Drawing fabrics

clothOne of the most enjoyable things to draw when doing a portrait is the clothing. It took me a while to realise why, but I think it’s because drawing clothing is easy. Simple. There is no tension of achieving that perfect likeness and somehow it almost always looks pretty good. Drawing clothing and fabrics pretty much comes natural to me. Here are some of the key points I keep in mind when drawing fabrics:

  • Contrary to drawing faces, it helps to know and understand the way the fabric is flowing, even in places that aren’t directly visible. I suppose it’s like drawing anatomy: you don’t see the bones and muscles, but knowing where they are will help understand why shadows and highlights are where they are.
  • Divide the clothing into small parts and do those part by part. This prevents getting frustrated with a suit featuring dozens of stripes. Of course some parts will be bigger than others, because I only work with ‘natural borders’.
  • After understand the way the fabric flows, stop knowing and simply see. A zipper is nothing but a combination of differents shades and probably one or two bright highlights (most zippers shine).
  • Start with a light base layer. I normally use 2H, which allows me to easily erase those spots that are perfectly white highlights and fill in the dark spots gradually.
  • Be patient.
  • Sometimes a trick is all you need. There’s no need to draw each individual pinstripe on a suit exactly the way it is in the reference. Drawing three will teach you how they ‘work’, so the other pinstripes should come easily, without having to consult the reference too much.

Here are some examples where I feel I did a good job on the clothing:

Carlisle Cullen (Peter Facinelli) – I really need to take a higher resolution photo of this drawing. This is probably the best clothing I’ve ever drawn. I love looking at it, it’s hard to believe I drew it. The scarf is probably the weak link, but everything else is pretty perfect in my opinion.

Carlisle Cullen

The Doctor (David Tennant) – the pinstripe suit. 🙂 My favourite clothing element to draw is the tie. I love drawing ties! They are wonderfully threedimensional items. This one is especially fun, with the little squares. Not my best tie, but I did a pretty decent job on the suit overal, I think.


Greg Gilbert – my first take on drawing leather and a pretty decent attempt, I think. At least, it looks like leather to me 🙂 The white shirt was a bit of a problem, but fortunately the jacket diverts most attention away from it!


Paul McCartney – Sometimes simplicity is just as effective as a highly detailed rendering. I created this portrait with ink and pencils. The paintwork is fairly broad (in comparison to pencilwork) and lacks details, but the clothing is still convincing to me. It works for this portrait.


I already mentioned I love to draw ties. Here are some of the other things that make me excited about drawing some clothes below a face:

  • shirts and jackets with interesting patterns (not overly complicated, but a nice tartan is pretty cool to draw)
  • shirts and jackets with lots of folds and creases. This adds plasticity to a clothing item and makes for interesting drawing.
  • more ties!

What do you think of my clothing-drawing skills? If you are an artist yourself, how do you feel about drawing clothing? Do you enjoy it? Do you find it easy or difficult? How important do you feel that a good rendering of clothes is in a portrait? Does it add to a portrait or distract from the face. Feel free to share you opinion in a comment!

More about doing research next week! If you enjoy my blog, consider signing up for email notifications. You can do so at the right-hand side of the home page

2 responses to “Drawing fabrics

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s