Push Your Poses to the Extreme! Drawing Cartoon Hands
Using a stylized approach to draw hands can create a different impact in your work. This tutorial explains different ways of stylizing hands, as well as techniques for developing your own style. Artist Stan Prokopenko introduces two methods: heavily exaggerated “cartoon hands” and simplified “comic book hands.”
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to draw two styles of cartoon hands. There’s the highly stylized Cartoon Hands, and the less simple and less stylized Comic Book Hands.
In my previous hands lessons, I went over the anatomy of hands, a bunch of detail for realistic hands, like fingernails, skin creases, fat pads, veins and I gave you guys a general process for drawing and inventing hands from imagination. Watching those will definitely help you fully understand how to draw hands, even cartoon hands. Cartoons are just exaggerations of reality. To exaggerate the hand, it helps to know the hand.
Let me remind you of the procedure and the forms of the hand we already learned. We start with the box of the palm. Add the gesture and cylinders of the fingers. The triangular base of the thumb. The rest of the thumb. And then any details. This process will be the same no matter what style you’re drawing in.
What separates a cartoon hand from a real hand is that the characteristics and expression are drawn in a humorously exaggerated way. Exaggeration is the key word here.
Not all cartoon characters have the 3 fingered glove. Many are more complex, and highly stylized. For example there’s the brilliant Glen Keane with movies like Tarzan, Tangled, and Beauty and the Beast. To draw these types of cartoon hands, anatomy becomes a little more important because the exaggerations are designed based on the anatomy.
Out of the two styles I’m showing in this tutorial, I think this one is the hardest, and personally I think it looks the best. It’s hardest because you have the most artistic freedom to push things how you like. You have to really feel the gesture and make exaggeration decisions that help support the story.
With cartoon-style hands, the shapes are more complex and are designed to express a specific pose. Masterful exaggeration in the right areas is what makes these cartoon hands look so dynamic and awesome. The forms and proportions can be changed a lot to fit the character. For beefy hands, think of meatballs instead of sausages. For slender hands, think of worms, or pencils or… I dunno anything skinny.
Look at hands from your favorite cartoons. They’re a goldmine of reference.
Pause the movie and study the way the artist drew that hand. Why did they push the exaggeration this way? How did they change the forms to make the hand fit the character?
Alright, let’s draw a cartoon hand! I’ll work from a photo so that you guys can see what I’m basing my exaggerations from.
I’m gonna start with a square shaped palm. But I’m not drawing a perfect square. I want it to be moving. I’m using subtle curves and tapering the square thinner at the bottom. It’s a square, but a more interesting square.
I really like how I can see that step down to the hand at the wrist. So, I’ll exaggerate the way those forms lock together.
The thumb is already pretty dynamic in the photo, but I want to take it 10 steps further. Go as far as I can with a crazy dynamic shape without breaking the form. It should still look like a thumb. With cartoons, you can go pretty far though.
I’m designing these shapes based on my knowledge of anatomy though. There’s the thenar eminence muscle mass peeking out here. Then a strong straight through the metacarpal bone, a fold in the skin to exaggerate the bend, and the big trowel shaped top of the thumb.
Don’t be afraid to push and pull the shapes. Experiment and try out various options. If you’re too timid and stick to the reference too much, it’ll probably end up boring. Try to design dynamic and interesting shapes. Have fun!
For the fingers, I’m going with a design that’s skinny at the base and fat at the tips. And large squared nails.
In this pose, the tendons on the back of the hand are important to show the tension. A few strokes is enough to show that.
I’ll also add some width at the knuckles to make the finger shapes more interesting.
Ok, the sketch is done. Next I ink over my blue sketch using my favorite pen tool.
And then there’s the comic books. Marvel, DC, and Japanese Manga hands don’t usually take much liberty with exaggeration. The proportions and forms are very close to what you’d see in real hands. So, all you guys that want to learn how to draw really awesome Anime or Comic Book hands, you’re just gonna have to learn how to draw hands. And I taught that already. So, check out my previous hand lessons.
Since, anime hands are pretty much just real hands as silhouettes with flat shading, I’m gonna take one of my previous hand drawings and make it into an anime style. The details are usually removed, so imagine drawing one of those mannequins at the mall. Realistic proportions without details. I got the silhouette, now I’ll fill the background with a color and fill the hand with another color. If I want to be fancy I can give it a subtle gradation and rim light. Let’s be even more fancy and give the rim light a glow. Change the color of the outline in that area and the glow feels stronger. Yay! Anime hands.
Of course there’s a wide variety of comic book and anime styles. Not all are simple silhouettes with flat shading. Some are highly rendered, especially the cover art. What I showed here is just a typical anime style hand.
Other Videos in this Series
Check out the rest of the lessons in this series to learn more about drawing the bones and muscles of the hand to make your hand drawings realistic.