How to draw hands: the proportions

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How to draw hands

So you want to learn how to draw hands. It is tough but, I ensure you, really rewarding when you know how to do it. Well drawn hands can easily express the feeling and emotions of a character and certainly give that special edge toy our drawing.

However drawing hands from imagination and being able to position them correctly and realistically with the body might seem a daunting task if you just started drawing.

Well, The Drawing Factory is here to help you overcome the hurdle! We will dedicate many tutorials to the art of drawing hands and this one will be the first in the series. Why? Mainly because I said is not an easy skill to learn and secondly because there is not a single way to learn how to draw hands but many different techniques and approaches.

This is why we will start today with a very basic lesson that will introduce you to the world of hand drawing by explaining the internal proportions o a human hand. The motto of this lesson is: If you want to draw hands proficiently you need to know them inside-out!

Let’s get started!

Let’s get to know the skeletal structure of the hand. this is going to be the first step to build and draw proportioned hands. I won’t delve into many details but I think you should at least know the basic components of the skeleton of the hand.

The hand is made of three groups of bones called carpus, metacarpus and phalanges. Do you need to know these names? Not really. The most important thing is you learn where they are in the hands and their general shape.

The carpus is a group of small bones tightly bound together and it’s just attached to the wrist. It has an elliptical shape and is compressed vertically. In the picture is gray.

The metacarpus is the group of 5 bones (red in the picture) that form the body of the hand. It’s formed by 5 elongated bones. The part attached to the carpus have a very low degree of mobility. Almost nothing for our purposes. But their distal parts form joints with the phalanges and these joints are very mobile!

Finally we have the phalanges, long bones jointed to the metacarpus. For every metacarpal bone there are three phalanges, with the exception of the thumb that has just two, namely the firs, second and third phalange. In the drawing they are purple, cyan and green respectively.

Now that you know what the skeletal structure of the hand is, it is time to simplify it to a more convenient structure and to look at the proportions of hands and fingers.

In the drawing above I have redrawn the skeleton of the hand simplifying the bones into lines and circles. The circles represent the joints.

As you can see accurate proportions for the hand can be deduced just by looking at the length of the bones. By drawing this skeletal structure I started from the carpus which has an elliptical shape and added the 4 metacarpal bones (that form the palm or body of the hand) first and the single metacarpal bone that form the root of the thumb (red bones).

The thumb bone is shorter than the finger metacarpal bones but if you position it correctly its tip will be at half the length of the first metacarpal bone. Then adding the first thumb phalange (purple it will be at the same length as the tip of the finger metacarpal bones.

It is really more difficult to describe than understand it. For your convenience I have added at the end of the page a video of me drawing this very skeleton structure and it will be probably easier to understand these rules just by looking at the video.

The next step will be adding the first two phalanges for each finger. Now this is really easy because the overall length of the first two phalanges is exactly the same length as the corresponding metacarpal bone (as shown in the drawing above).

the final step will be the third and smallest of the phalanges. Add it to each finger paying attention to draw them shorter than the second phalanges for each fingers. In other words the third phalange for the middle finger is going to be slightly shorter than the second phalange but longer than the third phalange of the first finger.

Again, it sounds more complicated than it in fact is. After you have gone through this description just take a look at the video and everything will be much clearer. You’ll’ be a step further in your understanding of how to draw hands.

Now if you have gotten this far (and I am sure you did) I have to congratulate with you, you have done a great job so far and you have immensely progressed in your understanding of how to draw hands.

Using this method of building the hand starting from its inner structure you should be able, with practice and patience, to draw hands correctly from many different positions and angles.

Obviously it does not finish here. but this tutorial certainly is a great starting point to get to know how to draw hands. I’ll see you in the next lessons.

Feel free to comment the tutorial or contact us for questions in the Contact us section of the site, We would love to hear from you.

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  • JBR

    Great tutorial. Hands and also feet are very frustrating, especially in certain positions, to draw. A better understanding of their anatomy is essential to being able to dram them more accurately. Thank you for this helpful step by step breakdown. Now, off to practice!