and wrinkles to my advantage.

Look at your own face and see where skin bundles up, where it creases the most and when bumps appear on your chin. Subtle details makes all the difference! 

One VERY effective detail is illustrated in the first sketch, where I pull upwards on one side, and downwards on the other. That’s a good detail to use when the character is making a skewed expression, or is extremely frustrated. I encourage you to play around with that concept bc it’s ~super effective~!


Happy: Your entire mouth is pushed upwards, not just the corners of your mouth!

I tend to draw a :3 mouth bc I’ve been drawing Lance too much….. You don’t have to but it’s basically imprinted in my motor memory by now. 

Pouting/frowning: corners are pushed down, middle pushed slightly up. Sometimes, there’s a slight dip in the middle too. It can give a sense that the character is biting their lips.

Showing frustration/intimidating/is intimidated: basically showing a lot of teeth. The corners are as open as possible and the middle sorta more squished. An extremely important detail here is showing some of the gums, and open space between the cheeks and teeth. That way it looks like the mouth it open to it’s full potential. Here is also where you basically MUST add folds and bumps, or else it’s not going to look relatable. 

(Here I am again with the pulling upwards on one side and downwards on the other, as illustrated on the last sketch)

And then again, here’s just another doodle showing how important it is to show the gums. It’s the same face twice, but the second one looks slightly more frustrated doesn’t it?

(from my other tutorial on how to draw facial expressions)

As you can see, this last one is very versatile and I draw it a lot. Play around with the basic shape and see how much subtle details makes a lot of difference! 

That’s it! 

I hope that cleared some things up and was somewhat helpful! Enjoy drawing ✨

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *