How to Draw Folds in Clothes

Drawing folds in clothes is one of those things that reduce the time you need to create realistic drawings and illustrations. Those are such small detail but can make a big difference to your artwork. Folds are most commonly present when drawing clothes, so we’ll be talking about how to draw folds in clothes here. Folds can appear in various forms, depending on the character and type of garment you’re drawing.

Every good manga artist has to master drawing clothes, and one of the keys for making it look realistic is getting folds right. The following is a guide on how to draw folds in clothes and some tips on how to practice and make them look good. This article teaches you how to learn how to draw folds in clothes the easy way!

Types of Clothing Folds

Your fashion designs will appear unnatural or flat if you cannot draw clothing folds convincingly on characters. It will be easier to achieve better visual results when you illustrate clothing if you better understand the different types of folds.

In order to become a successful illustrator, you must know the names of each fold and how to draw each type of clothing fold. Now let’s look at what these different types of folds are.

1. Spiral Fold of Clothing

clothes spiral folds pencil drawing
Source: by Aliciane

Wrapping a material around a tubular form such as an arm or leg causes spiral folds. Such folds commonly occur on sleeves after they are rolled or bundled up.

Instructions to Draw a Spiral Fold

The rounded forms of the body are best suited to curved and diagonal lines. You can widen the folds as the material leaves the points of support by wrapping it around the form. You shouldn’t parallel lines and avoid repeating the same volume or direction. Create an arrangement of the folds instead. Make the folds radiate upward.

2. Pipe Fold of Clothing

clothes pipe folds pencil drawing
Source: by Aliciane

It is common for dresses and curtains to have pipe folds. Located at the origin point of the material, this fold is created when it is compressed or bundled, causing it to create a series of semi-triangular shapes. Hanging free materials usually demonstrate a wavy pattern on their bottom parts.

Instructions to Draw a Pipe Fold

The basic fold of a pipe can be seen as a small cylinder rising toward the ground as it falls. An illusion of three-dimensionality is created by incorporating reverse cylinders between the folds.

3. Half-Lock Fold of Clothing

clothes half lock folds pencil drawing
Source: by Aliciane

When a fabric changes direction suddenly, a half-lock fold tends to occur. When someone wearing slacks squats or sits, the fabric on the sides will curve suddenly in such a way that it changes direction. Folds like this also appear in the upper part of pants when a person bends over to prepare to swing a golf club, like when you bend over to swing.

Instructions to Draw a Half-Lock Fold

You should lock the gate sharply and angularly when you are making a right angle turn. Round the locks and dissolve them when making tight turns. Keeping the folds simple and easy to follow will ensure they are logical. To express a sense of direction, draw more angles when you draw someone sitting down.

4. Zigzag Fold of Clothing

clothes zigzag folds pencil drawing
Source: by Aliciane

These folds occur when pants bunch up around the thighs or behind the knees. It is caused by a compression of the fabric or leather material. Basically, the folds alternate each other in a zigzagged pattern with overlapping areas that fold inward.

Instructions to Draw a Zigzag Fold

You can begin by drawing a zig-zag line that is quick and jerky and does not feel too uniform. Ultimately, each fold has its own unique character, which produces a more natural-looking result. To bring two opposing forces together on the material, lock the ends of your lines together.

5. Drop Fold of Clothing

clothes drop folds pencil drawing
Source: by Aliciane

Drop folds are common when material simply falls off of a form, such as when a towel hangs on a hook. Gravity and the type of form a drop fold hang from determining its overall look. Many people use this fold in conjunction with another folded design.

Instructions to Draw a Drop Fold

Creating folds that radiate both upwards and downwards from a support point would be helpful. To achieve the desired result, you can either use hooks or cones.

6. Diaper Fold of Clothing

clothes diaper folds pencil drawing
Source: by Aliciane

A diaper fold occurs when a material sags between two points of support. How much fabric and how far apart the support points will determine the sag amount. Handkerchiefs and scarves often have these folds.

Instructions to Draw a Diaper Fold

So your diaper folds do not just look like lines, be aware of the vertical and horizontal planes on the forms. To begin, draw a cross-section of the form. In the center of the compressed point, draw the edges of the fold tighter and loosen them as they approach the center.

Forces Affecting Folds

Points of Tention

After some time, identifying tensions (support points) in each fold gets tedious. Below are some tips for making it easier.

  • In folds, you can see the points of tension that are the source of tension. These points of tension are the sources of folds.
  • Furthermore, it may be sufficient in some instances to have a general idea of the tension’s direction without pinpointing where the tension is on the canvas precisely. For instance, tension can appear hidden beneath the form. Identifying where the fabric is pulled or pushed is vital. However, you should also consider the overall gesture of the fabric and its character as well.

Underlying Form

Stretches and pulls of the underlying form will cause the fabric to stretch. There will also be fabric that rests on an underlying form, such as an arm or a couch. Under the fabric lies always the underlying form, but tension points can also be found outside. Using your index finger and thumb together to hold a piece of fabric creates tension where the two fingers meet.

A tension point can often be found in an underlying form. There can be tension points along the shoulder area of a diaper fold (U shape), which can wrap around the neck and chest. For example, When an arm is folded, the fabric’s direction is changed by the underlying form.


You must account for gravity when drawing fabric folds unless you’re rendering an astronaut in outer space. Every time fabric folds are drawn down to the ground, gravity is at work.

Other Forces

Can a long coat blow in the wind as it hangs from a figure? Does the wind impact the coat’s folds in this situation? The answer is yes.

Is the coat impacted by the forces created by a figure spinning around fast in the same long coat? It certainly does. What about when the same figure jumps? Yes.

Therefore, you need to consider these situations. For these special cases, you should take reference pictures and carefully study them, and then recreate what you are trying to draw.

Draw Folds in Fabric and Clothing: Additional Points

cloths arm fold drawing

Dentifying the Tension Points in Folds for Drawing

In some cases, it is better to reverse your approach and look for tension in the folds in fabric or clothing rather than looking for points of tension. If you look at your reference and ask yourself what is required to stretch or push the fabric as it is, what must happen? You can find tension points by asking this question.

folds in cloths drawing

Following the folds back to their roots is another way to find points of tension. When tension is present, folds will usually spread outward. Points such as these are typically created by the costume itself, by a belt, or by suspenders, as well as in the knees, inside elbows, on the shoulders, on the glutes, at the pelvis, and at the armpits.

shirts folds drawing

Here are a few more words on clothing points of tension. When drawing folds, remember to consider motion. You should always examine the path of motion within the context of tension points when drawing a dynamic figure.

clothes fold shaded drawing

If you wear a dress shirt with your arms raised, you will notice clearly a point of tension at your armpit and elbow. If you look in the mirror while you try it, you will see folds emanating and spreading out from those areas. It is important to note that these points can vary based on the action done and the garment itself – whether it is loose or tight.

Shading Folds in Clothing

Being able to represent various forms convincingly is the key to drawing folds in clothing and fabric. The artist must separate the drawing into light and dark areas to accomplish this.

It is important not to make the dark areas of the light side too dark, and the light side’s light areas too bright. It is generally best to lighten the darkest area in a drawing on the light side than the darkest area on the shadow side.

Multiple Tension Point Folds Drawing

When multiple points hang from the cloth, “U” folds tend to appear between these points and conical folds, similar to the first example, along the side.

The shape of the entire cloth can also be seen as the letter “M”.

Step- 1: Draw a tension point fold line

fold drawing outline

In comparison to the previous examples, this line drawing contains more details. As expected, this happens when you have a complex setup.

It is not very clear what you need to draw in this step other than that you need to draw what you see.

Step- 2: Shading multiple tension points

shaded fold drawing

In this example, the light will also come from the right side of the picture, but will be a little bit closer to the cloth. You can either use straight or curved strokes when it comes to shading. Although the examples are in straight lines, they are still applied in such a way as to form a shape around the fabric. You can also apply a crosshatch by applying overlapping strokes at an angle slightly different from the first set.

Make sure you pay attention to cast shadows and reflections. In general, the bigger the fold, the larger the shadow. The more pronounced the fold, the sharper the shadow, whereas the smoother the fold, the smoother the shadow. Folds that face another fold will mostly emit reflections due to their curved sides. Larger folds with more pronounced reflections typically emit more light.

Step- 3: Draw multiple tension points to finish your drawing

two tension points clothes drawing

Continue applying strokes toward the shadows and the gradients to darken them and smooth them out, but do not completely blend. If some strokes are visible on the cloth, it will have a texture more like fabric, and the direction of the strokes will highlight the shape of the curves. That is how the effect will appear.

Cylindrical Folds Drawing

As a result of the fabric being evenly attached in one large area throughout its entire length and squeezed together, these folds create a cylindrical/pipe-like appearance. Window curtains are a good example of this.

Step- 1: Draw the circular folds

pipe fold outline

Cylindrical folds have a relatively easy line drawing. Use several sets of vertical lines to draw the main fold area. Depending on the viewer’s eye level, the bottom of the folds will appear differently. A viewer from a higher position will see the curves as rounded. It will appear flat with no curves if the bottom is exactly at the point where the viewer’s eyes are. In addition, if you observe the folds from below, you will see that the curves run the other way.

Step- 2: Shading cylindrical folds

pipe drawing

Probably the easiest fold type to shade is this one. The cylindrical folds are also known as cylinders as implied by their name in this tutorial. Their shading is also appropriate for them.

Similarly to the previous example, this example features the same lighting conditions with the light coming from directly behind the drawing area, slightly in front of the cloth.

Please remember again that the folds will create reflections and shadows. Both types will be on the opposite side of the light source.


To begin shading, apply strokes in straight or curved lines. Make a crosshatch by following up the first set of strokes with another set at a different angle.

On the right, you can see a shadow cast by the fold on the far right of the drawing, and these shadows also have a reflection from the fold on the far left of the drawing.

It will not cast a sharp shadow on the far left fold or have any reflection from it as the middle fold is not as deep and round as the left side fold.

Step- 3: Finish Drawing the Cylindrical Folds


Apply more strokes to darken them in shadows and drop shadows of the drawing to complete the shading. Make sure not to blend the strokes completely; this will help add a sense of texture to the cloth and will give a better idea of the shape of its curves.

Pro Tips: How to Draw Folds in Clothes

Because folds provide visual support for action or motion by illustrating different depths and volumes beneath a given material, it is important to get them just right.

Studying human forms and breaking down the body into simple shapes is a good place to begin when learning how to draw clothing folds. Clothing hemlines and edges can accurately follow the contours of the body once you know how they appear in three dimensional space.

The following tips will help you learn how to draw clothing folds:

  • If you’re working with different materials, keep the edges as loose as possible so that the articles of clothing don’t appear skintight. Keep in mind how you connect the material’s form to a specific body part and be mindful of applying your line work.
  • Then you can start blocking articles of clothing once you have determined where the hems and edges of these garments will be placed on the body. Clothes are applied to different parts of the body in different ways, depending on the type of fold.
  • Research and experiment with various materials to gain a better grasp of how to manipulate certain types of fabrics. Thinner fabrics can fold more easily than thicker fabrics. There will be more folds, and they will be closer together. When the fabric is thicker, folds are more difficult to occur. There are fewer folds when the fabric is thicker. A softer fabric can also result in a more rounded fold.
  • Setting up a light source can see the six different types of folds that are evident on the form. Results from this research will help render the fabric.
  • You can get the three-dimensional look you desire by highlighting, middle tones, textured shadows, and reflected light.

By becoming familiar with the different fold types and how they relate to the human form, you will be able to combine the fold types in a cohesive way and design more compelling apparel.

Final Words

This is in large part due to the fact that clothing is difficult to draw. Having said that, the majority of these techniques will still help you out if you just simplify them and abide by some basic principles. If you follow the instructions carefully and use a little bit of imagination, you’re sure to be well on your way to mastering the art of drawing clothes in no time. Thanks for reading and supporting, and good luck with your drawings!

About Tom

Tom is a blogger and artist who also loves technology. He spends his days blogging about the latest developments in the world of art, and he enjoys sharing his thoughts with readers on what it means to be an artist today. Tom has always been interested in technology - but it wasn't until he was 13 years old that he discovered how much fun making websites could be! Tom is a fun-loving, adventure seeking creative type. He enjoys reviewing art products and technology gadgets on his blog and has been doing so for over 5 years now! He spends most of his time in the studio, at the beach, or out exploring new places.

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