Creating Folds in Photoshop

For those who work with Paintshop Pro: I've never worked with that program so I have no clue if things are vastly or minorly different from photoshop. However, it certainly doesn't hurt to read through the tutorial just in case something may apply.

This is a quick tutorial I whipped up a while ago for those who wanted to learn how to make … well… folds in Photoshop. I've since redid this in Photoshop 7.0 so the screenshots have changed slightly and they are larger than the old PDF version so now you can read things better (YAY). Okay, let's get started…

Since I'm not here to teach you how to use Photoshop from start to finish, I'm going to assume you have some knowledge of the tools and where they are and how they work. If not, there are a plethora of tutorials out there you can look into and read up on. Also, if your serious about wanting to learn different effects and such, go look through the Photoshop Bible in a book store or check it out via library. It's 200+ pages of yummy texture effect making goodness.

Now, let me give a brief synopsis of what this tut will cover:
-Fold making using Lines and Gaussian Blur
-Fold making using Freehand Style and Motion Blur
-Fold making using Burning and Dodging

KBSC - Key Board Short Cut

Lines and Gaussian Blur
Ok, now, first and foremost we need to launch Photoshop and get a nice new pristine white file started. I typically choose my files to be 1024x1024 pixels (or 512x1024 which ever I need since model texture sizes vary) because working larger allows me to get clearer details in the image. When you later shrink the file, you do loose some of that detail, but you'd be surprised how much it can retain. So 1024x1024, 72 DPI, and on the RGB scale. Make sure you've got RGB instead of CMYK. I've noticed that some filters are not available to you in CMYK mode. Oh and in case you don't know the difference between the two, RGB (red, green, blue) is used mostly for web graphics. CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) is used in the printing process like screen printing or poster printing.

Now with my new file I choose a color I want. This time around I want a lovely mauve pinky color, so I click on the paint squares and choose the color from the color picker. Next I choose the paint bucket (KBSC - G) in the tool box. Next I go to my layers palette, then click on the arrow on the upper right side and make a new layer. I can't stress enough how important it is to make layers for your work. That way if something goes seriously wrong, you can just delete the offending layer, and start a new one rather than messing up your entire image and having to start over!

On a new layer, select the line tool or hit the U key (if it is not showing on the tool menu, hit Shift U to cycle through the various tools in that slot. Or, just left click and hold on the rectangle menu to bring up a list of the other tools in that pull down) and chose what color you want your first fold crease to look like. I typically make the color darker than normal, though you could do just the opposite and make it a highlight instead. Make the width however large or small you want in the upper info bar (I chose two varying weights, the larger line being on a separate level), then, holding down the shift key to constrain the line angle, draw a vertical line. Repeat this however many times you wish, making sure you at least have some space between the lines.

Now go up to the top menu and go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. This is the window where you can adjust how much of a blur effect you want on your lines. For heavier line weights, you'll need to adjust the radius to a higher pixel count. Basically this is taking X amount of pixels, and effectively feathering it out from the center point of the image. You can either preview this on the actual image or in the little preview box too. For my little demo, I chose a radius of 22 pixels for the larger line and 12 pixels for the smaller lines. You still want to be able to see some form of color differentiation from the background color and still make the lines look nice and soft.

Click ok. Now, after making a new layer, go back to the line tool again, select another color that's darker from the first color you used, then adjust the line weight again so it's smaller. The reason you want to make a smaller line is because when you use gaussian blur again, you don't want to cover over the last blur line you created. Holding shift again, draw another vertical line, then center it over the previous blur.

Go back to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur again. If you chose Filter>Gaussian blur from the menu, what will happen is photoshop will apply the last radius amount you implemented. Since you're dealing with a smaller line weight, this will effectively make your smaller line blur so much you won't see it. Now choose a gaussian blur that blends the smaller lines softly without causing them to disappear. You can see how blending is starting to give the appearance of a fold.

You can repeat this as many times as you want to get the desired effect. I find gaussian blur really nice for also doing shadows for under layered clothing too.

Freehand Style and Motion Blur
This is the technique I use to make folds have a more loose, natural flow to them. After getting your base color on your first layer, start on a new layer, then choose your Brush tool from the tool box. Now choose your next color (for your fold shadow or highlight). I typically turn the opacity of my brush -way- down because I like to use a layering effect to get the different tonal changes. But it's up to you really if you want more opacity. Just for the sake of the tutorial, I set my brush down to 33%.

From here I start to free hand and just draw in random lines and drapery. The nice thing about having the brush set on a low setting, is you can go back and layer the colors and try to smooth the edge more. Notice it still looks really choppy but later on this will be fixed.

Once I'm happy with how the final folds look, I head to Filter>Blur>Motion Blur. I could use gaussian, but with motion blur, I tend to like the slight texture I get using this filter. Makes the cloth look a wee gritty which seems to be a trend with Morrowind clothing. So with my Motion Filter window open, I pick what distance I want as well as the direction I want the motion to be flowing. You can click and drag the handle bars in the circle to change this direction, or punch in what angle you want. Now I don't necessarily want my fabric to look uber smooth, so I chose to have the distance set to 10 pixels.

Click ok and let the filter be applied. From here I pretty much have some fun and go crazy with implementing other filters. There are times I'll just sit and experiment (using copy's of my original layer) and make a skirt look really textured.

Dodge and Burn
Dodging and burning are the commonly used tools I use to make folds for fabric swatches I sometimes use in my work. Since these have a texture and pattern on them already, I want to retain all that detail and if I use the airbrush tool, then I'm only going to cover over the textures. Since I want to keep all the texture underneath, I use dodging and burning as a means to achieve this. In case you are unfamiliar with what this is, dodging and burning are two photography terms. Dodging is holding back the light in which you expose an image to, thus making it lighter. Burning is the opposite where you allow more light to hit an area and make it darker.

Now let's take a look at the sample swatch I've made:

Pretty spiffy.

So now I go up to my tool bar and select my burn tool. I always work dark to light, something you don't necessarily have to do, it's just a preference really. Up in the info bar, I turn down the exposure to about 21 so I have nice soft strokes. Now I start exposing some of the areas where I want my darker folds to be.

Now dodging can be a bit tricky. The reason is that if your not careful, your texture can become so overly bright it washes out the pattern below it, making the texture look unnatural. I use dodging -very- sparingly. Well, technically I use both pretty sparingly as I don't want things to become over exposed.

This is an example of a hideous over exposure for both dodge and burn.


This concludes the actual tutorial part, however I did want to dish a little something extra out for you peeps.

Sils Free Advice of the Day:
It takes time before you can get folds to look convincing. But I can tell you some hints on how to improve. These are...

*drum roll*

3) Study - AHH! It's the 'S' word! I'm certain some people are thinking, "Bah! Study!" but trust me, but the more you know about how drapery and folds work and what types there are, the easier it will be for you to draw them. It's the same way with figure drawing: sure you can just draw the figure as you see it, but unless you understand how muscle, tendon, bone, and ligaments work, you're skills will improve slowly. Now a really good book, if your interested that is, is Burne Hogarth's Dynamic Wrinkles and Drapery. It covers (eh… no pun intended) all the folds you could need to know!

2) Observing in life - Ho hum still lifes actually help hone your skills. If your having trouble, take a piece of fabric (like a drape or dress or Aunt Emma's satin robe) and set it up the way you want the folds to fall. Then use that as your template for your work. Another good thing to have is some digital photos of various folds so you can just pull them up and either use them as reference or to use straight on your piece. The last thing to mention here is also to take note about cloth texture. Look at how cotton folds differ from velvet ones from light contrast. How burlap looks in comparison to satin. All these are important as well when it comes to getting folds and texture right.

And the number one hint:

Practice. Yes, it's the ol "practice makes perfect" line I'm going to dish at you because it is so true. Dedicate an hour everyday or something to just make folds. Experiment and combine various types of folds together just to get a feel for it. Because the more you draw them, the better you get. Look back at your older stuff and compare it to the new work you've done. You'd be seeing how much you've improved!

Now I'm sure you're looking at those three hints and thinking to yourself "But… this is just for a game." Well, I leave it up to you of course if you want to take this a step further. No one is going to force you to do studies or observations or practicing, this is just advice I'm sharing. So, with that said, I wish you all the best of luck on fold making in Photoshop!

- Sil