Hands can be difficult to draw for novice artists because they're complex parts of the human anatomy. A lot of professional artists tend to photograph references when working with the human body: this not only saves time but also helps to capture some of those awesome skin and joint details!
Drawing hands and arms is not, however, dependent on shooting reference images. The two most important things to remember are the proportions and the form.
To help me get the proportions right, I usually break down the body parts into very simple shapes. Once this is established, it becomes an indispensable guide for the rest of my painting.
The form, in this case, means how three-dimensional your illustration of a hand or arm looks and how it would fit in a real environment. To understand this, it's important to define a light source from the beginning.
Once your illumination is in place, you can easily determine how the shadows will appear and be cast by elements in your image. From this, a form will naturally emerge!
01. Palm reader
Start with the palm for the hand and then add fingers. Be careful where you depict the joints. Use the length as a starting point for the arm and add in some appropriate shapes to emulate the muscles. This is a crucial step, so take as much time as you need.
02. Light my fire
Establish a light source for your new shape. If you're using a reference image then keep the direction of the light in mind while painting. This will help make your sketch look believable. Add shadows and highlights and be sure not to ignore the secondary reflected lights.
03. Good form
Your form is now ready for some details. You can further define the shapes at this point and add any finishing touches. Remember that you can always go back and adjust the arm's proportions or the light source if something doesn't look quite right.
This article originally appeared in ImagineFX (opens in new tab).
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