The present study examined the initiation of digit contact and fingertip force development during whole-hand grasping. Sixteen healthy subjects grasped an object instrumented with force transducers at each digit and lifted it 10 cm. The grip (normal) and load (tangential) forces and the position of the object were recorded. Twenty-five lifts were performed with various object weights (300 g, 600 g, 900 g) and surface textures (sandpaper and rayon). Despite the large number of degrees of freedom, grip initiation with an object using the whole hand was characterized by stereotypical contact patterns, which are idiosyncratic to each subject across all object weights and textures. However, in spite of the initial asymmetric control, the forces were mainly synchronized by the occurrence of the peak grip and load force rates. The contribution of each digit to the total grip force decreased from radial to ulnar digits. The final force distribution was generally established already at the onset of load forces. Only subtle adjustments were seen thereafter, suggesting a fairly fixed force distribution pattern throughout the grasp. The findings suggest that, despite the large number of degrees of freedom in terms of contact initiation and force distribution in whole-hand grasping: (1) subjects employ preferred movement patterns to establish object contact with their digits, and (2) synchronize the subsequent force development and temporal coordination of the task. Thus while the complexity of the task requires control mechanisms beyond those seen in two-finger precision grasping, there are strategies to simplify the complex task of the initiation and development of fingertip forces in whole-hand grasping.