The (Hands-Down!) Best Way to Draw Hands

If there's any other part of the human body that's as tricky to draw as faces , it's hands. They seem simple: just five fingers and a palm. But people can hold their hands in so many different positions. To draw hands well, you need to understand the basics of anatomy and proportions.

Use your non-dominant hand as a model — it's always ready and willing to pose for you!

Notice Where the Hand Bends

One human hand has 29 individual joints and 34 different muscles. Each joint is a point of articulation an area where individual bones can move independently of one another.

For drawing, it helps to think of the hand as having just a few major areas of articulation: the wrist, the base of the thumb and the individual knuckles. The thumb has two knuckles and the rest of the fingers have three.

While it might appear from looking at your own hand that the center of the palm contains a joint, what you are really seeing is the inside of the first knuckle joint at the base of the fingers. When all the fingers move as a unit, it can seem like the palm bends in the middle. But if you hold up one finger, you can see that it's not the palm at all, but the knuckle that is flexed.

Consider Proportions Within the Hand

While your fingers might seem long, in fact, your palm is almost always longer.

Also note just how far from the rest of the fingers the thumb really is. Even when you hold it flat alongside the rest of the hand, the thumb only comes to about the base of the other fingers. This is because the base of the thumb is at the wrist, not the palm.

While this might sound too obvious to be helpful, thinking about these proportions whenever you draw a hand sight unseen can make a difference.

Consider Proportions of the Hand and Arm

When you spread your fingers, your hand is wider than it is long. In fact, its width is about the same as the distance between the inside of your elbow and your wrist.

While the hand is often bigger than we think it is, it's only about two thirds the distance between the elbow and wrist, and about one quarter the length of the entire arm.

As with any subject, drawing hands well demands observation and repetition. Learning about proportions helps, but working to applying that knowledge is the part that really matters. Look at your own hands, study the works of the masters and draw, draw, draw — there is no substitute for practice.

January 16, 2019
More to Explore
Now Reading
The (Hands-Down!) Best Way to Draw Hands