Some of the more popular ones are fairly easy to use, even in regular ASCII and my mobile phone has, amongst a wide variety of graphical icons and emoticons a range of pre-made Japanese smileys. Some of the more elaborate ones require kanji or extended characters for the full effect. There is, however, no true rule book for the use and creation of these, apart from the use of the brackets to create the shape of the head. Anything else is pretty much do-as-you-please, as long as the end result graphically illustrates the emotion you are incapable of putting into words.
To add extra emotion just copy the little symbols you see in manga. Here, for example
we see two smiley faces, eyes closed but raised, happy eyebrows and a typical blush of happiness. The usual big drop of sweat, which denotes embarrassment or anxiety in comics can be applied too, like thus:As you can see with the downcast eyes this emoticon is humbly bowing, sweating and saying “sorry!” Sometimes, of course, the face alone isn’t enough, so you can add characters for hands. If you are so deeply sorry that you need to prostrate yourself, show the hands on either side of the head resting on the floor.
To show support or general happiness there are a variety of cheering smileys. I think you’ll notice the forward and backward slash as upraised arms motif here.
I think that pretty much covers the basics. A few more examples:
A bit miffed
I often have to stop myself putting this one in my emails’ signature file. The kanji forming the bird is “deko” which means bump, more or less. It’s one of the simpler kanji out there and it wonderfully illustrative.
But my all time personal favourite is this:
As mentioned above, the Japanese emoticon is open to a lot of creativity, so experiment away!