Almost all folds follow laws of gravity. If you hold a piece of cloth and drop it to the floor it will lie there inertly. If you hold a piece of cloth by an edge gravity affects it differently. The point at which you hold the fabric is called the POINT OF SUPPORT.
Points of tension: Points of tension are as important as gravity when looking at cloth. When you bend your knee the fabric stretched across the knee is a point of tension and folds will radiate from that point. Each time there is a point of tension the folds will be different. This is why it is good to be familiar with all the types of folds.
Fabric also conforms slightly to the shape that it sits upon. Points of tension can be seen at each corner of the table.
The Seven types of folds are: 2. Zig zag 1. Pipe 3. Spiral 4. Drop 5. Half lock 6. Diaper 7. Inert
Pipe Fold- This is the simplest form of drape. It is a tubular-shaped fold that has a cylindrical feeling. It occurs from one point of suspension, or when pulled between two points. It is the condensing of a large area of cloth into a smaller area. It usually has a smooth and even flow.
Zigzag Fold- Rather than showing a smooth fold influenced by gravity, the zigzag fold shows one fold fitted into the next fold with interlocking repetition. If you look at the zigzag closely, it is a pipe fold that is bent. You can draw it in a similar way.
Drop Fold- This fold twists, turns, and staggers as it falls from points of suspension. Sometimes the fold will fall like a pipe fold, at other times a curved edge will give it a spiral effect.
Spiral Fold- The material folds along a cylinder- like a torso or an arm. It looks similar to a spring or a Slinky. In the top image the spiral folds are a result of the tension created by the tight shirt on a round torso. In the second image the spirals transition into zig zags as the fabric hits the inner elbow area. In the final image, the spiral can be seen on the sleeves, where the fabric is wrapped around the arm.
Half-lock Fold- Occurs when flat or tubular fabric changes direction. The change in fabric direction caused by the man’s knee created a half-lock fold that appears to “stop” the fabric in both directions. The fold is deep in shadow, showing that the fabric has folded in to take up the slack. In the dress image, the half-lock folds occur at a point where the fabric flow changes as it meets the floor. Notice how the fold on the left seems to “lock” into the next fold.
Diaper Fold- Forms from two points of support. It doesn’t matter if one point is higher than another. It sweeps from point to point along a wide, flat surface rather than a tube of cloth.
Inert Folds- A “dead” or “inactive” fold. The fabric isn’t wrapped around a cylinder or other form. It has no point of support or tension that is hangs from. Its overall feeling, however, will still be characteristic of the surface upon which it rests.
Within the folds of this drawing you will see diaper folds, zig zag, inter-locking, and drop folds. Most of the time when you are drawing fabric you will encounter a combination of the types of folds.
When drawing fabric, if you can understand how the fabric is draping and try to see it in terms of basic shapes you can better add proper value. Can you see the cones and cylinders happening in the fabric on the left? Fabric usually has straight lines like cones and cylinders and it occasionally has gentle curves.
Another key to properly drawing fabric is to find and use as much contrast as possible.