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Learn How to Draw Hands

So, you want to learn how to draw hands. They seem so complicated and daunting, don't they! Hands are often a real problem for beginner artists, but learning to draw hands is easier than it seems. Because they are complex forms, the trick is to simplify the shapes first. You will find many tutorials that show you a 'formulaic' method using circles and ovals, and this is helpful to start with. But the shapes that you need will change when the position of the hand changes, so to be able to confidently draw any pose, you need to train your eye to see and simplify whatever you are looking at. It can help to see each part of the finger as a short cylinder, depicted with an oval overlapping the next to form the joint, but from there the subtle variations of shape must be built up.

1. Rough in the overall form.
To make the hand in correct proportion to the body, and ensure that the palm, fingers and thumb are all in the right places, begin by making a very rough outer structure. To do this, tmagine the hand is encased in a tight mitten, and sketch the basic shape. Where the mitten would fold if the fingers bend, draw a rough horizontal line, the imaginary line through the joints.

2. Form the fingers.
Observing carefully the shape of the space between them, draw and check the relative size and placement of the fingers and thumb. Next you draw the fingers, imagining the cylinders formed by each section; the trickiest part is foreshortening, when part of the finger is coming straight towards you - then you'd see only the circle 'end' of that cylinder.

3. Refine the drawing.
Now you refine the drawing, sketching in the countours. Indicate the main visible creases, especially where the thumb folds into the hand. Draw the contour lines defining the palm and thumb.
4. Describe the form with tone.
Here some rough shading is added to bring out the form of hand. Once you have the basic form down, try more subtle shading, and observe the fine lines and visible veins.
In this example some fingers are partially hidden. Draw the closest finger first and allow the others to sit in behind it, drawing only the portion you can see, or lightly indicating the hidden lines to help judge proportion.

Tips:

  • Practice with your own hand, but try closing one eye to avoid seeing from a different angle with each eye (try it and see!)
  • Keep your drawing consistent with the rest of the figure. If you've used a fairly free approach, then don't overwork; if you have thoroughly worked the figure, give the same attention to the hands.
  • Try to have interesting or 'friendly' poses, resting on a surface or holding an object. Avoid interlaced fingers.
  • Become familiar with the underlying anatomy.
  • Post a small example on the forum for feedback!
Veins and tendons often show as lighter areas. (A study after Michelangelo)
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