How to quickly sketch hands

Hand sketched in blue pencil

To draw hands, you need to look past the complexity of the hand's anatomy and recognise simple rules that will help you draw from a model or even your own imagination. Although they're notoriously tricky to get right, there are some sketching tips and tricks you can use.

To help you, in this short tutorial we'll break the process down into four simple steps to create a quick sketch. We'll start by exploring the structure of the hand, and then look at how to translate this into a drawing. Watch the video below, and follow my written steps beneath that.

We also have a more in-depth guide on how to draw hands, which breaks hand gestures into shapes for a more refined and realistic style. This guide is more concerned about creating sketches that capture the essence of a hand, at speed. Read on for four simple steps.

01. Consider how hands work

A roughly sketched hand with arrows showing the space between fingers, knuckles and other features

To draw hands properly you need to understand their anatomy

The most important thing in drawing hands is to understand their anatomy. Look at your own hand – it (usually) comprises of a palm, thumb, index finger and the three remaining fingers, which even though they can be moved separately, work together when it comes to grabbing objects. Move your hand and notice how your fingers and thumb bend and move, and what happens to the palm.

02. Find the right gesture

sketches of hands with different gestures

Try out loads of gestures until you find one that really catches the eye

Before you start drawing a hand, make sure you pick an interesting gesture. Try to experiment a lot at this point. A well-drawn gesture can communicate more than a hundred words. Be your own model and actor. Perform a gesture and notice what happens to your hand. Try to emulate those gestures in some fast and loose sketches.

03. Construct your sketch

sketch of a hand

Start sketching with bigger shapes, observing how all the elements of the hand work together

Once you choose the gesture you want to draw, start sketching it in a more precise way. Ask someone to pose for you or observe your own non-drawing hand. Start with bigger shapes; don't focus on small wrinkles or fingernails yet. A sturdy well-constructed sketch will go a long way. Observe how the elements of a hand work together and what happens to the skin and muscles.

04. Work in the details

sketch of a hand with details

Refine your sketch and add in details such as wrinkles, fingernails and veins

When you are happy with the first sketch, start refining it. Enhance the lines that are important and erase those that aren't. Add wrinkles, fingernails and veins if they are visible. When drawing fingernails, remember that they are not pasted on top of the fingers, they are well embedded in the tips of the fingers. Drawing them correctly is very important.

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Kate is an artist specialising in portraits and pet portraits. She mainly works in oils, charcoal and pencil.