Michael Patkin's

Drawing the hand

Publication history, Reflections & comments



Surgery & ergonomics


Information design

Editorials, book reviews




Hands are notoriously difficult to draw, but are very easy to trace.

Several papers on this website include hand diagrams, all of which I did by sitting on a chair, putting my left hand in my lap under a piece of perspex, closing one eye, fixing my neck in a comfortable position, and then tracing the outline of my hand and fingers with a felt-tip pen. I inserted a few extra lines for fingernails and skin creases in the palm and on the fingers.

Then I put a piece of A4 paper over the tracing and secured it to the edge with a paper clip, and did a second tracing. If I wanted the right hand (the dominant one in my case) I just flipped the perspex over first. I could also combine tracings of the two hands, in various postures and activities, and holding different handles and objects.

It helps to have a light cloth over the lap to rest the hand on, to reflect light onto the outline of the hand. To do the second tracing it helps a lot to have a source of light behind it, either a window or an electric light on the floor.

A description of this technique of "glass tracing" can be found in:
Staniland, LN : The principles of line illustration : with emphasis on the requirements of biological and other scientific workers London : Burke, 1952. Call Number: 741.6 S78. This elderly book describes simple drawing techniques through the microscope and may have some other points of interest for surgeons and biologists.






A picture is worth a thousand words —if it can be interpreted