This is a lengthy tutorial that starts by showing a very detailed set of guidelines to draw the skeletal structure of the hand, and then begins to simplify that formula into something usable. In the end you should have gained a much greater understanding of how to draw hands.
Hands are often labeled as the hardest part of the human body to draw. The hand has a very complex bone structure that can bend in many ways. By learning the underlying structure, drawings of the hand will improve. Firstly, let’s take a look at an x-ray of the hand. This will be my basis for devising a set of formulas to draw by. Right away, you can see that the palm consists of a large number of small bones that can easily be simplified into just one, but beyond that simplification will be harder. Another thing to discover right away is the overall size of the hand in comparison with the rest of the body. I’ll just tell you… the height of the hand is the height of the head from the chin to the hair line. The width of the hand is half of the width of the face including about half of the ear. Of course, these measurements are when the fingers are tight together and the thumb is tucked in. All of these measurements are approximately the same for all humans including yourself… try it!
First, for overall proportion, draw a face that is proportionate to your drawing and mark the hairline. Out from the head shape; create your box based on the measurements discovered in step 1. Divide that box in half horizontally and into four pieces vertically. To start with a basic idea of where the middle finger will sit, divide the right half of the box in half, then divide that division in half once more to get one fourth of that half, or one eighth the overall width of the box and make a line there. The middle finger should align to this more or less when we’re done. After you have your outline, erase the head shape.
The ulna and radius are part of the forearm and aren’t included in this study, but the ends of them connect to the hand, so just keep in mind what the ends of them look like for now. As you can see, I went ahead and also added the palm of the hand. Instead of drawing all those bones out, I simplified them all to a lemon shape. To find the measurements of the lemon, see that I’ve gone to the halfway mark of the lower fourth of the guideline plus a bit… you can eyeball this, or if you want, you can see that it is actually ¼ of the way up the next division.
The next part is pretty easy to just eyeball. Just extend the lemon shape out on the top and bottom like shown. Note that there is a slant on the right side. To get this slant, see that the top is around ¼ to the left in the guideline box section that contains it and the bottom just about touches the right side of the box.
Simply eyeball five circles that will follow the palm shape. Each one should touch the side of the next aside from the thumb one. I just want to drop a side note and mention that while you are doing this very complex hand formula, make sure you keep an eye out of things that will help you when you begin to simplify. Each artist is different and the formulas will help each individual best when they make it their own. Don’t think of these shapes as what they really are; think about what they look like to you. This looks almost like a part of a cartoon foot to me at this stage. Those kinds of things are far easier to remember than just thinking of it as the end point of a metacarpal!
The next part is an important concept to get. I divided the next section of the box into half and found that the knuckles follow a curve that is very easy to obtain. Simply draw a guideline from one corner to the next and then straight along the top line of the next half. Each circle will be drawn below the line.
The next step is to get the thumb. As you can see, I drew a line from corner to corner again, but this time I extended it outward. When the line is even with the halfway mark you can see labeled with “x” you have the top of the 1st metacarpal. The lines labeled “x” show that the length there is also equal.
In this step, I’ve connected the ends to make the bones and also just added the bottom parts of the middle phalanges. They just touch the other circles already drawn around the same size. Take note that the bones do curve inward very slightly, but they have thickness to them even in the center.
This step is likely the hardest. You’ll want to make special note of the curve. Notice that it roughly matches the contour of the curve beneath it, but it is wider. Also, you can see that the proximal phalanges are not necessarily perfectly aligned straight with the metacarpals. You can also see that the middle and proximal phalanges combined equal the length of their corresponding metacarpals. If you look, you will see by the divisions in the guideline box, the curve is actually increases by 1/16 of the height of the entire guideline for each finger until the index finger where it is about even. Finally, you will want to note that for the thumb, the metacarpal equals the distal phalange plus the proximal phalange.
As before, I’ve drawn circles above and below the curve to indicate the bone ends. I’ve also shown that the thumb joint will follow the same angle as before from the middle finger.
Things start to become a bit repetitive here, which is a good thing. Again, we have the same curve. The curve will rest around ½ the height of the proximal phalanges above the last.
Now is time to draw circles above and below the guide line one last time before finally capping off the fingers with some distal phalanges. You’ll see that the distal phalanges will equal the height of the middle phalanges.
Thus ends the study of the hand and begins the task of simplifying what we know into something easily remembered and something we can quickly recreate and remember.
Once again, at the end of the ulna and radius draw that lemon shape. The lemon is an easily remembered shape.
Next Draw out the squarish bone and circle that is there the thumb attaches. Next, take your lemon’s width and that will give you how far above the lemon to put the first curve. Notice how the curve pretty much matches the curve made by the lemon and square bone? That’s handy! All joking aside, remember that the top there is wider than the lemon shape by around 1/4, and it is centered over the lemon.
Draw the circles and leave some gaps. From them, draw centerlines of the bones to give yourself an idea where they are going. Extend the lines outward to indicate the location on the middle phalanges. Recall that these will be half the length of the metacarpals.
Continuing onward, I’ve added in the curves. There will be three of them, and each will be ½ the distance apart of the previous.
In this step, I went ahead and finished out the fingers and added width to the bones. I also extended the curves to meet the thumb. Notice how Each one matches the angle of the upper-right side of the lemon? The angle is about the same. From here out it is smooth sailing!
There you have it… because I understood the bone structure of the hand on a higher level, I was able to drastically reduce the number of steps required to draw it. You should take this as a start and begin to find your simplifications until less and less steps are needed.
Here is a look at the skin added on to the bone structure we just created from memory. Even without knowing all the muscles you can already see that the hand looks pretty good!
I really help that this guide helps you to better understand both the bone structure of the hand and also gives you an idea of how to go about devising a formula to begin to learn to draw things accurately from memory. Please let me know how this worked for you and drop me any suggestions I might use in any further guides of this nature!
Hand X-Ray photo was taken from: [ LINK ]