Day 16 // How to Draw Hands

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Today’s the day! It’s time to tackle hands. I’m not gonna lie, there is a lot of information packed into this tutorial. There are a lot of things to notice and specific qualities to learn about the hands. This lesson is about absorbing that information and applying it to analyze reference photos. You’ll learn how to observe hand and break it down into basic shapes that will allow you to draw it freehand. 

TRUTH BOMB: Drawing hands is super difficult! Your first drawings are probably not going to look that great, but don’t let that stop you from continuing to practice. The more hands you draw, the better you’ll get!

Minimal Depiction

Reference Photos



These hands are so…basic…don’t you think? The hand can do SO MANY THINGS. You’ll find references for hands everywhere, most conveniently on the end of your arm! Sites like Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash are great for free-to-use stock photography and I use them frequently for reference photos. You can also do a Google image search for “reference photos hands.”

Basic Elements


5 Digits

Bendable – Joints


Fleshy Palm

Palm Lines

Wrist Creases

Middle Finger =
Palm Length


at least 15 joints

fingers and palms are bent in relaxed state

extended fingers splay out

pinky closes first

thumb goes across and up when down

wrist movement


Take a photo of your hand and trace over it to find the basic structure and relationship between elements. Then get a bunch of reference photos. Look at each photo and find the basic shapes as outlined in the tutorial. Spend some time drawing that hand, and then do a super fast version of that same hand pose. This will help commit what you are doing to memory, as well as help you simplify and stylize. Do as many different hand poses as you can! Try to find poses that you’ll end up using in your people illustrations, like a relaxed hand, a hand holding something, pointing, and so on. 


(click to enlarge)

Keep researching, observing and learning! I’ve made a Pinterest board full of additional resources to help you learn more about drawing fingers and hands.

This lesson is a part of a month-long series that will get you you familiar with the basics of drawing humans, and help you develop your own people-drawing style. To learn more, check out the People Skills Intro, or continue on to the next lesson below.