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Drawing and Painting Fabric


Students will demonstrate an understanding of creating full costume designs by rendering clothes and painting a design.

**This advanced lesson could be used in a stage tech or design class while preparing for a school production or in a costume design instructional unit.**


Materials Needed

  1. Fabric samples and accompanying outline drawings of each
    2. Painting that demonstrate fabric
    3. acrylic paint and water for diluting it
    4. brushes
    5. dishes to put the diluted paint it (one for each student)


Lesson Directions

Pair students up. Give each pair either a fabric sample or an outline drawing of it. Instruct them to find their match. As they look, remind them to observe how their fabric folds, hangs, drapes, etc.
1. wool
2. tee shirt material (jersey)
3. silk rayon
4. taffeta
5. chiffon
6. tulle
7. cotton
8. fur
9. denim


Step 1: After they are paired up, ask them why they think their fabric and drawing go together. Could they tell by the outline? Hang? Fold?

Step 2: Collect fabric samples and spread them throughout the room, make sure that they are placed so that there are folds, etc. Demonstrate on the board how to draw folds. Point out that each type of fabric creates a different line, the chiffon line is much softer than taffeta’s, etc. Point out that fabric can be identified in drawing not only by texture, but by the way it hangs, fold, drapes, etc. Show paintings and ask them to try and identify what type of fabric is being depicted in the dress.

Step 3: Instruct student to choose five of the fabrics to sketch. Don’t label them, but record on another sheet which fabric is which number. Give them 10-15 minutes to sketch.

Step 4: Have them pair up with another student and exchange sketches and try to identify the different types of fabric.

Step 5: Have each student pick one of the best renderings of the other student’s to share with the class. Let each student explain why they were so easy to identify.

Step 6: Have each student come up and get a color of paint, dilute it with water in a dish and get a brush. They will be painting the fabric rendering of the other student.

Step 7: (Demonstrate these painting principles in front of the class as you do them). Have them first identify where the light source for the fabric is coming from. Draw it in so you can remember (i.e. the upper right hand corner). From what we know about light and shadow, where would the shadows on the fabric be? (in folds, farthest from the light source).

Step 8: Paint these areas in carefully with your diluted acrylic. Let it dry a little. The more layers of paint you apply, the darker it looks. Demonstrate that with each layer, if you increase the area of the sketch painted, the shadow tapers off and you have a gradual lightening of the area.

Step 9: Voila! A painted piece of fabric. Ask them how it might change if they used a different color for the shadow effect, and then painted over with the fabric color. What about different mediums?  Discuss the different type of mediums that exist, ask them for suggestions (pencil, charcoal, markers, crayon, acrylic, oil, gouche, watercolor, pastels, paper cut out, etc.)

Step 10: Hand them a generic body rendering or if they have created something like this already, have them pull it out. Ask them to think about what type of fabric they would use to create a costume for a specific character you assign them or that they get to choose.

Step 11: Show them how to draw clothing on a body, demonstrating the principles of seam lines, layers, and how bodies are clothed in curved lines, and there aren’t very many straight lines.

Step 12: Give them time to work on their costume rendering using any research they have already done. Go around the room and give help as needed. They can take it home to work on before turning it in.



Class participation, final assessment with the final costume rendering.