Drawing clothing can be quite challenging. The challenge usually centers on the drawing of the folds. There is a lot of reflected light, lots of darks, and many lights. But it is exactly this variety of values that makes the drawing of clothes very attractive but also challenging. Learning to draw fabric well requires a concerted effort and a good deal of practice.
Here are a few tips to memorize:
There are five types of folds we must recognize when drawing clothing:
1. The column fold
2. The drape fold
3. The inert fold
4. The coil fold
5. The interlocking fold
Of course, in a typical situation, more than one of these fold types are present. Here are the definitions:
This type of fold is the most common and is typified by its cylindrical shape suspended or originating from one point. The value pattern is that of a cylinder which involves a hard edge followed by a parallel line of reflected light, a shadow edge and a soft edge. The column fold also shows highlights here and there depending on the location of the light source. You can find such folds frequently in scarves, curtains, and skirts.
This fold comes about when a piece of fabric is suspended from two opposing points. The fabric in between the two points is long enough so that it can hang freely and form a somewhat semi-circular shape. The picture is that of a series of alternating narrow dark and light semi-circular strips that begin and end at the two points. This type of fold is often found in blouses.
This type of fold occurs in a piece of fabric that is not suspended but lies on a surface without being stretched. Here, the folds can go in many different directions. However, each fold relates to its neighbors in a particular manner. You should study these patterns and render them in a consistent way although the whole thing seems at first to be a mess. You can observe this type of fold when a woman’s dress is partially resting on the surface she is seated on.
A piece of fabric that is wrapped around a circular rod will invariably show this sort of fold. It has a spiral-like appearance and it can be found in sleeves and pant legs when the sleeve or pant leg is somewhat twisted around the arm or the leg.
Fabric that is piled on a couch or is wrapped around someone’s neck will often show folds within folds or on top of each other. With this sort of fold it becomes imperative that you trace how each fold works itself into the other and apply the appropriate cast shadows.
As mentioned above, in a typical pencil portrait involving fabrics, you will find combinations of these different types of folds. It is important that you recognize each type instantly and that you have practiced drawing them.
You should identify the areas where the fabric is in tension and where it is not and see where the darks and lights are. In addition, there will always be hard edges and soft edges that must be rendered faithfully for your drawing to look realistic.
Finally, there is also something called: “lost and found” edge. A lost and found edge is an edge that, at first, can easily be seen, but then peters out and becomes invisible, only to reappear a little further down the line. Although the edge consists of two disconnected lines, the eye through the brain recognizes that the two disjointed line pieces belong together and form one edge.
As you can see, drawing clothes is not all that simple. Sometimes clothes are dismissed and often underestimated in their difficulty to draw. But, if you know that they are not so easy, you should not feel bad if, at first, your clothes drawings do not look very realistic. Sorry to say, but learning the art of drawing clothes requires much practice and careful observation.