Six Face Expressions Everyone Can Read

The six basic face expressions all the world understands

Raised eyebrows or a shake of the head can mean different things in different parts of the world. But these six basic face expressions can be understood wherever you are.







The expressions may be mite exaggerated here. Even, heaven forbid, not totally accurate!

All the same, these ‘six basic facial expressions’ are taken from research by the anthropologist Paul Ekman.

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An Easy Way to Draw Expressions

It can be quite simple to


Grab a sketchbook, the back of an envelope, any piece of paper. Better still a simple drawing app on your iPad, other tablet or phone, you’ll see why in a minute.

Whatever you’re drawing on or with, get something down. Draw a circle, two marks for eyes and another for a mouth.

We are wired to see faces and read what mood they’re in from the moment we are born. Our survival depends on it. However rough your scribble, not only will it be seen as a face. It will have an expression, even if it’s only bored.

The aim is now to change and intensify the mood of the face you have drawn. Do you want this face to look sadder or happier? How about angry, frightened or surprised?

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Drawing Facial Expressions

Take a look at this identification parade. These are symbols of the six basic human facial expressions: Sadness, Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, Surprise.

Coloured cartoons of face expressions
Colour Adds Oomph to Facial Expressions

Expression lines

Of course, colour adds extra feeling and helps to identify the emotions. Without it you can see below that each face contains only the features that most express the emotion it represents. Or rather, that I feel most express it.

Cartoon faces with expressions
We humans show what mood we’re in with six basic expressions

If you don’t agree with my doodles, good. That means you will reach for a bit of paper, or your tablet or phone and start drawing faces and expressions yourself.

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