Anyone who spends time analyzing faces notices very quickly that we have a double standard when it comes to expression. When we observe a realistically-depicted human face, we have a fine-grained, rigorous way of determining the mental and emotional state of that face, based on what are often tiny actions in the “hot spots” of the eye, brow, and mouth. If we conclude, on the other hand, that the depicted face is Sentient, but Not Human (i.e. stylized), we are liable to see almost any configuration of eye, brow and mouth as plausible and readable, as long as there are cues present which indicate an expression (open mouth, raised brows, etc.)
New! CHINESE Translation
Anger - It's all in the EYES
Putting on the Charm with the Sensitive SMILE
Pretty Darned AFRAID - but not Quite Enough
Fear is the most difficult emotion to portray, both by actors and artists. It can be confused with surprise, sadness, and disgust. In tests I did with researchers at the University of Washington, it took us literally hundreds of attempts to create animated characters with fear faces that could get 90% agreement using internet-based Mechanical Turk responses, and the examples that worked were extreme versions of terror, with bulging eyes and a radically widened mouth.
Take That! A Sly SMILE Enhanced by Good Character Design
A Minimal Face Portraying a Complex Emotion
What Emotions can be Expressed by Faces Missing Most of their Features?
Extreme Stylization plus Ambiguous Posing = No Expression
Extreme stylization of the face does not necessarily mean a loss of expressive range. However, removing the features along with extreme stylization makes things a lot more challenging. I’ve done tests on faces with no mouth or nose, and it is clear that certain expressions can still be read through just the eyes, like anger and sadness, modified by the brow.
Real or Fake? Things We Agree On
FAIGIN FACE BLOG
So many faces. So many ways to express emotions. Faigin examines facial expressions in movie stills, cartoons, fine art, illustrations and photographs and shares his insightful analyses in his monthly blog.