Learn How to Draw any Hand with this Easy Step by Step Tutorial
Everyone has drawn a hand at some point in their lives. Even if you can’t draw realistically, you can still draw a basic hand shape that looks somewhat human. In this tutorial, we will take a look at the basics of hand anatomy, how to draw a basic hand, as well as hands in various poses. So whether you’re an experienced artist or just starting out, keep reading for helpful tips and advice on how to improve your hand drawing skills!
Before we can learn how to draw hands, it’s important to understand the basic anatomy of a hand. The hand is made up of 27 bones, which are grouped into three main sections: the carpus (wrist), metacarpus (palm), and phalanges (fingers).
The Carpus: The carpal bones are the eight small bones that make up the wrist. These bones are connected to the radius and ulna (bones of the forearm) by ligaments, which allow for a limited amount of movement at the joint.
The Metacarpus: The metacarpal bones are the five long bones that make up the palm of the hand. These bones connect to the carpus at the wrist and to the phalanges at the joints of the fingers.
The Phalanges: The phalanges are the 14 small bones that make up the fingers and thumb. Each finger has three phalanges (proximal, middle, and distal), except for the thumb, which only has two (proximal and distal). The phalanges are connected to each other by joints and ligaments, which allow for a wide range of motion at the fingers.
An anatomical illustration from the 1909 edition of Sobotta's Atlas and Text-book of Human Anatomy with English terminology.
Hands are as different and individual from person to person as noses, eyes, lips, and more. Nevertheless, they all do follow certain rules of proportion that we should learn, as they will be especially useful to us when drawing hands.
The following rules about the proportions of hands do not have to be perfectly implemented. Slight variations are natural and will result in us being able to draw different hands, all of which will look realistic.
Now that we know the basics of the anatomy and proportions of hands, we can start drawing them. In the following steps, I’ll show you how to draw a hand from the front. Since I’m right-handed, I’ll use my left hand as a reference.
I recommend that you use pencils for this exercise so that you can easily erase any mistakes you might make. Also, use your free hand as a reference.
Let’s start with the palm. To get a better grasp of the basic shape and not get confused by the thumb, I touch with the tip of my thumb the knuckle below my pinky. If you do the same pose with your hand, your palm will take on a similar shape to the one in the example drawing.
The important thing here is that the line near the index and middle fingers is drawn orthogonally to the edge of the palm. However, below the ring finger and pinky, you should draw the line at a slight downward angle.
It’s a common beginner’s mistake to choose a square for the basic shape of the hand, but the fingers just don’t all sit at the same height, so the finished drawing will look strange and unrealistic.
Before you draw the fingers, let me briefly show you some applications of the rules you read about in the Proportions of a Hand section.
The purple circles mark the areas where the knuckles are. So one finger starts at each of the knuckles, which is easier to see on the back of the hand than in the frontal view.
With this proportion rule, you can additionally check if the basic shape of your palm has the right width.
With these two rules, you can now draw the rest of the fingers.
But how long are the other fingers besides the middle finger? The index and ring fingers are both a bit shorter than the middle finger. Whether the index finger is longer than the ring finger or the other way around or whether they are the same length is up to you. The chance to do something wrong here is very small, so be brave.
For the length of the pinky, it’s best to follow the ring finger, because the pinky should end at the level of its second section.
Extend the palm to form a rounded triangle with a right angle. Look very closely at your own hand to identify the appropriate size and position.
Try to move your thumb straight up pointing in front of the index finger. You will notice that the thumb end joint is just in front of the knuckle. Move your thumb back to the relaxed position and draw the first section of the thumb by mentally or physically drawing a guideline from the knuckle to the thumb end joint.
You can now use this rule to draw the last section of the thumb.
The most difficult part is done! Now we can work out our sketch and add details, because we want to draw a realistic hand after all.
Take a close look at your own hand. You will notice that your fingers are not perfectly straight and that your hand has many wrinkles, even if you are very young.
Add all these observations and features of your own hand to your sketch. This detailed sketch is the basis for the last step, so don’t leave out important characteristics.
In the last step you can fully concentrate on shading.
If you like, you can adjust the lighting of your hand with a lamp. For my drawing I don’t change anything and so natural light from the window falls from the left onto my reference hand.
Make sure that each finger is rounded and that some fingers cast shadows on one another. For example, the middle finger, ring finger, and pinky also have shadows up to the knuckle on the left in my drawing, because the neighboring finger casts them.
You will certainly also notice that the individual fingers do not simply grow out of the palm-like sausages. The skin of the fingers is connected to it, and so tensions can arise in the skin here as well, leading to more wrinkles and shadows.
With close observation, however, you won’t miss anything here and you’ll be able to capture all the details well.
Once you’ve completed this exercise, feel free to repeat it a few more times on different days. In this tutorial we only drew the hand from the front, but I highly recommend repeating the exercise with the hand from the back as well. This way you will internalize the basics and learn to draw from a live model by using your own hand.
Once we have learned the basics, we can draw more complex hand poses. I would still recommend using your own hand as a model, because that’s the best way to study each feature.
Back of a Hand
Hand with Fingers Spread
Hand Holding up four Fingers
Resting, slightly closed hand
Fist, closed hand
Hand pointing sideways
Hand resting sideways
Hand resting sideways