How to Draw Hands

Learning to draw can be a daunting task, so we are all in favour of ‘bitesize’ drawing: fitting drawing into your day whenever you can. Hands are notoriously tricky to master (even the great masters struggled!), so a little practice will go a long way in helping you develop your skills in drawing and painting, and even in sculpture.

The beauty of drawing hands is that you can be your own model and you don’t require much space or equipment – you can do it on the train, or in your lunch break at work – and it doesn’t attract too much attention: perfect if you aren’t yet the confident artist you will be one day!

Here are the the fundamentals you’ll need to remember when learning to draw a realistic hand.

1.  Basic anatomy
To draw a realistic hand, it is helpful to get an idea of what’s going on under your skin. The humble human hand is made of 27 bones! When starting out, pay attention to the joints in your fingers. Each finger can be simplified to three stacked cylinders, so try drawing a series of gestures (a fist, an open hand, a pointed finger, for example) using just these stacked ‘cylinder’ shapes for the fingers. You can then try adding details and shading to make your hand look more realistic.


2. Keep palm and carry on!

A hand is about the length of the same person’s face, and the palm takes up about three-fifths of the whole hand. With a soft pencil, sketch out a rough flat shape (a bit like a rounded steak!), and add the finger ‘cylinders’ to create the fingers. Notice that fingers are not straight, they ‘lean’ towards the central finger, and the palm curves to follow the line of the fingers. In fact, whatever the gesture of the hand- fingers splayed or in a fist- the fingers will almost always remain in a curve.

3. Negative space
If you’ve read our previous blog post, you’ll know that drawing negative space is an incredibly useful tool to help you discern the true shape of your hands. By drawing the negative space around your hand, you’ll notice that it is soft and fleshy on the palm-side, whilst you’ll be able to see the outline formed by your bones on the upper side of your hand. You can develop this approach to help you shade out the darkest areas of the hand, which will help give your drawing life and a sense of dynamism.

4. Rule of thumb
The thumb joint actually starts right at the wrist, with the fleshy, round part of the thumb joint being about the same length as the thumb itself. sketch in the base of the thumb: it should have the basic shape of an almond, with the thumb coming from the top corner. Make sure you give attention to the thumb: some thumbs are quite straight, whilst others are curved.

5. Observe and practice
The next time you are in close proximity with someone else, either on a bus or watching TV on the sofa, pay attention to their hands! You’ll discover that whilst the basic shape and proportions are the same, hands can vary widely. Some fingers are stumpy, some are smooth or tapered. Practice drawing different sets of hands, and force yourself to really focus on drawing what you can see, not what you think a hand looks like. If you practice regularly, you’ll see an improvement in your drawings of hands in no time!

What are your top tips for drawing hands? We’d love to see photos of your hand drawings!
Author: Clara Tait

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