Tutorial Children's Illustration: 5 basic expressions for character design

Learn with Teresa Martínez the basic tips to create gestures and expressions in your children's story characters

The correct construction of characters, whether they are more or less realistic, is one of the skills that every professional illustrator must master. The posture of their bodies, their costumes... and especially their facial expressiveness, which allows to convey a lot of emotion with just a few correctly placed lines.

In the following tutorial, Teresa Martínez (@teresa_mtz), illustrator specialized in children's books, teaches you the basic expressions to give your characters a unique character. Discover them below:

Teresa is going to show us the different facial gestures of a character using the emblematic Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. The illustrator recommends practicing all the expressions with the same character, starting by marking with one color those parts of the face that will not move and with another one those that will.


To give happiness to her character, Teresa squints and slightly raises her eyes and raises her eyebrows. She also raises her cheekbones and, above all, twists her mouth into a half smile. With these few elements, it is already possible to make our character, good or bad, smile.

The Witch of the West, with a sinister smile
The Witch of the West, with a sinister smile


To get the sadness, we have to lower the jaw and the mouth of the character. We will also curve the eyebrows downwards, and we will squint the eyes again in a similar way as when we were working the joy.

This is what a sad character looks like
This is what a sad character looks like


An angry character will necessarily have to have a frown, with the eyebrows tilted downwards and towards the center of the face, and the mouth in an inverted U-shape. We can also make the lines of the face more pronounced, bringing them towards the center.

The Witch of the West, really furious
The Witch of the West, really furious


To work a pensive and sidelong look, we have to tilt the eyebrows to the side we want to emphasize and also bring the pupils in that direction. We will also tilt the mouth so that it points to that side.

A thoughtful look at our character
A thoughtful look at our character


Finally, to get a surprised face, we have to put the mouth in the shape of an O, open the eyes wide and raise the eyebrows upwards.

Generating surprise in the character is simple
Generating surprise in the character is simple

If you liked this tutorial, remember that you can learn with Teresa Martinez new digital drawing techniques to create characters that generate emotions. Discover her online course 'Illustration and character design for children's stories'.

You may be interested in

- Digital illustration for children's stories, a course by Teresa Martínez.
- Factory of illustrated characters, a course by Patricio Betteo.
- Introduction to cartoon style character creation, a course by Ed Vill.

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