Drawing Drapery / Folds

Lately I’ve been taking a break from my obsessive sketchbook hand-drawing and have instead been doing exercises to address another problem drawing area: folds and drapery. If you’re drawing people, you’re most likely drawing them clothed (well, at least some of the time!) and that means that you need to know how to draw folds in clothing. If you don’t think that folds (called “drapery” sometimes, for purposes related to drawing) are important to how a character looks and moves, go watch The Phantom Menace. The CGI in that film wasn’t developed enough to really handle drapery correctly, so all of the CGI characters look like they’re dressed in clothing made out of Fruit Roll-Ups.

The method to my sketchbook drapery exercises is pretty much identical to my hand-drawing exercises: get a magazine and draw every fold you see until you’ve filled a page. Here are a few recent pages:

As you can see, I’m still in the learning phase with folds. One thing that really helped me, though, was the section on drapery in volume one of Walt Stanchfield’s amazing drawing-for-animation textbook, Drawn to Life. (By the way, if you want to draw anything, get these two books now. Seriously.) Here’s an excerpt of the drapery section where he details the seven basic categories of folds (originally developed in The Complete Book of Fashion Illustration by Tate & Edwards). [Edit: Tate & Edwards apparently lifted this material unaccredited from an earlier text. See the comments below the post.]

I’ve found that it really is helpful as I’m drawing to be thinking “what kind of fold is this?” from the list. For example, here are a few of the most common types of folds as spotted “in the wild”:

Now that you know the drill.. start drawing!


  1. p. foote says:

    I know this is an old post, but a corrction is needed. Tate and Edwards did not develop these folds. They took them directly from George Bridgeman who published them in his 1924 book, Bridgeman’s Complete Guide to Drawing From Life”. And I do mean directly, as in “plaigerized”.

  2. Ben says:

    Hey, thanks for the clarification. I added a note to the post.

    Tate & Edwards are credited in the Drawn to Life books. I’m assuming that Stanchfield wasn’t aware of the true origin of the material.

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