The Basics of Drawing Clothes Using Pencil

Clothes are naturally a vital part when drawing people. A subject is usually wearing something to show his certain status or a desired lifestyle. This element becomes more important if your drawing should have a sense of fashion or to portray an artistic flair of the character. 


In close-fitting leathers or any kind of clothes that naturally bends tightly to the body shape, the illustrated clothing should seem as if the clothes are actually a part that defines the contour shape of the subject.

A gloss is used to show the contour shape of the body figure. Highlights are blended to a contradicting shade value to portray a reflection of an implied light source.

Aside from the body figure, the texture of the clothing depends on the manner a body is positioned. Due to the natural shape of clothes and the softness of the cloth, any kind of movements made by the subject creates a certain change on the its form.The important factor when drawing clothes is how the natural form of any clothing is affected by the contour shape (body) of the subject.

There are three things you should consider when illustrating clothes, especially the loose ones such as couture dresses or slack pants, the tension, the stretch and ripples.

As the body moves, a certain tension to the clothing is made, most especially to the parts of the joints and the cuts of the dress, shirt or pants that tightly encloses the body figure (like the part of the hips and crotch).

  • Locate the point of the tension created by the body gesture.

Observe how the clothes are laid to the body and see how each portion tightens as you move. If the subject is wearing a pants and he/she folds his/her legs, then a tension is produced to the knee as the cloth forces to flow with the subject’s body shape and his/her movement.

  • Whenever there is a tension-point, the stretch lines follow.

You need to illustrate the stretch lines to impose the location of the tension point.

The stretch lines depends on how the cloth is pulled to a certain portion (tension point) or where the natural tightened parts are, such as the joined edges of the seams or layers of the clothing (like the part of the crotch, underarms or the seams of a tight pants’ bottom).

  • Tensions made to the clothing naturally produce ripples.

Depending on the body motion, a tension produces a loose portion since the clothing is stretched. Ripples and crumples shows up due to the change in the clothes’ natural form. Ripples depend on each tension-point and it usually follows the stretch line, it is commonly seen on the opposite side of the tension point.

Here's an example.

Even if the clothes would influence the main outlines of the illustration, you should always draw the body of the subject first so you could easily figure out how the clothes' shape should be manipulated properly.

Define the tensions, the ripples and stretches based on the portrayed pose or gesture of the body.

Darken the tight spots to depict the folds and tensions more accurately. The folds and crumples on the clothing are best represented by smudged shades. The depth of each ridges are easily portrayed by using the different tone values that follows the dimensions including the narrow ones according to a certain light source.


Softer texture is easily depicted by soft shadows and less tight dark spots.

These are the basics of drawing clothes. This topic along more tips are included in the book "Learn How to Draw Human Figures - For the Absolute Beginner". The very basics of drawing human figures along with common elements accompanying it are carefully explained and shown, in a manner that an absolute beginner in drawing could easily follow and understand.

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