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How to Draw a Laughing Face

Updated on February 28, 2013

A Lauging Face

Source

How to Draw a Laughing Face

Just like with anything else, becoming proficient at drawing takes practice. Capturing human expression can be difficult, especially if you are just starting out. There are no shortcuts, but the thing that will make your drawing as convincing as possible is observation. Drawing what you actually SEE as opposed to what you think you see is so important to capturing anything accurately on paper.

Before you start try to capture complex expressions like laughter, it is a good idea to fully understand how to draw a relaxed face. Understanding the anatomy of the face in terms of bone structure and the way certain muscles move to create expression is also fundamental to understanding how to draw any kind of expression. This does not mean studying the minutia of human anatomy. There are a number of anatomy books specifically designed for artists which just explain what you need to know in order to render faces and expressions accurately.

Look at your best friend, child, parent or partner when they are laughing. Really pay attention to the way their faces move and make a mental note. This will help you when it comes to capturing a laughing face on paper.

What Happens to a Laughing Face? Observations

Obviously everyone is different! But for the most part, when people laugh, very similar things happen to the face.

Laughing Eyebrows

Starting at the top of the face, the eyebrows usually move up the forehead. When someone is really laughing hard, sometimes the eyebrows move down.

Laughing Eyes

At the same time as this happens, the eyes close significantly. Sometimes they close completely. They look a bit like crescent shapes with the arch at the top.

Laughing Cheeks and Mouth

This happens because the corners of the mouth turn up, forcing the cheeks to rise up and stick out, partially or completely closing the eyes.


Laughing Nose


As you laugh, the movement of your mouth causes your nose to widen slightly and move up a bit.

Laughing Man Drawing

Head of laughing man, after Bijlert. Some time between 1607-1677. Notice his narrow eyes, pronounced cheeks and prominent naso labial folds.
Head of laughing man, after Bijlert. Some time between 1607-1677. Notice his narrow eyes, pronounced cheeks and prominent naso labial folds. | Source

Map the Face

Draw an oval for the general shape of the head. About halfway down the head, place a faint line across the middle, to indicate where the eyes will go. Indicate the position of the nose about half way between the position of the eyes and the chin. Halfway between the nose and the chin, mark a small line for the position of the mouth. The tops of the ears usually line up with the tops of the eyebrows and the bottom of the ears usually line up with the bottom of the nose.


These are approximate proportions based on the average face and can be adjusted depending on the individual you are trying to capture. Now you have the position of the features mapped out, you can play around with placing the features on the face and creating the laughing expression.

More Laughing Faces

Note her raised eyebrows, narrowed eyes and slightly raised and widened nose. Her upper lip is stretched over her teeth and her naso-labial folds are prominent.
Note her raised eyebrows, narrowed eyes and slightly raised and widened nose. Her upper lip is stretched over her teeth and her naso-labial folds are prominent. | Source
Old Woman Studying the Alphabet with a Laughing Girl from around the 1550's. Black chalk heightened with white, on paper mounted on canvas. Height: 301 mm (11.85 in). Width: 345 mm (13.58 in). Uffizzi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
Old Woman Studying the Alphabet with a Laughing Girl from around the 1550's. Black chalk heightened with white, on paper mounted on canvas. Height: 301 mm (11.85 in). Width: 345 mm (13.58 in). Uffizzi Gallery, Florence, Italy. | Source
Laughing Peasant Woman. By Albrecht Dürer 1505. Height: 390 mm (15.35 in). Width: 270 mm (10.63 in). In pen.
Laughing Peasant Woman. By Albrecht Dürer 1505. Height: 390 mm (15.35 in). Width: 270 mm (10.63 in). In pen. | Source

Getting the Expression Right

It is a good idea to have a reference photo of a laughing face to work from. Observe people in real life and try to capture their expressions very quickly using minimal lines for practice. Once you understand what happens to the laughing face and have practised a few times, you will build up a few good mental references of laughing faces and be able to make up your own from memory without having to use instructions. Practice is key.

Draw the Eyebrows

Draw the eyebrows in place, but place them slightly higher than they would be if the persons face was relaxed.


Draw the Eyes and Nose


Draw two crescent shapes for the closed or narrowing eyes. As the cheeks push up, they also push up the "eye bags underneath the eyes. In cartoons, this is often represented by a small horizontal line under each eye, to indicate that the eye bags are kind of being pushed up to the eyes.


Raise the nose up ever so slightly from where it would normally be and widen it just a little bit.


Draw the Mouth


When you laugh, your upper lip raises and stretches over your teeth. The corners of your mouth lift up and the naso labial folds- the lines that go from the sides of the nose to the mouth, become more pronounced. Draw the laughing mouth kind of like a very basic bowl shape. There is no need to get into the minutia of individual teeth. Indicate teeth simply by using short, incomplete lines just at the top of the gums.


As you laugh, your mouth opens, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot depending on how hard you are laughing! As a result, your chin will appear lower than it normally does, so extend the chin downward slightly.

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    • Abby Campbell profile image

      Abby Campbell 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Very useful! :-)

    • everymom profile image

      Anahi Pari-di-Monriva 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you for this very useful tutorial! Voted up and useful!