Tips on Pencil Portrait Drawing – The Hands

Drawing hands takes much practice. Hands are typically quite complex with many smooth transitions between darks and lights. Shapes overlap and need to be studied very carefully to yield acceptable realism. There are also lots of edges, crevices, and creases.

It is imperative that you do not ignore the many angles that are present in the hands. Hands are much more angular than our ingrained memorized image would suggest. Therefore, it is very easy to make the mistake of portraying the hands too chubby and rounded which leads to an unnaturally rounded.

Here are a few pointers that will give you the basic memory pack for drawing hands. When I say “memory pack”, I mean a set of memorized issues about drawing hands that should be in the foreground of your thinking whenever you draw hands. This is a facility you should develop with each feature of a portrait such as eyes, ears, etc.

* Simplify

Generally, any kind of photographic subject will have so much detail that it becomes necessary to simplify, i.e., leaving out much detail. Of course, you must develop a facility to leave out the right details and keep the important ones. This is where your artistic sensibilities play a major role. Making the right choices makes all the difference.

It is a good exercise to look at pictures in magazines and practice the simplification process. Ask yourself the question: What can I eliminate in this picture while still retaining the essence of the subject? In fact, as you get more experienced you may ask yourself the question: What should I add to obtain an even more convincing rendition of the essence of the person I am portraying?

The same is true with drawing hands. The hands have usually so much detail in them that you must discard the unimportant details. At first, keep your eye on the major shapes, the so-called large masses. You do not want to miss those.

Remember, at this stage, try not to think too much of how a hand is supposed to look like, just draw the shapes as they are.

* Males and Females

There are many differences between male hands and female hands. On average, male hands are larger and squarer. For example, the fingers are less tapered and thicker than those of the female. The female hand is slender and the finger tips are much more tapered compared to the male fingers. The fact that females (generally!) do not have hairy hands adds to the lightness in color.

* Values

First, avoid outlining the hands at all cost. Let the edges be formed by applying the correct contrast in values. Study the hand very carefully. Note where one finger overlaps another and be sure to include all the cast shadows.

Also, it is very important to render the reflected light on each finger because that is what will give the finger its roundness and three-dimensional look.

* Angles and Planes

Hands are surprisingly angular, not as much rounded as we sometimes think they are. The joints and knuckles have various planes to them which need to be carefully rendered.

* Blending

Keep the blending of the hands very smooth. Blend the darks into the surface they belong to. This way there is no confusion as to which surface the dark line belongs to. Again, do not forget the reflected light between the fingers. This will create the illusion of roundness of the fingers.

The hands can be used to enhance the visual impact of your pencil portrait drawing. For example, the addition of hands to a baby picture makes the whole thing much more endearing. Therefore, adding hands to a portrait is always something to consider. With this, I think you can have a good start at drawing hands. And remember, practice, practice, and practice some more. Drawing is a hands-on art, so to speak.