Christian Comic Arts Society

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Hands are some of the hardest things to draw right and they're also something that a lot of artists don't bother learning well enough.  I have put a lot of effort into getting hands right.  Here are some of the things I've done:
1. I have a large filing system with literally thousands of clippings of cars, buildings, faces, and yes hands that I have clipped from magazines and newspaper though the years.  I tape the clippings onto a sheet of paper and put that in a well-organized folder.  Whenever I have trouble, for example, drawing a hand holding a telephone receiver, I flip to the four pages of clippings I have for hands holding phones in various positions.
2. I also recently hired a photographer friend of mine to take a couple of hundred photos of a man's hands and then a woman's hands in all manner of poses.  I have put these photos in their own folder and they are now my first stop when I have a problem drawing hands.
3. On top of that, years ago, I spent quite a few hours going through my favorite Neal Adams-drawn comics and, with tracing paper, tracing all his best hands.  (He is the best artist and he always took special care drawing hands--probably from his own photo reference files).  The act of tracing helped put a lot of that hand anatomy in my head.  Now, I would probably more recommend tracing the hands in my photo clippings instead of another artist's interpretation of reality.
4. Of course, practice sketch (with your clippings in front of you) whenever you can.

So, bascially, my advice is (1) collect clippings, (2) practice by tracing, and (3) practice by sketching/copying.  Soon, you will be an expert on drawing hands!

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Comment by Joshua Whiting on September 5, 2017 at 11:58am

Definitely a believer in photo refs. I'll often snap a quick pic of my or my wife's hands in the position I need and then work from that. It usually helps.

Comment by Yoshi Rhul on September 5, 2017 at 5:35am

Ironically, I couldn't finish a project yesterday because I was tripping over the hands. Thanks for the advice, everyone! I usually use my left hand to look at as I draw.

Comment by Steve Crespo on June 21, 2012 at 12:55pm


   Oh, without a doubt Hogarth's hands and figures are far from accurate. They are highly stylized. BUT, they are dynamic as the title suggests.

   And that is the name of the game in comics. 

Comment by angelo diaz on June 20, 2012 at 2:00pm

Hey steve,I totally understand where you're coming from.But would you interested to know that Hogarth's illustration on the cover of his book is totally off? See if you can spot the flaw I'm referring to.

Comment by RG2Cents on June 11, 2012 at 9:00pm

And excellent advice it is. :-)

Comment by D.L. Maffett on June 11, 2012 at 3:20pm

I feel like a padawan sitting among the jedi counsel...

Comment by Steve Crespo on June 11, 2012 at 2:59pm


True on all points, but I suppose my point was that understanding the basic structure of the hand, and how it works- in a very general sense- can help immensely in both life drawing and imaginative drawing. 

A very rudimentary understanding goes a very long way. And for me- I guess being in the John Romita camp- this equates to speed. And speed is quite frankly money. Pulling it out of my head is much quicker than looking for reference.

But, whatever works in the end is what matters, eh?!

Comment by Eric Jansen on June 11, 2012 at 12:02pm

Steve, very good advice!  However, I think there are two ways to go about drawing comics and the people or things in comics: (1) Drawing it all from your head, and (2) drawing from life/reference.  If you're an artist whose style is to make it all up as you go (John Romita, Jr., for example), sure, you really need to build from the bone up.  If, however, you're a photo realistic artist (say, Bryan Hitch) or a noir artist (Michael Lark and pretty much everybody who works with Ed Brubaker), I think it's more than fine to simply have reference in front of you and present your interpretation of that.  Maybe Michelangelo and DaVinci studied corpses to figure out every last bone and tendon, but most of the other great artists, I think, just had a model sit in front of them and looked and (for want of a better word) copied what they saw.  Both techniques are great--it just depends on what you're going for.  (And, of course, most comic book artists--especially Neal Adams--would do a mixture of both, to varying degrees.)

Comment by Eric Jansen on June 11, 2012 at 11:54am

D.L., I think there's a big a difference between tracing for PRACTICE AND LEARNING and tracing for THE FINAL PRESENTATION.  I would trace Neal Adams hands all day long for practice, but NEVER for a final art page I'm presenting as my own work.

Comment by Steve Crespo on June 11, 2012 at 4:10am

I see tracing as drawing from the outside. My suggestion concerning hands would be to draw from the inside. That is, learn how the hand works- how the fingers radiate from the palm, how the joints of each finger relate to one another- and start your drawing from that understanding. I start with an almost stick figure-ish kind of form- using a box for the palm, circles for knuckles, and lines/cylinders for fingers... it just helps me to think clearer.

Keeping a file is excellent (old school paper, or digital), but the goal ought to be to draw hands confidently and from your mind, and to go to the files when necessary.

Burnes Hogarth has some great stuff. (Don't know if it is still in print, though.)

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