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Drawing hands and feet

Hands and feet are complex forms made even more complex by familiarity.  We know that the fingers and and toes extend out from the body of the hand and foot, but don’t often notice exactly how.

Drawing a hand or foot seems daunting at first, but once you know how to break it down, it becomes much more manageable. 

Just like any other thing you want to draw, the first thing to do is analyze the subject for direction and shape.  Mentally break the hand or foot down into its most basic shapes and then, analyze the direction of the shape that all other shapes emanate from–the main body of the hand or foot.


Regardless of the angle or side of the hand, the body of the hand has a rectangular shape that comes off the wrist at a particular angle.  Lightly draw that first. 

Next, notice the way the fingers come up out of the hand.  It isn’t an even horizontal line.  Take a look at the top of your own palm.  See the way pinky sits lower than the others.  you can imagine a line running from the base of the pinky to the base of the middle finger and another line running from the base of the index finger to the base of the middle finger. 

Lightly draw the angles across the top of the hand.

Take note of where the thumb emerges.  The thumb actually originates in the base of the palm. 

The next thing to do is to locate the base of each finger and the thumb. 

The top of the palm is divided in half.  There are spaces between each pair of fingers.  Figure out where along the top of your hand you see the base of each finger and make a mark on your drawing where each should go. 

Next, look at the thumb side of the hand to determine the point of origin of the thumb and make a mark on the drawing where it should go.

Now, establish the direction of each digit.  Each finger exits the hand in its own direction.  Draw an axial line for the first digit of each finger.  Do the same for the thumb.

Next, build each first digit.  The first digit of each finger is a kind of rectangle.  First determine the height of each one.  An easy way to do this is to look for the tallest one and use it to find the height of the others.  Use what you know about measuring proportion to determine how tall the tallest first digit (usually the middle finger) should be.   The tops of the first digits line up in a similar fashion to the angles of the top of the hand.  Draw an imaginary horizontal line connecting the tallest one through the shortest ones.  Now you know the height and direction of each first digit, draw its rectangular shape.  Use the negative shapes between the fingers to help you figure out how wide to make each one. 

Repeat the above procedure for the rest of the digits of the fingers.

For the thumb, simply draw the axial line, determine the height from the base to the first knuckle by comparing it to the height of the body of the hand, and then draw its simple rectangle.  Not that the top digit of the thumb will probably be seen in profile and will look more like a triangle than a rectangle.  Use your axial line to make sense of the angle and then find the shape.

Once you have everything blocked in, begin to search for the volumes of the hand. 

Then, erase any extra lines if you like.

Finally, go in with your contour line to complete the drawing.  Use line weight variation to show areas of light and dark alone the form and also to articulate areas where there is a directional shift (the change from the side to the top of a finger, for example)  Remember, the form will tell you where it needs to be a little extra dark.  Scan the contours of the hand or foot.  See how in some places the edge is darker and in some places it is lighter?

With feet, the process is almost exactly the same.  In some ways it is less complicated, though.  In general the toes can be consolidated into a simple shape that looks more or less like a rectangle at an angle across the top of the foot.  I call this part the toe box.


When you draw a foot, you think first about direction: axial lines down the center and across the toes, and then break it into two main shapes: the body of the foot and the toe box.


Once you have established the simple shapes.  Make marks across the base of the toe box to indicate the base of each toe.  Draw axial lines for each one.  Draw their simple shapes. 

Once you have established the direction and shapes of the foot, seach for the volumes and then, if desired, clean up any unnecessary lines.

Go in with your contour line to complete the drawing.