How To Draw Hands and How to Paint Hands With The Structural Method

How To Draw Hands How to Paint Hands

Download the Reference Photograph below to use on your own to Learn How To Draw Hands.

Hands are among the toughest subjects to draw and paint.  Many artists seem to either avoid hands altogether or hurry up past them hoping the viewers won’t notice the botch job.

I’ve done it myself.  I’ve painted pictures where the figure looks fantastic, but one of the hands is obviously not right.  Usually, I go back and fix it, but there are a few paintings out there, no longer in my possession, with flaps of flesh instead of hands.

So, how do we get over this annoying hurdle and finally feel confident with drawing any hand in any position?  How do we keep hands from looking like floppy pads with yarn-chunks for fingers?

To learn how to draw hands, you must comprehend the hand’s basic structure.

hand-joint-diagramWithout getting into a boring anatomy lesson, let me just point out a few of the sections that are important to understand.

When drawing Fingers, remember that there is an invisible thread connecting all the knuckles.

The main areas we need to be concerned with are the Fingers (Phalanges), the Palm (Metacarpals and Carpals), and the Knuckles (Metacarpophalangeal joints).

It may seem obvious that we will be looking at fingers, palms and knuckles, but the point is to have a sense of how the hand is structured whenever we aim to draw it.

To draw the hand, I’ll be working off the reference image below.

how to draw by matt abraxas

Download Image ©Matt Abraxas

This image is owned by me, but I will be sharing it for others to download in order to try drawing your own version.  The image is for an illustration that will be part of the book, John Edwards (theologian, not the politician), by Simonetta Carr.  The book will be available at Heritage Publishing.

To download, right click on the image and select “Save Image” or just click on it to open a large view of the image within your browser.

To draw the hand, begin with a block-in that is like an envelop around the whole image.  In this case, I started block-in of the hand only, not the face and stick.

Draw lightly.  Almost everything you put down in this phase will be erased.

How To Draw Hands Matt Abraxas Art LessonsNext, begin dividing the block-in and tapering the block-in to adjust to the correct shape.

At this point, I think of it like creating the image with sticks.  The lines you draw for your block-in are malleable and will be moved around until they resemble the shape of what you’re drawing.

As you divide the block-in in more refined shapes, you need to pay close attention to the angles and spaces (positive and negative space).  Or, think of it as angles and distances between angles.  This can get very heady, and whenever I explain it, I see people’s faces sort of glaze over.

The important thing is to trust your sense for judging space.  You can probably brush your teeth in the dark without stabbing your eye or getting toothpaste in your ears, right?  This is because you have a natural sense of depth perception and ability to judge space.

So… fingers: DO NOT DRAW YOUR IDEA OF FINGERS! How To Draw Hands Matt Abraxas Art LessonsDraw the angles and shapes that you see.  Check the angles by holding your pencil out before you and tilting it.  This image is useful because it’s sort of what the model is doing.

When drawing Fingers, remember that there is an invisible thread connecting all the knuckles.  If you consider this, no matter what position the hand is in, there will be a more realistic expression in your hand drawing.

As you are working out these lines and shapes and angles, you then lightly erase everything and go back over the sketch with a more controlled line drawing.

Pay close attention to your angles and the distances between them.  Don’t just trace over your block-in.  At this point, you may see fit to indicate the finger nails or other details such as the folds in a knuckle, but be remember to only draw what you see.  Don’t draw a fingernail just because you know it should be there even though you actually don’t.

The next step is to begin establishing the shadows.

How to Draw Hands Matt Abraxas Art LessonsTo draw shadows well, see them as shapes with either a hard edge or a soft edge.  A shadow will have a soft edge when the form is gradually turning into the light.  A shadow will have a hard edge if it is a cast shadow.  The exceptions are dependent on irregular shapes with hard corners, but this is infrequent on the human form.

To best draw a soft edge, use the side of you pencil, and for a hard edge, use the tip of your pencil.

In order to see the shapes of the shadows best, squint your eyes way down so that the image sort of flattens out.  drawing shadows matt abraxas how to drawDo you remember Peechie Folders?  These are what helped me realize the whole “shape of the shadow” thing early on.

Squinting your eyes is the way to comprehend the tonal value.

Shade in your shadow shapes, and then lightly shade the rest of the image.  Lightly.  All of it.

With everything lightly shaded and the shadow shapes darkened, you can now go in with an eraser and “cut out” those high-lights.

In drawing highlights (drawing with the eraser, that is), once again think of the shapes.  These won’t be as easily seen as the dark shadows are, so just don’t squint as much.

At this point, you have a nicely established structural drawing.  From this point, you can further refine the shading to make a complete drawing, or spray it with some Workable Fixative to get it ready for paint.

Illustration of Boy Holding SpiderNext week, I’ll be showing how I took this drawing through the stages of paint to get to this final image.

With a sound drawing as the foundation, painting is quite a bit easier.  Of course, it isn’t just coloring in an outline drawing, but at least with the structure of the drawing built up, it alleviates one of the main elements to consider.

With doing some preliminary shading in the drawing, it also gets our minds working on the tonal value that will be essential in the final painting.



You can follow along my process in the video below.  It’s a time-lapse version of about an hour knocked down to about 5 minutes.


If you like the video, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel to see more.  I post new videos almost every week.

I hope this has been helpful.  Feel free to comment below and let me know what you think.

Have a great day, and keep on creating

Matt Abraxas Fine Art Studio-Matt

Matt Abraxas Fine Art and Illustration Studio

~Matt Abraxas


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Matt Abraxas Self Portrait at 40 Years 2014 Oil PaintingIllustration of Boy Holding Spider