How to Draw Hands

A question I’m asked from time to time, and I know plenty of other artists get this as well, is, “How do you draw hands (and sometimes feet) in comics?”

In my capacity as a wizened(ish) comic sage(-esque non-sage guy), I would like to pass on to you the advice that really helped me in this particular aspect of comic art. I cannot remember for the life of me who this advice came from, but I think it was in a how-to column in an old issue of Wizard Magazine. And it goes (paraphrased) thusly:

Look at a hand. Draw what you see. If you’re trying to be a professional comic artist, chances are you have at least one hand. There’s no shame in being your own model.

I think sometimes aspiring artists want to think that everything they draw has to come from their imagination. They see some sort of stigma attached to using reference materials. Or maybe some young artists have just never thought to do so.

There’s an anecdote I remember about the late, great Michael Turner (one of my personal favorite comic artists of all time, and a guy who could sneeze out a perfectly drawn hand). His first day at Top Cow, he was working as a background artist for company founder Marc Silvestri, and by lunch had drawn a skyline that looked like a bunch of loaves of bread stacked on end. Silvestri thought the kid would wash out and be gone by the end of the day, but gave him a reference book about skyscrapers to peruse over lunch. When Silvestri came back, Mike had drawn one of the most amazing skylines Silvestri had ever seen. When asked what had changed over lunch, Mike shrugged and said, “No one ever told me to look at references before.”

For nearly inarticulable reasons, hands (and feet) are a major part of human anatomy that are particularly troublesome to draw. Some big name artists simply won’t do it. When I’ve seen tutorials on the matter on other websites, things get very complicated. Measurements and formulas and graphs and charts are brought in. Math. Honest-to-God math in a “how-to-draw” tutorial. Which strikes me as insane, but if it works for some, it works (who am I to judge? I’m writing a “How-To-Draw” column with no pictures). If you’re interested in that sort of tutorial, I’m sure it wouldn’t take you long to find one online.

What works for me, though, is that advice I read in Wizard all those years (decades? Crap I’m old) ago: look at a hand, draw what you see.