Master how to draw hand gestures and improve your artistic drawing skills

Drawing hands and fingers can be difficult, but it’s a very important skill to learn. Hands are one of the most expressive parts of the body, and they can add a lot of life to your drawings.

Learn how to draw hand gestures with this easy step-by-step guide and power tips that will improve your drawing skills overall. 

Understand the basics of how to draw hand gestures

To start, observe how the hand is structured. The bones in the hand are arranged in a way that allows for a lot of movement.

There are three main sections to the hand: the palm, the back of the hand, and the fingers. Each section has its own set of muscles that allow it to move in different ways.

Paired with a wrist, hand gestures can tell so many stories on their own and add lots of symbolism to an artwork.

When you’re ready to start drawing, begin with some basic shapes. Start with a simple line to denote the angle of the arm, wrist, and hand.

Then draw an oval for the palm and two rectangles for the back of the hand and fingers. Add some lines to indicate where the joints are located.

Once you have the basic shapes down, start refining your drawing. While details are not required in gesture drawings, you can add some high-level details such as fingernails or lines where the skin folds.

Difference between hand gesture drawing and anatomy hand drawing

Anatomy hand drawings are usually more detailed and specific. They include all of the bones, muscles, and tendons in the hand.

An example of a hand anatomy drawing
An example of a hand anatomy drawing

Gesture drawings are meant to be more expressive and capture the motion and feeling of the hand.

An example of a hand gesture drawing
An example of a hand gesture drawing

When you’re finished with your drawing, take a step back and assess it. Is the overall message of the drawing clear? Do the gestures look natural? Are the proportions accurate? If not, make some adjustments until you’re happy with your work.

With practice, anyone can learn how to draw hand gestures effectively. Just remember to keep it simple, focus on the overall message, and have fun!

So we now know the basics of hand gesture drawing and we understand the difference between a hand gesture drawing and an anatomy hand drawing.

Let us now look at the basic shapes that make up a hand gesture.

Break hand gestures down into recognizable shapes

One of the easiest ways to draw hand gestures is to break them down into simple shapes. When you look at a hand, you can see that it’s made up of a series of circles, ovals, and rectangles.

By breaking the hand down into these basic shapes, you can make the drawing process much simpler.

how to draw hand gestures
Break down hand gestures into basic shapes.

How do you draw hand gestures step by step?

There are only a few steps required when drawing hand gestures. First, you draw a guideline to help you determine the proportion and placement.

Then you add some details such as the palm, thumb, and fingers, and then add some shading.

Start with a light sketch

When you’re first starting out, it’s always best to start with a light sketch. This will help you get the proportions and placement of the hand right before you start adding details.

Once you’re happy with the overall shape of the hand, you can start to darken your lines and add more details.

hand outline

Keep the line work rough, we aren’t looking for realism here. Hand gesture drawings and gesture drawings, in general, are about capturing a moment in a moment.

Start with a line to guide the overall drawing

After you’ve decided on the placement of your hand, start with a line that will guide the rest of the drawing. This doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be close to the final shape that you want.

hand with finger

Now start fleshing out the drawing

Now that you have the general shape of the hand down, it’s time to start fleshing out the drawing. Start by adding some lines for the fingers will be.

Remember, we’re not going for realism here, so don’t worry if the fingers aren’t perfectly proportioned.

Next, add an oval for the palm or the top side of the hand and a semi elongated oval for the thumb. Again, these don’t have to be perfect, but they should give a general idea of where these parts of the hand.

Repeat the basic shapes for the fingers. Keep in mind where each part of each finger bends.

hand with finger more definition

Look at your hand and notice how fingers will relax one way depending on the angle. If you do not want to draw your own hand, use a reference image or hand model.

You can add some shading

Shading is an important part of the drawing, and it can really bring your drawings to life. When adding shading, think about where the light is coming from.

In this case, we’re going to say that the light is coming from the top-left of the page.

adding light source to hand drawing

With that in mind, start by adding some shadows to the underside of the fingers and thumb. The oval for the palm should also be shaded on the left side since that’s where the shadow would fall.

You can also add some wrinkles or creases in the skin to make the hand look more realistic. Just remember to keep them subtle – too much detail can make a drawing look overdone.

While most artists will not use shading in gesture drawings, I like to add shading as it helps with depicting movement.

Hand Gestures drawing references

One of the best ways to learn how to draw hand gestures is by using references. This could be either a photo of people using their hands in a specific way or hand gesture models such as wooden mannequins.

hand mannequin on a stand

If you are using photos, make sure they are high quality and that the person is in a variety of different positions. Don’t look at just the hand on its own, put the hand in context with the overall person, and then focus on what the hand is doing.

You can even access online tools such as this hand reference generator where reference images are displayed based on your search criteria.

A Hand reference generator is simple but useful. They will trawl the internet for images that match your search and display images on a rotating basis (30 seconds or more before the image changes).

Drawing from life is another fantastic way to improve your drawings. Make sure you choose a variety of different subjects with different hand shapes and sizes.

You can also use your own hand as a reference! This is a great way to get familiar with how the different parts of the hand look and how they move. I became an expert at drawing my left hand from all angles.

Using hand mannequins is also a great way to get practice. You can find these online or at your local art store. You can get basic ones that are broken up into the various components of fingers, palm and thumb.

hand mannequin

Hand gesture drawing tips

Hand gestures do not need to be difficult but getting them right is easy with some of these tips:

  • Start with the basics and work your way up. If you can’t draw a hand properly, draw simple hands that look like a mitt with no fingers and work your way up.
  • Use a variety of references to get different perspectives.
  • Practice, practice, practice! Learn and practice to draw hands at all angles, hands in motion, hands holding things from pens, to mugs, to glass to cigarettes to holding a chin.
  • Draw what you see and not what you think you see. Our brain often tricks us into seeing things that are not really there, so it is important to look at your subject matter carefully and draw only what you see. If you struggle to draw hands from memory, use reference materials.
  • Look for the negative spaces. When drawing hands, look for the spaces in between the fingers and use those to help create the gesture. Pay attention to the details. Fingers are not all the same length, nor are they perfectly straight.
  • Look at how the nails curve and how the skin creases when the hand is in different positions.
  • Shading can also be very important in creating a realistic hand drawing but for gesture drawing, you only need basic shading. Use light and shadow to create depth and dimension.
  • Study the old masters who used hands as a way to give symbolic meaning or to tell a story.
  • Hands are a very powerful tool in communication and can convey a wide range of emotions.
  • The more you draw hands, the better you will become at it. There is no magic formula or one right way to do it. Just keep drawing and eventually, you’ll get the hang of it!
Old masters made good use of hands to tell a story. Here, hands are the focal point of the painting. Albrecht Dürer - Jesus Among The Doctors
Old masters made good use of hands to tell a story. Here, hands are the focal point of the painting. Albrecht Dürer – Jesus Among The Doctors

Take feedback and criticism positively

Take feedback and criticism positively from other artists either in person or online in artist forums and learn from it. With time and practice, you will become an expert at drawing hand gestures.

How to draw hand gestures – wrap up!

Drawing hand gestures can be a fun way to add some flair and personality to your sketches, but it’s also a useful tool for artists who want to learn more about human anatomy and drawing motion.

By breaking down hand gestures into recognizable shapes, you can make it easier to understand the complex structures of the hands and fingers.

In this post, we’ve shared some tips on how to draw hand gestures step by step, as well as a few recommended resources for further learning. Feel free to share this post with your artist friends – we hope you find it helpful!

I also have How you can improve on your gesture drawings – ultimate tips if you would like to learn more about gesture drawings in general.


Albrecht Dürer – Jesus Among The Doctors [1506] by Gandalf’s Gallery

ALLORI Alessandro – Trois Etudes anatomiques d’une Main (drawing, dessin, disegno-Louvre INV12) – 0” by L’art au présent is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Hand Holding Dip Pen” by Peter Alfred Hess is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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