3 faces with different expressions

Ready to give your illustrations a
mega-dose of emotion and turn those
blank-faced characters into expressive icons?


Today, we’re gonna unlock the secrets of slaying the emotion game in your illustrations. Because, let’s face it, if your characters look as expressive as a brick wall, we need to chat!

…And I’m not gonna lie, mine totally did when I was first starting out.

Seriously, not everyone nails it on the first try – it took heaps of practice to go from “meh” to “wow.”

So if your current characters are feeling a bit flat, don’t sweat it. We’ve all been there, and I’m here to help guide you through this artsy journey of emotional mastery.

Why Emotion in Illustration is Your New BFF

So, you’re nailing those designs, making everything from logos to layouts look fab, but when it comes to drawing faces, you’re like, “Help!”

Here’s the thing: mastering those emotional expressions is the secret ingredient that’ll transform your illustrations from forgettable to unforgettable, quicker than you can spell ‘Little Black Kat Creative!’

The Anatomy of Emotion: Eyebrows, Baby!

First up, let’s talk eyebrows.

These furry facial features are like the conductors of the emotion train. Arched eyebrows can scream ‘surprised,’ while a furrowed brow might just whisper ‘trouble’s brewing.’

But there’s more to these expressive arcs than just high and low.

  • Thickness and Shape:

    The thickness and shape of an eyebrow can drastically affect the perception of a character’s personality. Thicker, bushier eyebrows can give off a strong, dominant vibe, while thin, finely-shaped brows might suggest precision or meticulousness.

  • Spacing:

    Consider the space between the eyebrows too. Close-set brows can create an intensity, adding to a look of concentration or even anger, whereas brows set wider apart tend to soften the expression and can make a character appear more open or innocent.

  • Movement and Angle:

    Eyebrows are incredibly mobile, and a slight tilt can inject a ton of emotion into your drawings. A quick lift of one brow can show scepticism or curiosity, while both brows pulling inward can denote concern or deep thought.

By playing with these elements, you can add nuanced layers to your character’s emotions, making your illustrations not just seen but felt.


Frown & Smile Lines: The Silent Storytellers

Next, let’s talk laugh lines and worry wrinkles!  These bad boys tell the tale of your character’s mood without uttering a single word.

A deep frown line? Oof, someone’s not having a great day. But those smile lines? They’re partying like it’s 1999!

  • Line Intensity:

    A little etch here, a deep groove there, and bam! You’re reading emotions like an open book. The deeper the line, the heavier the history.

  • Facial Harmony:

    These lines are part of a team, working with eyebrows, eyes, and mouth to create a full-on emotional ensemble.

  • Ageing with Attitude:

    Think about your character’s backstory. Older characters have more pronounced lines, each one a trophy of life’s ups and downs.

Add these expressive lines to your illustrations, and watch your characters go from flat to fabulously dimensional!

Illustration of a lady standing in front of orange tree leaves. An illustration by Kat Potter from Little Black Kat Creative

Tips to Get Those Emotions Pitch Perfect

  • Mirror, Mirror: Yes my friend, your face is the canvas of inspiration. Get in front of a mirror and act out those emotions. Feel silly? Good! That means you’re doing it right.
  • Mood Board Magic: Create a mood board filled with faces that inspire you. Pinterest is your playground here, so dive in and explore!
  • Feedback is Your Friend: Share your work with fellow designers. Sometimes you need another pair of eyes to catch the subtle cues that scream “anger” instead of “mild annoyance.”

Why This All Matters

Injecting genuine emotions into your illustrations doesn’t just add depth to your work; it connects with your audience on a human level.

And let’s be honest, in a world where everyone’s a graphic designer until the real work starts, you wanna stand out like a unicorn in a herd of horses, right?

So, my fabulous freelancing femmes, it’s time to grab your pencils, tablets, or whatever tools you fancy, and start bringing those illustrations to life with the kind of emotions that make people stop, stare, and say, “Damn, that’s some good art!”

Keep pushing the boundaries, keep experimenting, and most importantly, keep having fun with it. Because at the end of the day, if you’re not enjoying the journey, what’s the point?

Dive into The Magic of Practice (and More Practice) with my creative community! Join us in “The Illustration Playground for Graphic Designers” on Facebook, where I run monthly drawing challenges to sharpen your skills. 

This month?

We’re tackling 5-minute faces – a fast and fun way to boost your expression-drawing game.

Practice is key to mastering illustration, and what better way to do it than alongside fellow design enthusiasts?

Click here to join the group and stay in the loop with all the drawing challenges I’ve got lined up each month. there’s a BIG one planned for October with an even BIGGER prize that you don’t want to miss!

Ready to take your graphic design business to the next level with illustration?

THIS MAY, I’m rolling out a brand new e-course for graphic designers like YOU, who are eager to expand their services and boost their income through the power of illustration.

With over 20 years of experience in design and a deep-seated passion for illustration, I’ve tailored this course to share the insights and techniques that have enriched my own career.

Together, we’ll explore how to make your designs not just seen but remembered and sought after. Let’s turn your interest in design and illustration into your greatest strength.









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