Common Hand Expressions - The Fist

Common Hand Expressions - The Fist

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Hello! My name is Liz Staley and I’m a long-time user of Clip Studio Paint (I started using the program back when it was known as Manga Studio 4!). I was a beta-tester on the Manga Studio 5 program and for Clip Studio Paint, and I have written three books and several video courses about the program. Many of you probably know my name from those books, in fact. I write weekly posts on and on CSP Tips, so be sure to come back every week to learn more Clip Studio Tips and Tricks from me!

I’m sure I’ve said this in previous articles, but hands can be really difficult to draw. There are so many little moving parts and they are deceptively intricate. When a hand drawing isn’t right, then it’s probably going to be the first thing someone notices. Even after years of studying, drawing, and pulling my hair out over hands, I still don’t really feel like I’m great at portraying them. And I really don’t feel qualified to teach anyone how to draw them! But maybe I’ve picked up a few things over the years that might help someone, so here we are.

As stated before, hands are a complex thing. But there are tons of tutorials and such about how to draw basic hands, so in this tutorial let’s look at how to draw a very common hand pose in manga - a clenched fist!

In this article we will cover the following topics:


Breakdown of the Fist
Drawing the Fist in Foreshortening

Let’s get drawing!



Breakdown of the Fist


As reference for the drawings I’ll be showing in this article, I’m going to be using some of the 3D hand pose models that come standard with CSP. These can be found in the Material Library under 3D - Pose - Hand.



Pasting a hand pose to your canvas will paste a full-body generic model in with the hands already pre-posed. You can then adjust the arms, body, and camera to get either a reference of the entire pose you’re trying to draw or zoom in to focus just on the hand (which is what I’ll be doing today!)

I find one of the most important things to do when drawing hands is to think about the hand in parts. I usually break the hand down into four parts: palm, thumb, first knuckles, second knuckle/finger tips. For this tutorial I’ll be drawing those parts in different colors to make it easier to distinguish them.



I will be using blue for the palm, green for the thumb, purple for the first knuckle section of the fingers, and orange for the rest of the fingers.

Let’s start with the fist in an almost side view, which is a pretty common angle to draw a punch from. Below is the pose I’ll be drawing from.


I like to start with the palm - or in this case it’s more like the back of the hand - first. I think of this part of the hand as a rectangular shape. To help with the perspective, I drew the basic shape over the reference, then drew it again larger in the free space I’ll actually be completing my drawing in.



The first knuckles of the hand form the second most important structure of the fist, in my opinion. This is the area of the hand that would actually strike another object if this fist connected with something. It tends to be perpendicular to the palm area. Again, I drew the basic outline over the reference fist and then used that to draw the basic guide on my drawing.


(I also realized either about now or in the next step that my palm area is out of proportion to the fingers and fixed it.)

This doesn’t look the best right now, but we’re just putting down the guidelines and getting the proportions correct, so it’s not a big deal just yet.

The thumb is the next largest area of the fist from this angle. In this typical fist, the thumb comes down around the fingers and flexes to tuck in just under what I’m calling the “first knuckle” area.



Finally we have the rest of the fingers, which are mainly hidden as they curl back behind the first part of the fingers and the thumb.



With the guidelines all drawn out both on my sketch and over the reference pose, this is a great time to check your proportions before moving forward. I noticed that on my sketch the back of the palm section toward the wrist was too far away from the base of the thumb.

Now we can create a new layer and finish out the sketch using the shapes we mapped out in the previous steps. This is where a foundation of observation is very helpful to have, by the way! For instance, in my drawing below I made the front of the hand (the part that would connect with something/someone else in a punch) much more vertical than it is in the reference model. I feel like this provides a stronger look to the hand position and makes it look more solid.



The more straight lines you use, the stronger your drawing will usually appear. I feel like a fist with a more “straight up and down” front to it looks like it would hit more solidly. Maybe that’s just me though!



Drawing the Fist in Foreshadowing


Another common position that you’ll see a fist drawn is in a foreshortened manner. This makes the fist look like it’s coming forward toward the viewer, and can be very dynamic and exciting!



In this view, we mainly see the base of the fingers and the thumb, however we can see little bits of the rest of the hand as well. The base of the fingers form the front of the fist and are shaped like a rectangle that is shorter on one side than the other. The thumb wraps around one side and under this part of the hand.


We’ll only be able to see a tiny portion of the rest of the fingers in this view, but there is a little bit still visible. On the side opposite the thumb there is a tiny bit of the front of the palm visible.

Again, we need to bring a bit of our observation of real life into the final drawing for this one. 3D models are convenient to use for reference, however they sometimes don’t capture all the ways that a person’s skin folds and how the bones show through in places as we move. For instance, when you form a fist the skin between your first finger and the base of your thumb gets wrinkles in it, and the skin between your palm and the base of the pinky tends to fold and stick out a bit. The knuckles on the back of the hand also get more pronounced as the fingers tighten into the fist, making the skin pull across the bones.








I hope that there was at least a little bit of useful information in this article for you if you’re struggling with drawing the fist. Remember to keep practicing and making observations from photos and real life and you will improve over time!

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