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Drawing the Human Figure: The Hands

Updated on November 18, 2014

Drawing the Hands

The hands can be challenging, yet fun to draw! There are many different elements of the hands to explore. You have the top of the hand, the palm, the side of the hand, the fist, fingers, & fingernails. Below are a few sketches of different hand poses:

We will further examine the hands by studying the differences between the man, woman, and child’s hands:

Left: Adult Male Hand; Center: Adult Female Hand; Right: Baby's Hand
Left: Adult Male Hand; Center: Adult Female Hand; Right: Baby's Hand

Man’s Hands- The overall shape of the hands is larger; the fingertips & fingernails are boxy

Woman’s Hands- Hands are smaller compared to the man’s; fingers are slimmer & more elongated; fingertips are rounder in shape.

Child/Baby’s- The smallest hands; fingers & hand are short & pudgy.

Basic rules about the hands:

·The middle finger is the longest.

·The first & ring fingers are typically the same size, but in some cases the ring finger may be slightly longer.

·The tip of the pinky finger lines up with the first joint of the ring finger.

·The thumb joint lines up with the knuckles of the fingers.

Now we will draw a few step-by-step drawings of basic hand poses:

Top of hand:

A. Start with drawing an oval/ellipse. Draw two short lines extending from the bottom of the oval- these lines indicate the wrist.

B. Next, draw a vertical and horizontal line directly in the center of the oval.

C. Draw two more lines on each side of the center vertical line, above the horizontal line. These lines indicate the fingers.

D. On the right side of the oval, begin drawing the triangular shapes indicated in the example. This will be the thumb.

E. Now begin rounding the fingers within the lines, including the thumb.

F. Erase the guidelines.

G. Begin drawing the fingernails and the wrinkled lines around the knuckles.

*The next two steps are optional*

H. Add a few more details to the hands and then lightly shade in the hand with your pencil.

I. Blend smoothly and add highlights in the fingers using your kneaded eraser. You can associate the fingers with cylinders when blending.

The Fist:

A. Start with drawing a circle. Draw two lines extending from the bottom of the circle- these lines indicate the wrist.

B. Next, draw a vertical and horizontal line directly in the center of the circle.

C. On each side of the top vertical line, draw two lines making 3 spaces on each side. These lines indicate the fingers & thumb.

D. Begin rounding the fingers. Notice the fingers are drawn beyond the horizontal line. This small section indicates the fingertips.

E. Continue with rounding out the wrist area and the hand as shown in the example. Begin drawing the thumb by drawing an ellipse horizontally lined up at the knuckle line. Next, draw another ellipse vertically at the edge of the index finger. Now draw contoured lines connecting the ellipses forming the thumb.

F. Erase the guidelines outside of the fist and the ellipses inside the thumb.

G. Use the remaining guidelines to draw in the knuckles and the line of the palm.

*The next two steps are optional*

H. Begin drawing the fingernails and additional lines and definition that suits you to make the hand more lifelike. Next, begin shading in the hand (darker on the fingers & wrists and lighter on the palm).

I. Using your tortillian to blend smoothly and use your kneaded eraser to lift for highlights.

¾ View of Hand (Position of hands at your side):

A. Start with drawing a trapezoid shape as indicated in the example; it’s going to be a bit slanted. Add two lines to the top of trapezoid. This will be the wrist.

B. Connect an isosceles triangle to the trapezoid & another triangle from the isoseles.

C. Add the two additional shapes as shown in the example. These will be the fingers & thumb.

D. Next draw lines separating the fingers. From this angle, the pinky finger is not as visible or if at all.

E. Start rounding out the shapes of the fingers & hands. Don’t forget to draw in the knuckles.

F. Erase the guidelines that you have drawn.

G. Draw in the other details such as the folds on the knuckles and the fingernails.

*The next two steps are optional*

H. Start shading in the hand with light & dark shades with your pencil.

I. Blend smoothly. Continue to build tones and blend with your blending tools. Use your kneaded eraser to add highlights.

♦ Key Points to Remember

-Men’s hands are larger & boxy; women’s hands are smaller & the fingers are more slender; babies’ and children’ hands are smallest and pudgy

-Consider the many different elements of the hands before you draw them: palm, length of fingers, nails, etc.

-The hands should be studied in order to learn how to draw them well.

-Have patience

-Don’t be hard on yourself & have fun!!

-Keep practicing!


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    • Kalilah L profile imageAUTHOR

      Kalilah L 

      5 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you. We artists have to keep in mind that art is truly freedom & mistakes are welcome--they can even make you a better artist.

    • Dbro profile image


      5 years ago from Texas, USA

      I will look forward to more of your articles. I teach people to draw also, and I find the biggest impediment to them making progress is their negative attitude toward their product. Drawing should be an exercise in training and discipline to be sure, but it should also be creative, pleasant, and fun! We need to find ways to free people from harsh self-judgement and unrealistic expectations when they are learning to draw. Articles like yours will help them do that.

    • Kalilah L profile imageAUTHOR

      Kalilah L 

      5 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you so much for this! It means a lot to me that you find these articles useful. Ironically, there was a time when I was very hard on myself & it didn't do me any good; that's the very reason I created the key points list. Thanks again Dbro! There's a lot more to come so stay tuned.

    • Dbro profile image


      5 years ago from Texas, USA

      I love this hub! This is the kind of step-by-step, detailed instruction people need to help them gain confidence and proficiency in drawing. Thank you for this wonderful instructional article. The illustrations are beautiful!

      I especially like the "Key Points to Remember," most notably "Don't be hard on yourself and have fun." Too often people don't learn and make progress because they are too hard on themselves and judge their work too harshly. Drawing should be fun, not an opportunity to beat yourself up.

      Congratulations on writing a great article, Kalilah L!


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