Can you give me some advice for illustrating sheer, flowing fabric?
Emma White, Scotland
Answer Kelley replies
By using a few digital painting techniques, you can create the look of sheer fabric relatively easily. First, I’d recommend taking a look at some reference photos of chiffon or bridal veils, to get a sense of how they flow and drape.
It’s important that the fabric falls over your character or flows in the wind (or both) in a way that looks natural. When depicting the sheer fabric, a key point to remember is that where the fabric overlaps itself in folds and gathers, it will be more opaque. I imitate this effect by using a number of low-opacity layers.
First, I paint the fabric as a flat shape on a single layer, then reduce the layer’s Opacity – more or less, depending on how sheer I want the fabric to be. On a new layer, I paint a few folds where the fabric overlaps itself, and reduce the layer Opacity again.
I repeat these steps, painting a few folds on new layers and dropping the Opacity strength until I achieve the look I want. Remember to keep things simple and don’t over render the fabric.
I chose to depict the Oracle of Delphi with a dark veil over her face, to show that her visions come from something other than earthly sight. The movement of the veil imitates incense and smoke.