Drawing hands

I got the impression, that I probably should get back to the anatomy tutorials and focus on something that really is difficult. That's why this time we will take a look on this short journey through my hand-drawing learning process. I will talk about techniques, basic understanding of the structure, proportions and give some tips about the practice itself. I won't go deep into the anatomy, I won't talk much about differences in female or male hands or how hands moves and why. I will leave those for the next time. For now - the basics!

If you have any comments, questions or some difficulties - I will read them with pleasure and try to help :)

When I start my studies about some particular body part or element, which is difficult for me, at first I just search for various materials. And so when I don't know how to draw hands, I search for tutorials about this topic. Sadly, even though there is a lot of various materials, it's also hard to get something from them. Even great knowledge about the anatomy of hands won't teach us how to make them appear on the paper. The best material you can get is your own hand. The only thing you need to do is to study it.

Simple and at the same time extremely complicated receipt, isn't it? Everything in art comes from observation and analysis, the main problem is, however, how to spot those important details, which make hand look like hand, those basic characteristics. We use our hands all the time, but we do it subconsciously, we don't think about every finger movement while typing on the keyboard or reaching for a cup. Maybe that's why it's usually so hard to grasp the mechanisms present in hand and draw it with a correct shape.

Drawing hands Drawing hands Drawing hands
Drawing hands Drawing hands Drawing hands

It might be that hand is just too complicated to be easy to draw. But you can always make it look simpler, drawing general shape of the hand with just simple, geometrical shapes, like cuboids. Never think about hand in 2D, try to think in 3D! Also realize, that hand is constructed from two balanced masses: palm of the hand, which you can imagine as a rather flat and slightly bent cuboid (inside of the hand is a bit sunken and outside is convex), and then fingers, each one of them is formed from 3 oblong cuboids. Add a thumb to that mix, with two cuboids and base pad and here we have it - a simple model of a hand.

While drawing a hand we first think about the space which it takes, gently sketch out how fingers go and how is the whole hand positioned and only after that we think about the structure, drawing our cuboids and so on. With such sketch it's then easy to smoothen the whole shape and add details - like nails. Geometric shapes let you understand the whole hand structure, it's easier to imagine how hand works, where fingers bend and how are they attached to the palm. You should practice drawing hands in that way, until you can see on the schematic drawing how the realistic hand should look like. Then it's really easy to draw hand in full detail.

Drawing hands Drawing hands Drawing hands
Drawing hands Drawing hands Drawing hands

For this method to be complete and make sense, we also need some proportions and guides about the lengths and sizes. I will show you proportions of an "ideal" hand, although please remember that everyone is different and those are only guides. Even my own hand is hardly like this... Don't be afraid to modify this "ideal" hand, there should always be some space in those proportions for modifications and alterations.

Let's note, that fingers and palm both take about half of the whole length of the hand. Palm should be almost a square although it can be less wide (especially female hands are more slender). Finger ends and beginning are not placed on one straight line (it's a common mistake to draw them like this), that line is slightly bent and changes along the length of the fingers. Take a look on the drawing below to see that. Thumb, if placed close to the palm, reaches to about half of the first part of your index finger. Your pinky should reach no further than last segment of the ring finger.

When it comes to sizes, hand usually has the length of face, meaning it is as long as the distance from chin to the line of hair. It can be a bit smaller or bigger though, especially female hands are a bit smaller.

Drawing hands Drawing hands Drawing hands

Geometric simplification is not the only method fro drawing hands although it's very good for beginners as it help to understand the structure and grasp the 3D view at the same time. It help to "feel" how hands work too. After feeling comfortable with it, it's good to switch to the more sketchy method, which doesn't lead to stiff and artificial hands. You can also look for some middle ground and imagine fingers not as cuboids but as cylinders. Just don't stop imagining it as a 3D object, that's pretty much crucial. Drawing cross-sections of fingers or palm can also help you spot mistakes. If you think in 3D you will find out what's wrong way quicker.

Drawing hands Drawing hands Drawing hands

And now some sketches, just to motivate you to do your own studies ;) Learning how to draw hands sure is about analysis but nothing will come of it if you don't practice. Trained mind and hand can help you draw quickly and correctly as you will subconsciously fix your errors while sketching. But to reach that level you need to practice. Try drawing one hand everyday for a while, you have your own hand right here so just take a pencil and sketch!

Good luck!

Drawing hands Drawing hands Drawing hands