3 Tips for Drawing Folds in Fabric Digitally

3 Tips for Drawing Folds in Fabric Digitally

There are many things that seem simple to the average viewer that become infinitely complex and nuanced in the eye of the artist. Little details like the light on a river at dusk, the lace on a fancy Dutch collar, and the alluring smile on the lips of an unnamed Renaissance noblewoman can become obsessions that last for an entire career. 

Digital artists face new challenges that past masters using oil and canvas could have never imagined, and among the trickiest tasks for the modern pixel painter is drawing folds, curves, and facets in fabric. A digitally rendered orc or sorceress is often draped in flowing and highly stylized clothing that would make a traditional sculptor tremble in fear, and there are an incredible number of techniques every artist needs to know to capture silks and satins from dawn to dusk and in all sorts of weather. 

Fortunately, there are a lot of basic techniques digital artists can use when rendering fabric that can get excellent results without the need for decades of experience. Here are our top 3 tips to get you started drawing folds in all your digital fabrics. 

1. Know the Ins and Outs of Folds

Folds and creases in clothes may look random, but it turns out that many of them fall into specific categories that follow similar design and drawing principles. If you understand the different types of folds that find their way into fabrics and where they typically show up, you’ll be well on your way to drawing folds that are both natural and convincing for your audience. 

Here are a few of the basic fabric folds any digital artist should know:

Spiral Folds are the bunchy creases you get when you roll up your sleeves or put on a hair scrunchie. They are tubular in nature, but it’s important to make sure you vary the design so it doesn’t look artificial. Avoid parallel lines, change the volume and thickness of the rolls, and widen the fabric as it moves away from the crimp. 

Pipe Folds occur when long fabric drapes naturally bunch and curl, like at the bottom of skirts, dresses, and long curtains. They look like long partial tubes in free-hanging cloth, and you can draw them effectively by alternating cylinders that expand towards the bottom and expand towards the top depending on whether the pipe fold faces out or in.

Zig-Zag Folds are the creases you see at the bottom of pants when fabrics bunch up in a free-form way. They’re different that spiral folds in that they don’t occur because the material has been rolled up—they’re a result of compression, and are often gentle and random asymmetrical. When drawing folds in zig-zags, go for a few large, free-form Zs to give some structure to the overall shape, and then shade the inner parts to bring out the depth and weight of the folds. 

2. Use the 1-2-7-7 Method

You would think that drawing random folds would be easy, but any seasoned artist knows that making things look accidental can be one of the most difficult and structured skills in their toolkit. Whether it’s using highly-structured fractals to simulate chaotic coastlines or calculated stippling techniques to create seamlessly blended shading, having a system for spontaneity can make drawing folds in fabrics go much faster while producing far more convincing results. 

The 1-2-7-7 method for drawing folds (especially zig-zag folds) is a classic workaround for instantly generating believable chaos. First, find your crease in the garment. Next, draw a single line without trying to make it too perfect to form the foundation of your creases. Then, partway down the “1”, draw a connecting line that’s roughly in the shape of the number 2 to give it some texture and depth. Finally, fill out the folds with some 7s in varying shapes and sizes to complete the look. Add some shading to emphasize the high and lows and voila! You’re drawing folds in fabric that will bring your characters’ clothes to life in no time. 

3. Add Some Digital Brushes to Your Kit

Digital artists face a host of different challenges than traditional pen-and-paper creators, and sometimes the thing you need to bring your creations to life is the right tool for the job. If you’re struggling drawing folds on your digital characters and backgrounds, invest in some brushes that will take the pressure off!

150 Alpha Brushes - Fabric Folds and Wrinkles at Cubebrush are suitable for both 2D and 3D rendering, and work with several applications like Blender, Substance Painter, 3D Coat, ZBrush, Photoshop, and Affinity Photo. This brush pack lets you create convincing folds and creases on a variety of meshes, including clothing, leather, and a host of other fabrics. You can use multiple brushes to create a variety of effects and variations in color, opacity, and depth. 

Fold In New Techniques With Cubebrush

If you’re still mastering the art of crease, wrinkles, and folds in your digital artwork Cubebrush is here to help! We’re a comprehensive marketplace for artists and designers who are creating tutorials and sharing advice about every aspect of digital art creation, and you can find brush packs, guides, and reference photos that will bring every nook and cranny of your digital folds to life. 

Visit Cubebrush to find all the resources you need for taking your digital artwork to the next level.