There are many things a skilled portrait artist can do to elevate his or her art above the¬†average artist’s offering…

… and one of these is to take time and develop the clothes in great detail.

The clothes are generally finished last on a portrait, and as such are often overlooked or rushed through in order to finish the job.

It may be thought that since it’s a picture of a person and not of their clothes, that the clothing isn’t very important.

This is incorrect. The clothing not only helps to determine the character, personality, and overall appearance of the person being drawn …

… but the care and skill that one shows in rendering the clothing also says a great deal about the artist.

Part of the reason for this is that drawing and shading clothing can be difficult.

Develop the clothes by first drawing the largest shapes and most prominent lines.

When you’re sure that those are correct, begin filling in smaller details such as folds within the sleeves, the secondary collar line, hems, buttons, lapels and so on, and finally place some of the finer details that can be developed prior to shading.

Stitches can be indented into the white paper using a sharp pencil over tracing paper or a stylus.

Threads on buttons and buttonholes can be reserved in the same way.

Patterns or lettering can be carefully drawn using templates whenever possible and then if necessary, protected with frisket film.

(Detail of shading on a lapel)

The final details are what really make the clothing stand out, so take your time and do them right. Fabric often puckers around seams and stitches.

Develop the darks of each pucker and soften the tone with a small tortillon.

Darken lines of contrast wherever the clothing casts a shadow by putting down a dark line with a sharp charcoal pencil, blending out into the dark area with a tortillon, and lightening the other side of the line with a kneaded eraser.

Blot out reflected light in the dark areas of folds and sharpen highlights with an eraser.

(Detail of shading on a shirt)

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