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The Language of Hands

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Nov. 11, 2023

So I know I got two pending articles to finish up my Religion and my Catharsis series but I'm too tired right now to talk about anything that requires sociopolitical analyses and extrapolations.

So let's talk about hands in comics!

One of the easiest way to mitigate the dreaded “talking heads” panel is to use the character's hands. A dry ‘just the head" panel becomes more animated, interesting, and relatable if you include the character’s hands doing some kind of gesture that enhances or underlines what is being said or what the character is feeling.

Consider this panel. When is it more interesting (besides the hopefully interesting expression), with or without Etan's hand in the frame?


Also, when do you feel more confident about the range of emotions Etan's feeling? With or without the hand?

Without the hand, it's clear he's shocked and/or surprised (I hope). But with the hand, there's (hopefully) an extra nuance of him feeling dread at what he's about to hear.

Hands enhance our expression and often are the way we express things left unsaid. Someone who speaks calmly and steadily may have hands that shake or may be wringing them, and that's how we know he's masking stress. Or perhaps, the old-faithful go-to of kdramas when a character is silently angry, balling hands into a fist around fabric:

Of course, there are also gestures that can underline a character's ethnicity:





Yes all of the above are rude gestures so uh, don't use without due diligence. XD

Using a gesture that codes for a specific ethnicity can add authenticity to your character- if of course it's used sparingly and doesn't devolve into ethnic stereotypes that may be overdone and get you the opposite effect- telegraph to your audience that you haven't done research and/or are flirting with racism.

Don't use this. Just don't. Unless you really know what and specifially when you're doing.

Having a character gesticulate can also be a form of comedy or a great boost to the sheer magnitude of a character's emotional state.

Hands are beautiful, expressive, and incredibly versatile. Hands speak. So as creators of visual mediums we should do our best to employ the language of hands and let them do the talking whenever we can.

How do you use hands in your comics?

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PaulEberhardt at 4:48AM, Nov. 12, 2023

Hand gestures speak volumes. Great article! Of course, they take work to get right, not just in comics. I remember a rhetoric seminar I took part in, and at least half of it was just about hand gestures and the impression we make with them. Ever since, I've kept seeing how any people don't really know where to keep their hands while talking or what to do with them, making them look more insecure than they actually are or in the worst cases making them send conflicting messages that don't really match up. I've tried to reflect that in some characters of mine at some point but came to the conclusion that that wasn't a very good idea. It's in fact a good example how in comics symbolism takes precedence over realism.

rickrudge at 6:00PM, Nov. 11, 2023

Hands are not the easiest for me to draw, either. I keep on trying though, but the intricacies of hand gestures outside of a simple point or grasping an object (in my case usually a weapon) is quite an effort. This article really made me continue my efforts.

J_Scarbrough at 11:14AM, Nov. 11, 2023

Even in live action productions, I was always taught that the more visual you are in expressing and conveying certain emotions, the better it looks on camera, and it doesn't even have to involve facial expressions or hand gestures: a violent full-bodied tremble is effective in conveying anger or fear. Either way, I'm always mindful of such, because the more expressive you can draw your characters, whether in their facial expressions or body language, the more real and believable they will seem . . . and I hope I've done a good job with such, because based on everyone's feedback here, they've very much enjoyed investing in the characters from VAMPIRE GIRL, particularly Levana's despair in her impending sacrfice, or Laura's uncertainty in whether or not Levana can even be found.

Ozoneocean at 6:11AM, Nov. 11, 2023

Lips and eyes are what I use in my comics for subtle indications.

memo333 at 6:03AM, Nov. 11, 2023

Show, don't tell. If you keep telling your audience what's will take the sugar/flavor from a bubblegum, it lost its magic. Hands show, they dont speak. they are silent actors that transform a situation. hands are magical. I love to draw hands. some artist hate to draw them, suck a pity. in my page 17 (I havent upload it) the last panel will be a fist squeezing. whan that page arrives check it and tell me what you feel. its just a hand...but theres a story behind it. I will not tell you why, you will have to keep reading and know why zulema is like that.

bravo1102 at 1:13AM, Nov. 11, 2023

I use hand gestures all the time. But they're dolls and no one notices let alone care. They just think it's how the dolls are molded when in fact I'm often posing them very specifically.

marcorossi at 12:35AM, Nov. 11, 2023

One problem I have with hand movements is that while there are basic emotions/facial expressions, there are no 'basic' hand movements. On an unrelated note:

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