Hands don’t paint themselves. The motif is much more demanding than many people think. Particularly the vivid shades and the anatomy of the hands must be depicted in a realistic way to achieve a beautiful result.
In this tutorial you will learn exactly how to paint hands with watercolours which are anatomically correct, display intensive shading, but can still be done by beginners.
First you will learn which material you need for this tutorial, then we will go through the process to paint it step by step.
Material to paint hands in watercolor
- Watercolors: You need a selection of colour shades to mix a basic skin colour, which you then adjust by adding nuances.
- Painting surface: The most commonly used paper for watercolors is cold-pressed, but there are other options available. It is important to have a certain absorbency and a texture so that the color does not become dull when you layer them on top of each other.
- Watercolor brush: A pair of medium and fine brushes is enough to learn how to paint hands in watercolor and follow along.
How to paint hands in watercolor – Use layers!
As in all our watercolor painting instructions we rely on layering techniques. The layering technique is essential to create depth of colour and dimensionality.
It is also easier to bring the rather chaotic medium of watercolour under control, at least a little better.
Step 1: Sketch your hand
Take a photo of your hand or find a suitable motif as a reference image. A flat shot from above is ideal for getting started and for studying the anatomy.
If you already have some experience in drawing or painting the back of a flat hand, you can also choose more demanding poses. Certainly the hand posture from Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam seems to be everybody’s darling sooner or later.
Take your pencil and draw the hand with light pressure on your painting paper. Start with more abstract shapes (a large circle for the hand and long ovals for the fingers) to indicate the bone structure. You can then indicate the individual limbs, thicken the knuckles and draw in fingernails. You can also draw a few slight lines between the phalanges.
Tip: Remember, however, that this sketch should not interfere with the actual painting. Especially when you penetrate the tissue deeply with your pencil chances are that your pencil lines are going to be visible later on.
Step 2: Use masking fluid to keep white areas clean
Unlike acrylic or oil paint you have to be a little more careful with watercolor as to where you apply your paint. If the paint flows to an area that is intended to be white, there is no going back. If you are trying to put correcting layers of lighter color on top of it, the area will become even dirtier.
Instead, you should plan out your white highlight areas at an early stage of your artwork. Using masking fluid is the best way to guarantee perfectly white surfaces. Especially in motifs with a high degree of light reflection this is of great advantage.
Step 3: How to paint hands – Apply a base layer
Now mix your skin colour as a base for the hands. Depending on the amount of water you add to the mixture, you can vary the intensity.
If you establish a common color base with an undercoat, the later layers will interact more harmoniously.
Step 4: Create intensity through color gradations
You can now paint the shaded in the right color by adding a brown or red tone and reducing the amount of water.
Repeat mixing and applying each color to the points of interest and the shades of your hands to create a sense of depth.
Step 5: Remove the masking liquid and expose the highlights
The painted hands now only need to be freed from the masking liquid. To do this, carefully rub the area with your own finder’s tip until all residues have been removed from the surface.