Drawing Hands with a Web Cam

Last year for Christmas, my wife bought me one of the best gifts I’ve received in a long time.  A simple little web cam.  No, not for uploading my wonderful likeness to Avatars around the internet, but rather so I could learn to draw hands better.  A lot of people will say they use small mirrors but for me having a handy web cam sitting on my monitor has helped me conquer drawing hands.

I’ve seen many an artist complain about learning to draw hands.  Yeah, yeah, practice makes perfect, so the first step is to simply draw hands.  But if you draw your own hands, they’re always drawn from the backside, an angle rarely used in comics.  So, a mirror will work well to, but you have to keep looking back at the mirror and holding  your hands in that pose while trying to draw.  Not an easy task (at least for me).

So, I turn on my web cam, point the camera at my hands, strike a pose (cue Madonna) and click the image.  Now I have a reference that won’t move or change and it’s on my desktop along with my drawing.  For me, this was the easiest and best way to learn to draw hands.  If it is in front of me, I can usually draw it.

Today, after a year of using the web cam, there are only certain poses I will need help on and I can quickly sketch out most common hand poses in no time at all.  See! Practice does help!  The only trouble I have at times is when I need both hands in the shot at the same time.  I don’t have a free hand to click the “take image” button with my mouse.  So, I’ve also gotten very adept at clicking the left mouse button with my foot.  I have a wireless mouse and I just place it on the floor for easy clicking with my big toe.

The Artist shown in his natural grumpy old fart pose.

So, scrap those tiny mirrors and go out and buy yourself a cheap web cam.  Then you can conquer drawing hands as well! Plus, you can put your face up on Avatars all over the web.  Who knew?

For the naturally inquisitive types… I draw with an Intuos 3 WACOM tablet using Manga Studio EX4 software.  My web cam is a simple, cheap Logitech model that cost less then $50.

Posted in Drawing, Featured News, Helpful Hints and tagged , .


    • Well, I was getting frustrated drawing hands. I could never find the right references. To me, it seems a lot of tutorials showed you how to draw hands as you looked at them from your perspective… from behind or the side. But how many times are we drawing hands from those angles? Um, like never.

      Plus, my desk area doesn’t have the room for a small mirror, so I begged and begged until I got a web cam. Bingo! Helped a ton!

      Now, no more cheating! Let’s see some hands!

    • Crap! You’re welcome Joe! Sometimes it is the simple ideas that rock your world. Now if I could only package this idea with a web cam and a “How To” book and I’d be set for life.

  1. Byron, I LOVE this article, and the idea behind it. THIS is exactly what we should be striving to share! These silly little tricks that make us better artists and writers!

    Bravo, Old Guy.

  2. that’s brilliant and I can do it too because my MacBook has a cam built in. Need to do something about the lighting, tho!

    What is your technique to cartoonize your photos?

    • Well, I may not understand your question, but I do not “cartoonize” my photos… I merely use them as a reference. I do not trace them or anything like that… I simply look at them like I would any object you wanted to draw.

      I hope I am not misunderstanding your question. If I am, blame it on my age.


  3. A little ditty I read in a drawing book (I don’t remember which one):

    “Napoleon I like to draw best
    He has one hand inside his vest
    The other hand behind his back
    For drawing hands, I have no knack”

    Nice tutorial!

  4. I have an Acer netbook that i sue the same trick on. It’s nice because I can set it anywhere to take the pic. Then put it on the computer table to see it when I draw it. This also frees up my monitor. I am starting to suffer from monitor glut though. After i build a new PC for ‘tooning, I’ll have 2 22″‘s and a 22″ lcd tv (that i sometimes plug the netbook into for YouToob and NetFilx) for company while drawing. The cool thing is aslo saving all the pics for reference later with the drawing, much like you have done. My next challenge, Shoes, feet and people in various poses!

  5. Thank you for that dopeslap upside my head. It didn’t even occur to me to use my webcam that way. I bet I can do that for expressions as well. Thanks!

  6. If you’ve got video capability, another fun activity can be acting out a scene. You’d be amazed what you can discover about the body language of a character once you get in their head, and capture the results on video!

    I used to do shots with a camera on a 10-sec timer, but now most of my reference comes from stills pulled out of recorded motion. (ESPECIALLY useful for fight scenes!!)

  7. Sorry, I am not that quick! So I got the picture in my computer. I guess, I would need a program with sort of an overlay where i can see the photo underneath and then I can draw onto the overlay and use it separately…. what program would that be?

    Amadeus W.

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