How to paint drapes – tutorial

I receive many visits to my blog of people searching on painting drapes and cloth. They usually land on this post ‘satin on the paving‘.  I thought of trying to do a tutorial before, but just have never done it. Now Sylvia asked me to do a tutorial. So, I hope this is helpful. Firstly I have to say that I only work in oils and this works for me, because I use the fact that oils do not dry immediately. I would not know how to do it with acrylics, I can only assume that you must then work in small parts and finish the process for that part.

I took photographs of a piece of satin and cropped it to this picture… because I need reference to work from.

Then I will mix my colours. Choose your darkest colour. I took the easy way this time and just used prussian blue, so I did not have to mix a colour. Then add white to get three lighter tones. …not the nicest colour I must say.

The main thing now is to not think that you are painting cloth, but only forms. Look at your cloth and see the darkest ‘forms’ and the lightest ‘forms’. I marked them here on the next two images.

    

The next step was to draw the forms on my canvas with charcoal. Just roughly. I have to admit that I drew it so terribly, I didn’t use them in the end and just worked from the picture, but it could help to draw more careful.
Then paint the light forms with your lightest colour and the dark forms with your darkest colour. Just touching each other where necesary, but do not mix where they touch. You will end with something like the next image.

One thing to remember: It does not matter if it does not look exactly like your picture. It will still be folds, even if they are thinner, thicker, longer or moved a bit. : )

Next I added the second darkest colour, which is mostly next to the darkest where the dark is starting to fade to a lighter colour. Still look at your forms. It is a bit more difficult to see where the middle colours must come, because the colours are closer to each other.

Still just put them down and do not mix…and don’t worry that this is not looking like cloth at all.
The last white spaces are all filled with the second lightest colour.

…and now the best part comes. With a dry brush I now fade all colours into each other where they touch. Work with the direction of your painted ‘lines’ as I tried to show here with the arrows.  Do not go in the direction of where I’ve put the red cross, you will just mix your lines to form one new shade of blue. Clean your brush every now and then on paper when it gets too much paint on it. Also look at your cloth. See where maybe there is a ‘hard’ line that should not fade out. Usually where a folded piece is lying flat on the cloth.

Here is an image after the fading was halfway done. What you are actually doing with fading is to create more shades of blue with mixing each of your two blues.

…and after all the fading was done. I am always surprised by this. Starting with painting only ‘forms’, it now actually looks like cloth. : )

Now I just added more of the darkest colour to bring it out more and then more of the lightest colour. In the same way as before, put the colours down where you think it is needed. Add to the darkest and lightest areas and then fade it in. Also the ‘hard’ edges are made darker.

The next image shows the white added before I faded it.

… and then you have a nice piece of cloth! : ) a small painting on canvas board 20×20 cm.

I was eager to do this post, so this painting I did in one sitting. It is now still very wet. : ) But I know that I now have to wait a week before the paint is dry and I can work on it again. The right thing to do will be to accentuate the darkest and lightest parts even more when this layer is completely dry. Now the colours just mix and you don’t get really light and really dark. But for now this is good enough. Just to give you an idea of how I do it. Probably not the best way, but it works OK. And I only wanted to show you that it is not difficult at all.

… 5 days later. I did a second layer after the first was dry and add more of the darkest and lightest shades. I had to add the other shades as well to fade it in nicely.  It does make a difference.

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Categories: oil painting, still life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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13 thoughts on “How to paint drapes – tutorial

  1. Lielie

    You should get an award for this!! This is like magic! At least to me (a non-painter) it looks like magic!

  2. Thank you!

  3. Great post, Cecily. I’ll try to draw or paint it. I love the studies on drapery by great artists as for example Da Vinci.

    Thank you very much!

  4. Thanks Nuno.

  5. silvia

    Thank you so much! Yes, I think my problem is because I’m doing it with acrylic, it dries up so fast. I guess I need to buy a retarder medium to slow the drying process so that I can blend colors easily. I’m just curious, have you tried painting drapes with prints on the cloth? Eventually, that’s my goal. But I need to master the plain cloth first, of course.

  6. I can’t really think how to do it with acrylics. You will have to start in one corner and mix as you put down the colours. And work with all your shades at the same time. A bit more difficult. No, I have never painted drapes with prints. I have actually thought about it as it would look really nice. Difficult because the prints will ‘bend’, etc. Maybe we should take that as a next challenge. : )

  7. Kellie See

    Great tutorial, Thanks.

  8. Pingback: Satin on the paving | ButterflyHands

  9. mijke

    Thank you for the explanation!

  10. Wow!you make it seem soooo easy. Thanks. I am going to try it.

  11. agus

    very nice tips. Easy to practise and amazing results. Thanks for your advise. Sorry my english is not well. Succes

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