WEEK 7 Extended project

Communicating emotions

Character expressions

In the seventh week, I am going to be conducting research into character’s facial expressions and see what techniques are used to communicate different emotions through the facial expressions.

The human face is known to be the first immediate thing the eye is drawn to, this makes it very important to known how to correctly use facial expressions correctly. As it says in the online article “The body expresses action, but the face is a window into someone’s inner life, and the expression of this inner life in a character makes all the difference between a skilled, observant artist (or writer) and a wooden one.” (Medlej, 2014)


The eye is made up of three specific things that determine the emotion, the eyelid, the iris position and the pupils size; when working on the face, it is best to work on the eyes first as “the eyes are the main point of focus in a face”. Here are some examples the article gives:

This shows that different combinations of how the eyelid is positioned, how the iris is position, and what size the pupil is, can determine the emotion it communicates. For a sleepy eye, the eyelid covers most of the eye, the iris is covered and the pupil is dilated; a relaxed eye is like a normal open eye but can be simulated as still tied by adding one more line, the iris just touches the edge of the eyelid and the pupil still dilated. An alert eye is when the eyelid is open normally but with no extra detail, the iris is in the same position as the relaxed eye and the pupil is this time contracted; the last eye shown is a wide eye, where the eyelid is fully open, the iris is free and the pupil is contracted.


In this online article, it talks about the eyebrow being made up of segments, he calls it the head and the curve. These two parts pull on each other and can be either rested, raised or lowered, the combinations of two different heights can also achieve different expressions; here are some examples:

You can see that these different combinations communicate different emotions, such as when the head of the eyebrow is rested and the curve raised makes the expression appear to communicate surprised, when both raised it appears to communicate confusion.


The way the mouth communicates emotion is though both lips and how they curve, if both lips are curve up it communicates a generic happiness, if the upper lip is curved down and the lower lip up it communicates a greater happiness. If both lips are curved down it communicates dismay or fear, if the upper lip curves down and the lower lip curves up it communicates shock as it represents a jaw dropping and if “Lips look like they want to join in the middle: caused by the corners, which are lifted into a snarl: this is the angry open mouth.” (Medlej, 2014)


The nose communicates the least amount of emotion however, it is known to scrunch and wrinkle up when the character needs to communicate extreme anger and disgust.

Putting it into practice

For this, I wanted to put what I have learnt to the test to see if I understand and to see if it is effective. To do this I decided to create four emotions through only using eyes and eyebrows, these four emotions are fear, anger, relaxed and tired. Here are the results:

facial expressions in practice .jpg

As you can see, I have been very success full in communicating those emotions, however I have also notice that both expressions for fear and tired are also communicating something else. For fear, it is also communicating confusion and for tiredness, it is communicating questioning; these two emotions are both connected through curiosity, like confusion is looking for an answer to what you are not understanding and questioning is wondering, thinking. I believe that these two are connect through one similarity, the eyebrows; this is because the heads of both eyebrows (where the eyebrow starts from the nose) are raised, this creates the idea the expression is communicating that the character is surprised and curious.

This is also explained in the same online article which it calls “The Emotion Tree”

This shows that some emotion are connected to bigger emotions and each other, such as what I was explaining earlier, those two emotion are connected to being surprised.


Body expression

When characters are shown expressing emotion, it is rarely done with facial expressions alone, using body expressions makes the character look less stiff and adds more personality to the character. Hands are known to be very expressive, they can help the audience to tell how the character is feeling, such as if the character’s hands are flailing around, it could mean they are panicked or upset.

Some examples the article gives are:

Here’s what it means for each gesture:

“Hand on Hips:

Palms on the hips, fingers forward, elbows bowed outward:

Classic sign of confidence
Shows the body is ready to step into action, get to work etc
Enlarges the upper body, making one look more powerful and threatening in a confrontation (or when grounding kids)
Also means “Keep away from me, I’m feeling anti-social.”
Note that when the thumbs are forward, the posture is more feminine and signals uncertainty rather than aggressiveness.


Classic defensive stance
Disagreement, closing oneself to input, arrogance, dislike. Women don’t cross their arms around men they like.
Self-comforting posture, used to alleviate anxiety and social stress.
Arms and elbows pulled tightly into the body signal acute nervousness.

Touching oneself:

We unconsciously touch our bodies to comfort or release stress. Perplexity, disagreement, frustration, uncertainty manifest in the fingers touching the lips, the hand scratching the head, holding the neck, grabbing an earlobe, rubbing the cheek, massaging the other hand, etc. Self manipulations increase with stress and disapproval. It is particularly effective to show repressed anger through these cues, as they are often a way of displacing the aggressivity. Note that in young children, the hand behind the head can express jealousy.” (Medlej, 2014)

Medlej, J. (2014, June 5). Human Anatomy Fundamentals: Mastering Facial Expressions. Retrieved from envatotuts+: https://design.tutsplus.com/tutorials/human-anatomy-fundamentals-mastering-facial-expressions–cms-21140


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