How to Draw Hands and Feet

Drawing hands and feet has been the bane of a number of budding artists. Even some professionals skirt the issue of drawing these parts correctly by hiding them behind other characters or conveniently placed things like rubble, bodies, etc. I had a friend in college who called it the dreaded ‘foot fear.‘ Well, fear no more. Today I’m going to tackle the foundations of drawing feet and hands in the easiest way possible – by showing you how they are broken down into a series of simple shapes. With enough practice, you won’t have to rely on the base shapes to work your way to a completed hand or foot – you’ll be able to do it from memory.

Here we go!

The Hand

The hand is comprised of 4 fingers, 1 thumb, a palm and a series of connective ligaments, joints and bones, etc. Don’t get too hung up on details when drawing hands, because you’ll probably forget about the basic shapes within. Here is an example of a regular hand, palm down, fingers outstretched.

It may lack detail, but you get the general idea. By adding a few minor details, you’ll see the following things that can make or break a realistic looking hand. Remember these key things.
– The middle finger is the longest
– The ring finger and index finger are almost the same length
– The pinky finger is smaller and thinner
– The thumb is drawn in profile when the hand is flat

You’ll note that on the fourth point, it is extremely difficult to get your thumb to lay flat with your fingers outstretched while it is in a resting state. Try putting your hand on the desk and get your thumb to lay completely flat – it’s not that easy.

Now, in order to draw a hand successfully, you should break it down into its simplest parts. Let’s assume that each part of the hand is a circle or ellipse. Here’s what it would look like:

Note the single ellipse at the fingertips, one for the location of the main joint, one for the position of the knuckle, and a large circle outlining the area of the palm. These are the basic construction lines used to create the hand. The main difference lies in the creation of the thumb, which has an elongated section for the secondary joint instead of a pronounced knuckle. The next time you draw your hand, think of how each digit would look in a series of circular forms like the one shown below, then roughly draw it with connecting lines, and complete the details.

Don’t forget – when in doubt, use reference material!

Examine where the circular forms are for the joints and digits, and connect those pieces to make your basic hand shape. Once that’s done, then add in your details like skin creases, fingernails, tendons, etc.

As a cartoonist, you may not need all of those details – BUT it’s very important to know the basics of anatomy in order to make your characters look a bit more believable, no matter how simplified they are. Next to a character’s eyes, hands are one of the most expressive parts your character has. If you draw them properly, you’ll convey better emotions.

The Foot

Just like the hand, feet are also tricky body parts to draw correctly. Once again, picture the form in its simplest parts, and it becomes a lot more manageable. try these simple exercises and you’ll get over your foot fear. Here’s a basic foot shown in overhead view:

Just like the basic hand drawing I did earlier, this may not appear to be the most detailed, but if you pay close attention, you’ll notice all the interesting nuances that make this foot appear normal.

– The toes form a curve from the largest toe at the peak, to the smallest toe at the low end of the curve
– Each toe gets progressively smaller, but maintains the one joint crease
– The toenails on all the toes except the big toe are drawn right to the edge of the outline. This creates the illusion of the toes curling inward, which they do in their natural relaxed state
– There is a slight bulge in the foot after the big toe which leads into the arch of the foot
– The ankle bone on the big toe side sticks out as far as that bulge, with the arch connecting both sections

Now, here are the basic circular forms used in its construction.

Note the position of the small ellipses for the toes, a large and small ellipse to form the ends of the toes (metatarsal area), two more ellipses to indicate the location of the ankle bones and a large circle to indicate the heel. These 10 shapes comprise the main joints and bones of the foot. Once your foundation has been set, go ahead and use reference photos to determine the shape of the connecting lines. You will be able to figure out where your arch and outer lines of the foot will be. Just remember to draw these basic circular forms first and build them up into a solid foot drawing.

This jumble of circles can easily be transformed into a great looking foot. As always, refer to real life photographs for accuracy:

Now a profile view is a bit different. Take note of where the shapes would appear. The big toe is obscured by the other toes in front of it. Examine the heel, the arch of the foot, leading through the metatarsal area into the toes.

Take note of how the foot changes shape slightly in different action poses. But you can see that the forms still remain the same – circular forms for the toes, ankles and heels. It’s all in where those initial shapes are positioned. Take this one piece of advice – draw as many feet in action poses as possible – running, jumping, standing, etc. You will get a better understanding of the shape of the foot and how to draw it in various situations.

And there you have it – a basic hand and foot drawing tutorial. Now that you’re warmed up, keep practicing! Don’t forget – if you get stuck with a certain pose, use reference photos. Even the most accomplished artists do it! See you next time.

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  1. Hands and feet kill me. I’ve been trying all sorts of ways to figure out how to properly draw them, especially when in motion (grasping, moving, etc.). I’m going to try these techniques. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  2. Now try taking that “how to” and removing a finger and a toe. My characters are drawn a-la Flintstones, 4 fingers, 4 toes and a lot of extremity confusion! o.O

    I take a lot of pictures of me in a mirror to get the mental image of how my hands should be placed. Even then, its a crap shoot.

    • Jynksie…
      I know it’s been a year since Drezz wrote this article but if you’re interested, I could write up a cartoon version of this same article that’s more in line with all the cartoony-Flinstone cartoonists that come here (which i am one, of course).


  3. Great tutorial. Byron had a great tip once that I have used. He said he takes a picture of his hand (etc) using his webcam as a reference. I have used my cell phone camera to do the same. Helps tremendously.

  4. Pingback: Webcomic Beacon Newscast: Comic News & Discussion #82The Webcast Beacon Network

    • There are three muscles that make up the muscles in that area:
      – opponens policis
      – Abductor policis brevis (the big one)
      – flexor policis brevis

      I don’t believe there is a simpler term for the fatty area below the thumb other than ‘the fatty area below the thumb.’


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