5 Tips to Enhance Your Animated Expressions
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 5 min read


  1. Practice Exaggeration
  2. Study Real-Life Expressions
  3. Use Reference Materials
  4. Explore Caricature
  5. Animate with Purpose

As an animator, making your characters come to life is the ultimate goal— and a key part of that is mastering animated expressions. When it comes to making these expressions stand out, there are a few tried-and-true techniques that can truly make a difference. In this blog, we'll explore five tips to take your animated expressions to the next level, and ensure your characters are as expressive as possible.

Practice Exaggeration

First off, let's talk about exaggeration. In the world of animation, sometimes more is more. By exaggerating your character's expressions, you can make their emotions more clear and impactful. This is a common technique in animation, and it's a great way to make your animated expressions stand out.

The Art of Exaggeration

Exaggeration in animation isn't about making everything bigger or more extreme. It's about pushing expressions a bit further to make them more readable and engaging. Think of it as turning up the volume on your character's emotions. Here's how you can do it:

  • Focus on the key features: Eyes, eyebrows, and mouth. These are the main areas where expressions are conveyed. Play around with these features, and exaggerate their movements to make the expression more distinct.
  • Play with proportions and timing: Stretch and squash your character's features, and experiment with timing to create a sense of speed and impact. This can make a simple smile or frown much more dynamic.

Practice Makes Perfect

Like any skill, the key to mastering exaggeration is practice. Start by taking a simple expression, like a smile or a frown, and push it a little bit further each time. Experiment with different levels of exaggeration to see what works best for your character. Keep in mind that what works for one character might not work for another, so don't be afraid to try different approaches. The more you practice, the better you'll get at making your animated expressions stand out.

Study Real-Life Expressions

Now that you have the basics of exaggeration down, let's turn to the real world for inspiration. Studying real-life expressions can be a goldmine for animators, providing a wealth of detail and nuance that can help make your animated expressions stand out.

Observing People Around You

Observation is a powerful tool in animation. Start by watching the people around you—their expressions, their body language, and how they react to different situations. For instance:

  • Notice the subtleties: How does a person's face change when they're surprised or angry? How do their eyes shift when they're thinking? These small changes can make a big difference in your animations.
  • Watch for movement: Expressions aren't static—they're a series of movements that happen over time. Pay attention to how expressions evolve and change.

Using Yourself as a Reference

Don't forget about the best model you have at your disposal—yourself! Use a mirror or record yourself to capture your own expressions. This is a fantastic way to understand the mechanics of facial expressions and to add a personal touch to your animations.

Try to recreate the expressions you make when you're happy, sad, or surprised. This practice can make your animated expressions more authentic and relatable, helping them stand out in a crowd of generic animations. After all, there's no expression more unique than your own!

Use Reference Materials

While studying real-life expressions is a fantastic way to bring authenticity to your animations, it’s also important to utilize reference materials. They can be your guiding star, helping you to make animated expressions stand out with more precision and depth.

Lean on Visual Libraries

Visual libraries are a treasure trove of inspiration. They're collections of images, videos, and other visual materials that can help you understand and replicate specific expressions. Here's how you can use them:

  • Collect diverse materials: Gather images and videos that showcase a wide range of expressions. This can help you understand the many ways emotions can be expressed and ensure your animations are varied and dynamic.
  • Analyze and learn: Don't just look at these materials—study them. Break down the expressions into their basic elements and try to understand what makes them work.

Make Use of Animation Books and Tutorials

Books and tutorials created by seasoned animators can be a great help. They often provide step-by-step guides on how to create certain expressions, giving you a roadmap to follow. Here are some ways to leverage these resources:

  1. Apply the lessons: Take the principles and techniques described in these resources and apply them to your own animations. This can help you achieve more convincing and engaging expressions.
  2. Practice, practice, practice: Use the exercises in these books and tutorials to hone your skills. The more you practice, the better you'll get at making your animated expressions stand out.

Remember, reference materials are not meant to be copied exactly—they are there to inspire, guide, and enhance your own creativity and style.

Explore Caricature

Caricature is a powerful tool in an animator's kit. It can add a fun, unique twist to your work and make animated expressions stand out. Caricaturing is all about exaggeration, but with a purpose—it's about identifying the most essential parts of an expression and enhancing them for greater impact.

Identify Key Features

Every expression has key features that define it. It could be a furrowed brow, a wide smile, or squinting eyes. The first step in caricaturing is to identify these features. Here's how:

  • Observe carefully: Pay close attention to the specific details of expressions. Notice what changes in the face when a person is angry, happy, or surprised.
  • Focus on the essentials: Not every detail is equally important. Identify what really drives the expression and focus on that.

Amplify for Impact

Once you've identified the key features, it's time to amplify them. But be careful—caricaturing is not just about making things bigger, it's about making them more meaningful. Here's how to do it right:

  1. Exaggerate wisely: Enhance the key features you've identified, but don't go overboard. The goal is to make the expression more impactful, not less believable.
  2. Keep it balanced: While you're exaggerating some features, make sure to keep the rest of the face in balance. This will help maintain the believability of the expression.

With caricature, you can add a unique flair to your animations and make your animated expressions stand out even more.

Animate with Purpose

Animating with purpose is the key to creating animations that not only look good but also feel real. When you animate with purpose, you're not just moving things on a screen—you're telling a story. And that's how you make animated expressions truly stand out.

Define Your Animation's Goals

Before you start animating, it's important to define what you want to achieve. What emotions do you want to convey? What story do you want to tell? Here's how you can define your animation's goals:

  1. Think about the context: The emotions and story you want to convey will depend on the context. Is your animation a funny cartoon or a serious drama? The same expression can tell a different story in different contexts.
  2. Consider the character: What kind of person is your character? Their expressions should reflect their personality and mood. A shy character and a confident character will show the same emotion in different ways.

Use Expressions to Tell Your Story

Once you've defined your goals, it's time to use expressions to tell your story. Here's how:

  • Match expressions with emotions: Use expressions that match the emotions you want to convey. If your character is supposed to be angry, their expression should show that.
  • Use timing effectively: The timing of an expression can make a big difference. A smile that appears slowly can tell a different story than one that appears suddenly.

By animating with purpose, you can make your animated expressions not just stand out, but also tell a compelling story that resonates with your audience.

If you want to further enhance your animated expressions and bring your art to life, don't miss the 'Daisie Original Animation Course' with none another than Alex Jenkins who will you take you through his complete animation process. Dive in and take your animation skills to the next level!