Day 11 // How to Draw a Surprised Expression

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Surprise is when someone is startled by something unexpected. This can be caused by something positive like a surprise party, or negative, like when you get bad news. It can even be neutral like when you are in a state of confusion. Surprise automatically redirects one’s attention to the source of unexpectedness.

Today we are drawing surprised faces! Learn more below and check out the Table of Expressions to see all the emotions and how they can be depicted at a glance. 



Surprise is an involuntary startle response and the expression normally comes and goes very quickly. 

Facial Features

EYE SHAPE: wide open

PUPILS: constricted and small

EYE GAZE: looking straight ahead or at the source of surprise

BROWS: raised, no furrow

MOUTH: very small, slightly open, no tension around the mouth

OTHER: the person might take a quick deep breath or lean back quickly

Intense Emotion


Someone shocked is absolutely stunned and astonished. They can’t believe it! This emotion might trigger the flight or fight response that causes a person to take action. 

Facial Features

EYE SHAPE: as wide open as possible

PUPIL: extremely constricted, very tiny

EYE GAZE: looking straight ahead or at the source of surprise

BROWS: raised very high, no furrow

MOUTH: forms an O shape, no teeth showing

OTHER: the jaw drops making the face appear longer and the features appear more spread out vertically while wrinkles might appear on the forehead


Draw a face that conveys surprise. Determine your character’s neutral expression and then use the guidelines on this page to manipulate those feature into a surprised expression. Draw the emotion as well as the intense version of that emotion, shocked plus everything in between such as amazement, astonishment confusion, wonder, bewilderment, and more. Look up reference photos of surprised and astounded faces and figure out as many ways as you can to depict expressions of fear.

Keep researching, observing and learning! I’ve made a Pinterest board full of additional resources to help you learn more about drawing expressions.

This lesson is a part of a month-long series that will get you you familiar with the basics of drawing humans, and help you develop your own people-drawing style. To learn more, check out the People Skills Intro, or continue on to the next lesson below.