As different as hands seem, they all have similar proportions. The biggest difference in hands is in the thickness of fingers and palms. The general proportions do not vary that much with the exception of small children that are still growing and in general stretching out. Try to develop a standard hand that you can draw from imagination, a prototype that you then modify to suit your subject.
The proportion of the hand in scale to the rest of the figure becomes an expressive element. The large hands of a rough heavy worker, to the delicate hands of a lady, to pudgy, gnarled or cute hands of a child can be imagined by the adjectives we use to describe them.
In this photograph, notice that the half-way point between the arm bones of the lower and the tip of the middle finger is the joint between the metacarpal and phalange bones. Also notice that the joints are not in a straight line but correspond to the ends of the fingers with the middle finger being the longest. The wrist is the same width as the middle three fingers, as indicated by the lines. The top of the hand is not normally a flat line, but slopes away from the middle finger to either side, as shown in the photo. Notice that the flat of the thumb does not line up with the rest of the fingers.
In looking at the profile of the hand you will notice that it is larger than the top of the hand. The muscles must go past the joint to have any leverage. If you put a pencil between your fingers, you will notice that the palm (A) actually comes to about half way between the first 2 joints, (B and C) of the fingers. Many students confuse the end of the palm with the point where the fingers actually bend. Bend your own hand to see where the folds are.
Each section of bone in your fingers get progressively shorter in a ratio of 3:2. Look at the diagram below. The length of the metacarpal bone to the phalanges is 3 units. The next section is two units of the previous one. Each section is shorter than the previous by one unit.
By Glenn Vilppu
This article was taken from the first lesson in the Vilppu Drawing Hands and Feet Manual and is the first in a series dedicated to teaching how to draw the hands and feet. Glenn Vilppu teaches life drawing at the American Animation Institute, the Masters program of the UCLA Animation Dept., Walt Disney Feature Animation, Warner Bros. Feature Animation, Dreamworks and Rhythm & Hues Studios. Vilppu has also worked in the Animation industry for 18 years as a layout, storyboard and presentation artist, most of this time was spent working at Disney. His drawing manual and video tapes are being used worldwide as course materials for animation students. Glenn Vilppu has, in effect, either through teaching them directly or teaching their teachers, trained an entire generation of professional animators.