The hand

The hands are a notorious source of frustration. This section won't concentrate on the muscle structure, since the hand is very complex in this regard, and knowing this won't help much in drawing them. Instead, we'll look at proportions, range of motion, and possible simplifications.

Structure and proportions

Bone structure and proportions of the hand

Figure 2.20. Bone structure and proportions of the hand

There is a very easy and surprisingly accurate way to remember the proportions of an adult's hand. Start with a line from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger. The knuckle of the middle finger is halfway along this line. Divide the top segment in two again, and you get to the first joint. Divide again to find the second joint. You could divide it again to find the length of the index finger and ring finger, but it's easier to just draw them “a bit” shorter.

The palm of the hand houses the metacarpal bones. The four bones of the fingers will be simplified later on, but there are two things to keep in mind. The metacarpal bones of the little and the ring finger are shorter than the ones of the middle and index finger. And they are more flexible; you can move the knuckles of the little and ring finger up and down easily, but not the other two.

Simplifying the hand

The palm of the hand can be simplified to a box. A lot of artists leave it at that, but we'll add a few more refinements here. First, we'll slice off a triangle from one of the corners, so it follows the line of the knuckles better. Also, the sides are bent up, and the wrist end is made thicker, again to get closer to the actual shape of the palm. We end up with something that looks more like a spade:

Simplifying the palm

Figure 2.21. Simplifying the palm

Notice that the box does not line up with the contour of the fingers. There's a bit of skin between the fingers that makes them seem shorter than you'd expect from just looking at the skeleton.

The two black arrows in the previous figure show how the little finger can move up and down. This changes how much you'll have to bend the box on that side:

Bending the palm

Figure 2.22. Bending the palm

Take a look at some examples of how to use this model:

Some examples

Figure 2.23. Some examples

The first one is a relaxed pose. The box is only slightly curved, and the bones of the fingers are slightly bent. The other one is more complicated; the box is bent much more, bringing the bottom two knuckles towards the viewer. The fingers are curled around, and the bones need to be drawn with varying degrees of foreshortening.

This is certainly not the only way to draw a hand. You'll find examples where people build a hand from ovals, boxes, mittens, you name it. As long as you understand the hand's structure, it doesn't really matter how you abstract it. As you get more experienced, you'll develop your own way of doing things anyway.

Reference photos: fist

Fist set 1

Fist set 2

Fist set 3

Reference photos: relaxed

Relaxed set 1

Relaxed set 2

Relaxed set 3

Relaxed set 4

Reference photos: holding

Holding set 1

Holding set 3

Holding set 4

Holding set 4

Reference photos: miscellaneous

Pointing set 1

Pointing set 2