Top tips for painting expressive hands

Hands are probably the most difficult anatomy element to know how to paint, even more so when they have to convey an emotion. And if they're not well executed they can ruin a painting. Hands can express everything from sadness to joy, but whatever the emotion I'm aiming for, I always start with pencil sketches to find out exactly what I want to express. I don't care if the anatomy isn't correct – I just try to focus on the emotion and/or story that I want to tell with my character.

Once I have a clear idea of the composition, the next thing I do is to gather references, to help get the hands right. When I have to paint some complex-looking hands I usually use myself as a model. This helps to avoid any anatomy mistake and also it's a great way to find the perfect hand position. Posing in front of a mirror will help you to capture the emotion that you're after.

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Mélanie is a freelance illustrator who specialises in fantasy. She is a digital painting instructor at CGMA.