Velvet Fabric Illustration

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Shiny fabrics


Sheer fabrics are so fine that a single layer is transparent, and you can see skin tone through it. With the exception of lingerie, most garments in sheer fabrics are made up of many layers, or include undergarments.

Sheers can be categorized into two groups: the softer sheers, such as chiffon, voile, georgette and some laces, and the stiffer types, including organza, tulle, net and organdie. To render transparent fabrics, begin by applying skin tones to your fashion illustration. Add the colour of the fabric over the top of the skin with a light touch in either pencil or marker, avoiding heavy outlines. The skin must be visible under the fabric, so be careful not to choose too dark a colour.

Where sheer fabric touches the body, shading should be darker. Where it floats freely, use lighter tones. This technique also applies if you are rendering many layers of chiffon—the more layers, the denser the shading. For lace or net, the appearance of the fabric as it lies over the skin must, likewise, be rendered sensitively. These mesh-like fabrics can be represented with fine crosshatching that becomes darker where the fabric folds. For lace, you can build up the floral patterns and embroidery by using a fineliner to indicate the details. Your drawing lines for such a delicate fabric should be fluid and without sharp corners. The edges oflace may be scalloped and heavily patterned, but it will be impossible to draw every intricate detail. Simply suggesting the style is perfectly acceptable in fashion illustration.

Organza and organdie have a stiffer consistency than the sheers discussed above. Garments made from these fabrics stand out from the body and create a sense of drama. They can be rendered with the same techniques used for other sheers, but there is a difference in the way that they fall and catch the light. When sketching them, try overlapping blocks of colour to show where one fold of fabric lies on top of another. The deeper shading conveys the double thickness of the fabric.

Shiny fabrics

To illustrate shiny fabrics, observe where the light source falls on the garment. Clever rendering will create the illusion of reflected light. To add a highlight to the garment, draw on a white shimmer line or leave the white of the page to shine through. Shiny fabrics divide into three categories. First, there are the light-reflective types, including firm fabrics such as taffeta, satin and leather, and softer velvet and velour. Secondly, there are the decorative fabrics with a sheen, which are usually beaded, and sequinned lamés. The third category includes heavily patterned reptile skins and brocades.

Shiny fabrics arc usually rendered in three shades. The darkest shade is for the folds and shadows, a medium shade is for the general garment colour and the lightest for the highlights. The lightest shade, usually white, often surrounds the dark shadows, and touches of it should be added to the edges of the garment. Add highlights where the body juts out from the fabric, at the chest, arms or legs, for example. Choose any art material for these three shades, but focus on imitating shine.

Softer sheens such as that on velvet should be approached in the same way, only without areas of solid colour or solid outlines. Instead, create feathery edges. A soft, dry medium such as pastel is ideal for creating a velvety smooth surface to your fashion illustration. Treat the shimmer of lamé, sequins and beads as a pattern, stippling with a hard brush using fairly dry paint and creating sharp white highlights. Alternatively, tap all over the drawing with a medium-nibbed marker. To give your illustration extra sparkle, use metallic pens.

Feathers and fur

Both natural and imitation feathers and fur are difficult to render realistically. It is a common error to overwork these parts of an illustration by sketching in too many lines. The best method is to use watereolour paper, dampening the page then adding ink or paint in light touches. This creates fuzzy, soft lines that represent the delicacy of feathers and fur well. For white feathers or fur, paint a dark background then use bleach to add fine lines.


This fabric has a texture created by its looping and twining threads. Knit differs from woven fabric in its stretch as well as its texture. Knitted garments are either constructed by hand or machine, and produced in various wools and yarns, such as angora, cashmere, mohair, chenille, boucle and metallic. Gain awareness of knitwear variations, because they demand very different rendering techniques.

To render knitwear differently from a woven fabric you need to draw in the rib. Rib, or ribbing, is the term used to describe a series of raised rows in knitted fabric. Hibbing is often found around the neck, cuffs and edges of a garment and can be indicated with repetitive line. You will also need to master authentic representation of the stitches used in knit. For example, cable and braiding can be indicated with a combination of curved and straight lines in a rope pattern, while purl and garter can he rendered with a series of loops and ellipses. Knit patterns often include geometric shapes, raised textures and flowers. These are usually known as Fair Isle or Argyle and are best shown by blocking in the patterns before adding texture and colour.

Pattern and print l;ashion fabrics can be printed with almost any design or motif, including floral, abstract, animal and polka dot. A design that is duplicated or copied is called a repeat pattern. In addition to the repeat, you need to bear in mind scale. For example, a lifesize floral fabric must be reduced to fit into the proportions of a drawn figure. The simplest way to calculate this is to hold the fabric up to the centre of your body and count the repeat in the directions of the side seam and along the waist. To achieve the scale, fit the same count into your drawn figure.

When you reduce a fussy print, remove some of the detail as it can look overworked on a smaller scale. Render some of the pattern and disguise areas with soft shadows, using a limited colour palette.

Kmbellished and embroidered fabrics

Not all fabrics are the same through their length; some vary in texture. I landmade fabrics are often embroidered or otherwise embellished, and you will need to change your rendering style accordingly. Embellished fabrics are often manipulated through stitching. For example some arc raised with padding or wadding, then decorated with hand- or machine-stitched patterns. To capture such techniques on paper, the fabric must look raised from its background. Embellishments will appear closer to the viewer if worked in light colours on a darker background. Embroidery thread also catches the light, so again this should be rendered with highlights. It is impossible to record every detail, but draw in elements every now and again to indicate the presence of decorative stitching.

Denim, a heavy, woven fabric, is often adorned with topstitching, rivets and prominent seams, all of which can be rendered by the illustrator. If you look carefully

Felt Pen Fabric Velvet Effect
Patterned and printed fabrics
Embellished and embroidered fabrics
Fashion Illustration Velvet FabricFashion Illustration Velvet FabricDiagonal And Broken Lines

at a piece of denim, you will see that it is made up of a series of diagonal lines broken up by the weave. Copy this effect using sharp, watersoluble pencils of varying shades of blue. Use darker shades for the diagonal lines and paler ones for the weave. For areas where the denim is worn, dilute the pencil marks with water to create the effect. Denim rivets are often metallic and can be rendered effectively with a metallic pen or paint. Highlight the topstitching in areas where it is prominent, using a simple, broken line. Today, denim is often customized to include embroidery, rips, print and jewelled accessories, all of which the fashion illustrator must draw attention to.

Fabric reference exercise

To make the most of the information discussed in this section, experiment by rendering fabrics yourself to create a set of reference illustrations. Divide a sheet of plain paper into a grid of blank squares. Place a viewfinder with a square view over various fabric samples. Try to create the same effects that you can see through the viewfinder in your squares. Experiment with a range of media until you find the best way to represent each of the fabrics. Make notes next to your accurate renderings to remind you how to create similar effects again. Building up a library of authentic rendering techniques is certain to be a useful aid when creating fashion illustrations in the future.

Rendering Fabric Techniques

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