Mastering Hands Part 1: A Beginner's Guide to Drawing Hands | Arleesha Yetzer | Skillshare

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Mastering Hands Part 1: A Beginner's Guide to Drawing Hands

teacher avatar Arleesha Yetzer, Watercolor Illustrator & YouTube Artist

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Using Reference


    • 3.



    • 4.

      Basic Shapes of the Hand


    • 5.

      Basic Shapes in 3D


    • 6.

      Rhythm of the Hand


    • 7.

      Example Hand #1


    • 8.

      Example Hand #2


    • 9.

      Class Project!


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About This Class

At first glance, the art of drawing hands can seem intimidating and complex. While it is true that a hand is made up of many parts, creating beautiful hands can be fun, relaxing - and you can get started NOW!

In this class, you will learn:

  • How to break the human hand down into basic, geometric shapes
  • The rhythm of the hand - meaning the patterns of anatomy that all hands will follow
  • How the hand moves
  • How to draw hands from various angles

Hands may seem scary, but with a bit of knowledge and some practice, you’ll be enjoying the process of creating dynamic, graceful, or powerful hands in no time. Let’s do this!


Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Arleesha Yetzer

Watercolor Illustrator & YouTube Artist


Arleesha is a watercolor artist and YouTube creator based in the northeastern United States. Her work primarily features dynamic and whimsical representations of the human figure. Primary professional endeavors include her budding YouTube channel with a current subscriber community of over 100 thousand as well as this growing library of Skillshare classes!

Here, you'll find classes on anatomy, figure drawing, and watercolor techniques - all directed to help you improve your portrayals of the human figure. 

If you'd like to connect with me and see more of my work, you can follow me on Instagram or check out my YouTube channel, where I post videos every week. 

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi, my name is Arleesha and welcome to my Skillshare class. This class is going to be part one in a two-part series called Mastering Hands. This class is going to focus on drawing and sketching the hand. In these videos, we're going to learn how to break down the hand into its basic geometric shapes. We're also going to learn how to transform those shapes into 3D objects so that you'll be able to draw the hand from any angle. We're going to talk about the rhythm of the hand, meaning the pattern that the hand always follows. By the time we get to the class project, you're going to be able to draw your own hand in three different positions, and you're going to learn along the way how to draw a beautiful, exciting, burly, masculine, gentle, flowing hands, whatever it is you're looking for, we're going to learn it together, and I'm going to show you all the building blocks you'll need to enjoy the process of creating hands. Let's get started. 2. Using Reference: Before we get into any actual drawing, I just want to talk a little bit about using reference. For pretty much any art you're going to have three primary sources of reference. One is going to be life drawing, which is basically the actual physical thing that you're trying to draw in front of you. In our case, our own hands or the hands of someone else, actually seeing those hands in front of you, please don't go around cutting off hands to use as reference, that's not recommended. Your second form of reference is going to be the internet which is an incredibly wide vast source of knowledge, but you may not always want to be sitting in front of a screen to draw. I know that's not my personal preference. The third source of reference is going to be things like these, books. I love books and this is actually a book that I got from my local library, so libraries are a great source for reference. As you can see here, this is focusing a bit on the head but there's an incredible massive wealth of knowledge in some of these books where you can just pour over these things for hours. This book in particular is called Anatomy for the Artist by Sarah Simblet and I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in learning more about the actual anatomy and how all the parts in depth fit together from muscles to bones. There's a ton of reference images in here that vary from sketches by the artist to pieces by other artists including traditional art and just photography that you can use as a reference. This is a really great point to go off up. There are tons of hands in here as well. I personally, for this class, I'm going to be focusing on my own hands which is great as a reference because you will literally always have them. In case you were in some horrible accident where you have a hook, in which case you may want to find how to draw a hook hand skill share class. That's not this class. 3. Materials: All right, before we get any further, I just wanted to let you guys know what kind of materials I'm going to be using here. I'm mostly going to be focusing later on when we do our sketches, I'm going to be using my Col-Erase Prisma color colored pencils. I am specifically using carmine red, and blue. These two work really well and they contrast each other well, I like the harder lead and these pencils that allows me to get more varying line width. I'm going to be working in my Canson XL mixed media sketch book. This one specifically is 9 by 12. I'm going to do a little bit with a standard sketching pencil. It's like a reeves HB sketching pencil and I don't use sketching pencils very often just regular graphite pencils but I wanted to do a little bit of that for this class because a lot of people have those. While I'm not a really big fan, I prefer these colored pencils, but we'll do a little bit with those just so you can see how I work with those. I'll do a tiny bit with my Tombow brush marker is using these three colors in particular, which you'll see I will later wish that I had tested the colors first because you'll see anyway[LAUGHTER], these are basically along with the sketching pencil. These are going to be the materials that I'm using. Here we go. 4. Basic Shapes of the Hand: Now we're ready to get into some actual drawing here. We're going to start with breaking the hand down into basic shapes as well as learning a little bit about the proportions of the hand. How long the fingers are in comparison to the palm and things like that. The easiest way to do that I've found is actually to go all the way back to kindergarten level. We're going to trace our hands and then break them down into basic shapes. I'm really excited to see your own trace hands. If you would do me the massive favor of tracing your hands and after you've completed this section of the video please go into that projects tab and share your hands because I cannot wait to see you them. Now we're not looking for obviously artistic mastery at this point. This is a very simple process. I'm just holding my pencil straight up and down and tracing my hand. I hope you can see that light pencil sketch. Don't worry, we're going to go over it and this is what we've got. Of course, this is going to give you something a little bit wider than your actual hand. But that's okay because we're still going to get a really good idea for the proportions here. It's going to be super helpful for showing us how to break the hand down into sections. What I'm going to do here is I'm going to show you the basic forums I break hands down into every time I draw them and what I'm thinking about when I draw. The largest section and often the very first section that I do is this palm section here. It's going to come up and it's going to peak right here. I'm going to try to make my lines a little bit darker so you can see them. It's going to peak right here around the middle finger here. Then it curves back down for this last finger. Thinking about that shape is going to be super helpful here. Then we're going to have this palm shape which you can just think of something like this. Now, what you can do is you can come out here and go down. I actually don't like to do that. I like to think of the thumb as a larger digit here. I think about if you were facing the hand up, you can see the pad of the thumb as this large oval section here. I like to always incorporate that even when I'm drawing the hand from the back, incorporate that palm section as that pad of the thumb into the thumb. I think that that really helps with the structure, so as far as this palm section goes, we're actually going to cut in here like that and then come up. We're going to omit that shape. Then this is going to be a largely tour palm, so you can think up here. These are the pads of your other fingers. This section right here. That's what we've got up here. Don't worry if my lines are light right now. I'm going to go back in and color code this section so you'll have a better understanding of what we're working with. Again of course, your thumb is going to be this large pad that's going to curve in at this first knuckle out and in like that. Then we're going to come out. The thumb, if you bend your finger, this is a great way to see obviously. We've got two knuckles here; one down there, which we just did and one further up. We can think about those knuckles and where they are. The second one is actually right around here, which is this bump, the hydro. We've got our second knuckle. We're going to come up and in, right? Then you can just cut these knuckle shapes. Just to give an idea when you're drawing a hand in different positions, this helps to give you an idea of where your hand is going to bend. These shapes are going to look really blocky right now but when we move forward, you're going to see a lot more of the anatomy come together. We've got our basic palm. We've got our thumb shape here that I actually want to connect this a little bit better, good. We've got our thumb shape here and then we are moving out for the digits. This is going to go a little bit quicker. Let me go ahead real quick. I'm going to outline these and then we'll talk and break them into segments. Then we'll talk about what I did again following that same technique of I'm going to be bending the fingers to see these joints. Again, just like the thumb, we've got one here, one down here. These are going to be broken down into three segments. Let me go ahead and do that and then we'll talk a bit more. We've got our basic shapes here. I just put in some loose knuckles. Often times these knuckles, as you go up they're decreasing in lengths. The longest section is going to be here to here. This section is a little bit shorter and then this section is the shortest. Some artists will even say that the sections are from the knuckle here are very similar in length, so this is half and this is half. You can see sometimes I often actually end up elongating my fingers. That's just the way I stylistically do them. This is going to be a good way to get a realistic references using your own hand. Of course, everybody is going to be a little bit different, but that's the fun of it. That's the beauty. Here I've sectioned off where those knuckles are, where these hands are going to bend. Really the knuckle section is actually a larger area here. It's not just a line because there's joints there and that's a specific area where they're crossing. It's similar to what I did over here. Then of course, there's another section down here. But now let me go ahead and color code these a bit so we can see these shapes a bit together. Look at that artistic mastery. What I did at the end there was I attempted to use my handy water brush to blend this blue because it's super dark. These are water-soluble markers, but we're water-based markers rather. But it's still a mess, but that's okay. We can work with messes. Messes are great. The general purpose here was just so you can get an idea of how we're going to be breaking down our hands in the future into the palm section, the thumb and the fingers. Now that we've got our basic shapes down, let's move on to these shapes in a bit more of a three-dimensional form. 5. Basic Shapes in 3D: All right. If we're breaking these shapes down into 3D, we're going to be thinking about specifically a cube shape and cylinders. Let's start with the fingers which we're going to be working with cylinders for the fingers. If you think about just one single finger like one digit, I'm going to do a little bit of a bend so we can get a slightly better idea here. You might go, that's one finger here. Again, inserting those divisions where the finger bends. This shape is actually pretty flat right now but in reality, it is a cylinder, so it's actually a bit more three-dimensional. If you think about thinking like from the end of a cylinder coming out this way, we want a shape that's actually a bit more three-dimensional. Thinking about this in like a three-dimensional form is going to help a lot with things like perspective and drawing the hand from multiple angles. If we wanted to add something onto this cylinder and we were thinking about this digit kind of turned in a different way and we were just basically what we're doing then is just adding a digit, another one off of this. You can think, what would this look like if part of this cylinder which is starting at this face is disappearing into space of it. We're curving this way and I'm bending that digit a bit more. Yeah, so here we have a very rough, I don't even have an eraser. That's how prepared I am. Anyway, so here we have just a really rough form here of a finger that's bent. But working with three-dimensional forms like cylinders is going to be super, super helpful. Other than thinking of the digital cylinders, thinking of this base section as more of a cube or a flat cube, that's flatter and then long, is going to be super helpful in placing the fingers. Let me show you what I mean here. Let's imagine that this curved section here, this is the top plane of your hand. If you're looking at your hand from the top here and imagining that the fingers were cut off here, so what we're going to do is just draw in a quick cubie shape for our hand. This is like the bottom plane, so this is beneath. Here's the front and here's what we're saying. Imagine this is the top of the hand, I know it looks hard to think of what I'm saying right now, but as soon as I drop in these circles, it's going to be easier to understand. Let's do the little cutout with the thumb. You can think of the thumb that's coming up out of the space, like coming up towards us and then here, these are like the fingers you can think of coming out of the top of the square if that makes sense. So out of the top here, we've got our fingers coming up in space. One of the greatest ways to do prospective things like this is to do it like a spiral coming towards you, to think of it that way and then just draw the outline like this. To better understand perspective. If you think about, if these fingers were coming a bit up and towards us we could just spiral up and then down. What we've done now is created a shape. This finger that comes up and towards us if that makes any sense. Something like that. The more these fingers bend, so if this one is coming way out and then going down, of course this is a hand actually behaving this way would be a very strange sight to see unless it's varies so rough and I think that's actually really important. You can get an idea of what I mean when I say the 3D forearm and the hand. We're thinking about cylinders here and basically this cubie block of the hand which I'm just going to draw, but different. If this is the top plane here of that hand, this is that top plane with the hole so that the fingers would come out of and those are basically equidistant. So if you divided that into four sections, you'd have your four there and this is just like inside of that form. What we might see, so the inside like the cut-out for the palm there which fits into this space and you can see a little bit of that perspective. I hope some of these rough doodle 3D form shapes make a little bit of sense. I wanted to talk about this before we got into rhythm a little bit just so I can help to better understand what I mean when I talk about how these shapes fit together. We're actually going to jump back over to our other drawing so we can talk about the rhythm or the pattern of the hand. 6. Rhythm of the Hand: Welcome back sloppy marker hand. For this, really, we're going to only briefly cover the basics of what I mean when I talk about the rhythm of the hand. This is just going to help you to establish consistent drawings when you're drawing your hands. What I primarily want to talk about is the arc of the knuckles, which you can see I've slightly indicated here. Generally, there's this arc that the knuckles will always follow and it does mostly include the thumb. Sometimes the thumb falls out of that arc a bit. But here, let's look at something like this where you can, if you were to just draw a curved line through these knuckles, you can see that they curve straight up this way and then that curve comes down. So it peaks again, just like this peaks here. This is going to peak at that middle finger and it curves and then comes down. Now oftentimes I like to actually think of this first knuckle curving and pointing. This first knuckle with the last knuckle on the thumb because the thumb does sit lower on your hand, but that is going to follow that same arc on the second hand and that's going to come down like that. Then actually you can use this to flow to the tip of your thumb then. If we think about these curved lines, you can even see it on my hand here where your knuckles are either always going to follow that curve. Another important thing was the pattern of the hand and the rhythm of the hand is if you take your hand and turn it on its side a little bit and just naturally let your fingers bend, you're going to see a pattern starts to occur here specifically in this stage. You can see here, my thumb is pretty straight, there's a slight bend in my index finger and as we go down further through the hands, they're going to bend a little bit more. Those knuckles are going to be a bit more curved. While there is less curve here, the further down we go, we're going to have more and more curve. That is something that hands do a lot. A lot of people also will do things for a natural organic hand look where two of your fingers might sit together, especially the two middle fingers and that gives like a gentler look to your hand. You can see maybe something like that. What I want to do now is go into a couple of examples of the hand in different positions so we can put into practice the things like this pattern and the perspective and the 3D forums that we went into in previous video. Let's go ahead and jump in and draw some hands. 7. Example Hand #1: I'm planning to time-lapse some of these hand videos. But what I'm going to be doing is I'm just going to be picking a pose for my hand. I'm going to sketch it out and then we're going to talk about some of the decisions I made during that sketch. I'm super excited because this is going to be the step where you're going to see the little tiny bits of knowledge and hopefully the tracing of your hand and things like that. You're going to start to see those little bits of knowledge actually put into practice. This is a super exciting step and I hope you're as excited as I'm. Let's get going. So I think we're just about ready to talk about this first hand. Really we're going to be covering two different methods for drawing the hand. Really we've done both of them already. The first is going to be blocking out the shapes, which is what we did here. The second is going to be defining the outline first. Basically, the difference between form and contour. While these things aren't always separate, of course they intermingle and work together. At the beginning you saw me blocking in these shapes, like this big shape here and then this big shape here. I'm thinking of that in three dimensions. So this is a little bit of a flat rectangle coming through here. Let me get a different color. I'm going to sketch all over this drawing. So be prepared. It's great to make a mess because you can learn a little bit better, I think. If we think about this as like a rectangle coming down through here, where this curves down like that. You can see our rectangle shape there. That's working as our wrist. So this is our risks here, and I shade that plane. That's one of the great things about thinking about this in 3D form. Is it allows you to better understand the shadows as well. If my light is coming from over here, then I know that these planes that are facing away are going to be in shadow. We have this shape here and again, this extends up into here. Then we have that cut out for the thumb, and the back of our hand here. You can see this is a plane that faces this way, that curves down a bit into another shaded plane like that. Something like that. You can see that shape. I really loved knuckles. You can see we follow that pattern that we talked about before, where we get a curve up here and comes back down like that. The peak is still going to be this here. So really that curve is a bit more like that. There's still peeking there. Again, you can see the varying amounts of visibility here. The pinky we can't really see at all. Then here in your ring finger, you can see more of the finger, but it still starts to disappear. Then as we go we can see more. Here we can also think about that cylinder shape, where if this is the base of that cylinder, this is the side, a side that might be shaded there. Then the same thing I do here. I actually block these shapes, a little bit more than a cylinder, so they get a little rectangular. But we can do the same thing here. Then when you're thinking about the way it's like the direction the finger is turning, you could think about stuff like this curve I just did, it just seem simple, but having a curve this way, instead of this way, is going to denote a lot about the direction that the finger is going. Because that finger is turning away from us, the curve is going to go this way, if that makes sense. It's going to cave out like that. In other instances, like if the finger was coming towards you, you can see we have a downward curve. So we wouldn't do that upward curve because then that would destroy the perspective that we're going for, as opposed to like when this fingers coming towards me, I would've done a downward curve, because it just helps with perspective. I hope that makes sense. Then again, moving up, blocking in the shape, here we've got a side plane, like that. Then again here, can think about those side planes and the other one there, and then another one here. Then we've got a bit of curve. I like to accentuate the curves where the joints are there, and give a little bit of extra curves in my hands. We can see that here. This is really interesting. This is where that finger shows up, behind in-between here, where it's hiding back in here. Then we've got again, that downward curve here, we can see that other direction of curve. I've just placed all of this in shadow. This our top plane is basically invisible. We can't really see very much of that. Our thumb here. Same thing. We can break this down into like square shapes, and then do something like that were then we've got a side plane now, with the direction of my lighting now, stills that same cube-y shape, but then we're going to shade this instead. Then here, got that side thing curving now with the pad of the thumb. I love the thumb pad, that's one of my favorite things to draw there. Again, I can just shade like that. I hope this gives a better understanding of putting those things into perspective. This is blocking in those shapes, and technically all this area is a bit shaded as well. But you can see how blocking in the shapes and then just adding the contour, which is the outer shape, contours referring to the outer shape. So think about that outer shape of the hand and combining that with our basic forms, we got a much more realistic looking hand, which of course is a lot block here now that I written on it. We're going do one more hand. This time I'm going to focus on the outer form of the hand first. I'm going to get in a basic outer shape, and that's going to help us with establishing proportions. If we get the outer shape correct first, we'll know that the overall size of the hands is correct, and then we'll still do some breaking them to geometric shapes. Let's go ahead and move into the second hand. 8. Example Hand #2: We've got the basics of our secondhand here. I know I switched the colors, but I want to do the same thing we did last time, which is breaking down into basic shapes to understand the formula a little bit better. Before I do that, I want talk about some more patterns stuff that we can see occurring here. We can see the rhythm of a hand, like I said. As we go down here, we're seeing more curvature in the fingers. Another really interesting and beautiful thing that occurs in the hands is, as you can see, as each hand goes down, is actually starting to curve in like towards each other more. You can see here, this one tucks itself down behind this finger. When we get to the pinkie here, it's actually like sitting at a different angle here. Like that as opposed to, as you can see this gradual change in angle of the fingers and that's one of my favorite things of our hands, is just seeing these natural rhythms that they follow. What I wanted to do with his finger or with this hand was to show a bit more of that, but also to show a slight variance in perspective. I turned my hand up this way so that my palm was larger than my finger area. I wanted to portray that. Let's talk a little bit about these shapes here. Again, we've got our cylinder form here, cube like this. For the rest, I really like to include the wrist to see how the hand connects to the rest of the body. Now this form, when we think about like that wrist, I know I broke it down opposite here. Let me break it down this way, the way I normally do. We can think about this underside here, and that's rather large in this particular drawing. Part of the reason why that's large, is again because of that perspective. It's appearing larger to us. If that side was cutaway like we have done before for the thumb, you can see that undersides showing there, and then this larger sections, the whole thumb. We've got again this idea of, as they go curve away from us, we've got that outward curve in the fingers like that. I love those thumb pads. Again, I can see I've shaded this section here. Now, I drew him thumbnails here, I a fingernail. I hate drawing fingernails. I feel like so many times they just distract from the drawing. Maybe that's just because I'm not very good at them. But this one here I think is actually pretty useful because that upward curve of the fingernail helps us to better get a sense of the perspective here, that this finger is coming towards us a bit. What i did, we've got this upward cylinder here, and then this cylinder that like starts back here and then ends up here, if that makes sense. It connects to itself that way. Then a third cylinder that comes forward. I know I just totally botched that, but I hope you understand that makes sense. You know what I mean. These curve downward a whole lot, but so we can see this varying angle of curves. We've got these curves this way and this way, and this curve coming down like that. You can see these curving at different directions. One really important curve is when you understand that these are broken down into shapes, you know where to place lines. Things like this and this, you can understand better the direction because you know what's going to sit in front of what, if that makes sense. This line would go like this as opposed to curving out this way because we know that this is a cylinder. When you think of that as a whole cylinder and the same thing here, where the skin folds in front of each other. That's really, really super useful, I hope that makes sense to you. We can see this general overall shape here, where this bottom section is much larger here and then narrower up here. We've got this general shape of something that is down like this. Down here, the fingers are further away, so they're smaller and the wrist is closer to us, so it's larger. Generally the palm, that is a large area here. The more you tilt, the smaller this area seems and the larger it appears here. I wanted to show a little bit of that perspective here. I prefer the more stylized, less blocky look with some of these hands but doing this and after you draw it. Can I break down these basic shapes? Can I still see what I did here? The work that I did, that's super helpful. You can define those blocky shapes before, lay on top of them, and then redefine them at the end. I think that's super helpful and seeing whether or not you've actually accomplished your goal. Believe it or not, we're actually getting so close to the end already. We're going to be moving into our final project, which we've already started here. It's this idea of drawing your hand from three different angles. In the next video, I'm going to do my class project for you guys. I am going to draw the hand from three different angles. Let's do it. It's class project time. I'm so excited guys. 9. Class Project!: All right guys, it is class project time. This is just going to be a quick speed, draw, time-lapse of my free hand positions. We'll talk a little bit at the end. If you want to draw along with me, of course you will be going quite as fast as me because I'm going to speed this up. But if you want to draw along with me, that would be fantastic. I can't thank you guys enough for joining me for this class. I hope that you have learned and have had as much fun as I had and we'll see it soon. Let me wrap this up. We'll talk a little more at the end. I want to slow this down a second. I know we just got started, but I just want to encourage you guys to challenge yourself drawing these drawings. It might be easy to just sit your hand flat on a surface somewhere and draw it three times, maybe a little bit different each time. But it's so rewarding once you take these building blocks to actually try something hard, try something different. For me, I've never drawn my hand in this slightly uncomfortable position before. But it's so exciting, and for me hands are like a therapeutic thing to draw. I love drawing hands and I wouldn't enjoy it as much if I didn't feel like I was accomplishing something that I didn't know that I could do. Again, I'm just going to say, try something new. Try something that might seem a bit crazy or a bit hard, because in the end when you pull it off, you're going to be so glad that you took the time to try something that was a little bit different from what you had expected. There's my little bit of encouragement there. This one is really a lot more challenging for me, because I don't really get the perspective of the hand coming towards me as much as the head going away. That's a bit easier for me, but the hand coming towards is a struggle. If I'm going to challenge you guys, I guess I should challenge myself too. Here I'm going to be thinking a lot about the sockets. Those sockets that the fingers are going to become an out of and doing the cylinders to or the swirl to draw the finger coming towards me, so wish me luck. All right, there we have a guys. Three sketched hands, my hand in various positions and just to let you know, all once that I had never really done before. I hope you have enjoyed this class. I seriously cannot wait to see the hands that you draw, so please if you enjoyed this class I would love to see your drawings. Please share them with me and I'm excited to see how we can encourage each other and see how everyone chooses to do their hands a little bit differently. Of course, even know two hands look the same, so everyone's are going to look a little bit different, and then everyone is going to interpret their hands a little bit differently. Please stay tuned for part two, the second class, in which we are going to actually color these hands using watercolor paints. I'm so excited to show you that totally different process from taking sketches like these and turning them into then small painted pieces, so stay tuned for that next class guys, and I'll see you next time. Thanks again for joining me. I'm Alicia. See you later.