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Feature Focus: Sculpting Hands

Updated on May 20, 2013

Second to the face the hands are the most expressive part of the human figure.

Many sculptors, even very talented ones, have trouble sculpting hands. They are one of the most complex features of the body to sculpt. This lens can't make sculpting hands easy or teach you overnight, but it will give you a good overview of the anatomy and skills needed to sculpt hands well with practice and work.

Hand Anatomy

In order to sculpt the hand well it's important to have a good knowledge of the underlying anatomy. Studying your own hands in various position and holding objects will help you gain a better sense of the way the anatomy moves and the range of motion in the hand.

Hand Anatomy Video

Creating a Hand Armature

The armature is the supportive structure inside your sculpture. It's especially important for sculpting with polymer clay since small fingers can break without support inside. It also helps keep the hand the proper shape.

For more detailed information on armatures check out:

Building Armatures for Polymer Clay Sculpture

If you look at the photo of my armature on the right you can see that is is made of 5 strands of wire (22 gauge) twisted together starting at the wrist and continuing up the entire arm. Alternatively you could twist the wires only a short distance and wrap/glue/epoxy them onto a single thicker piece of armature wire. A little more wire (26 gauge this time) is wrapped around the wrist and secured with super glue to keep the wires of the arm from untwisting.

The fingers I wrapped with an extremely fine gauge jewelry wire (most craft stores carry it) which is about the thickness of sewing thread. The wires are secured with a little super glue. Wrapping the fingers like this give the clay something to grip onto, often clay will just slip off smooth wire.

Other Methods

A few other popular methods are:

Using cloth wrapped floral wire.

Wrapping a wire hand with floral tape.

Using two pieces of wire twisted together for the fingers instead of one.

Coating the wire with pva (white) glue.

Mini Modeling Tools

Super Sculpey

Armature Wire

*I am an affiliate of Dick Blick Art Materials. I promote their products on my pages because I'm also a customer who appreciates their customer service.

Sculpting the Hand

Sculpting hands can be difficult and intimidating, the best advice I can give is to take your time, study the hand, and practice. You won't sculpt a perfect hand (or anythign else) the first time or even the second, it takes practice and time to learn.

The sculpture to the right is by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the true geniuses of sculpture but it still took him years of study to get to that level.

Video Demonstrations: Sculpting Hands

Drawing the Hand

Drawing, especially from life, helps improve your sculpting abilities. Practicing drawing hands, especially anatomy studies. It will help you cement the knowledge in your brain. Plus drawing can be done anywhere, bring a sketch pad with you any place you expect to wait a while and practice sketching. I do this all the time at the doctor's office or the dentist's.

Hand Drawing Videos by Riven Phoenix

Riven Phoenix has an amazing series of drawing videos on YouTube and you can also buy a series of DVDs of his lessons.

This tutorial lens is a creation of Noadi's Art

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Click here to start building your own lenses on Squidoo!

Use Those Phalanges! - Leave your comments, questions, etc.

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      Jami_M_Lynn 9 years ago

      Great lens, Noadi - glad to see you on Squidoo. Hope your hand is healing ok. :-)