How to draw a face with keyboard buttons

Written by leslie rose
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How to draw a face with keyboard buttons
Digital Emoticon (smiley image by Ewe Degiampietro from

Most people who use e-mail or the Internet have at one time or another come into contact with "faces" drawn by keyboard characters. These collections of characters are known as "emoticons"--that is, a portmanteau of the words "emotion" and "icon." Emoticons are used to clarify emotions when communicating over e-mail, in message boards, and on Internet websites. In general, these icons are usually read sideways, so that the eyes come first, the nose second, and the mouth third. In addition, some computer users get really creative with their drawings, going far beyond ordinary emoticons, drawing complicated pictures that are not meant to be viewed sideways, but right side up.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Type a colon using your keyboard, to represent the eyes of your smiley face. One common variation of this uses the semicolon, which indicates that one eye is winking.

  2. 2

    Type a dash (-). This is the nose. In some variations of this emoticon, the nose is left out.

  3. 3

    Type the closing character of a parenthesis. This is the smile. You may change this smile for a frown or a sad face by typing the opening character of a parenthesis.

  1. 1

    Type the opening bracket of the parenthesis. This is the side of the face.

  2. 2

    Type the caret key (most commonly found over the 6 key on your keyboard). This is the left eye.

  3. 3

    Type the underscore key (found above the minus symbol on most keyboards). This is the mouth.

  4. 4

    Type the caret key again. This is the right eye.

  5. 5

    Type the closing parenthesis bracket. This is the right side of the face. You have just drawn a very simple keyboard image. However, you can make such drawings very detailed and complex. The main difference between this type of drawing and the standard emoticon is the level of complexity that can be achieved with this type of drawing, and the fact that this type of drawing may be read right side up. For a more complex drawing, use characters like the opening and closing brackets of the parenthesis to represent the outline of the drawing, and characters like hash marks and dots and underscores to represent lines and textures inside the drawing. These drawings commonly span multiple lines of text to create larger images.

Tips and warnings

  • Emoticons come in a huge variety. For more emoticons, type "emoticon" into your web browser.
  • For better or worse, when using emoticons in some e-mail programs and chat services, the characters will be automatically replaced with an actual picture of a smiling face, sad face, or otherwise. To erase the picture and keep the character representation, hit your "backspace" one time.
  • Most emoticons are placed at the end of a sentence in the place of punctuation such as a period.

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