Is there an easy way to quickly create satin fabric in illustrator.

Sample picture:

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • 2
    what have you tried?
    – Vincent
    Apr 20 '20 at 13:00
  • Hi. Welcome to GDSE. I wouldn't use Illustrator for this. Probably better with a 3D modelling application instead. You could use something like Blender (which is free). Plus there's a Blender Stack Exchange if you get stuck.
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 20 '20 at 15:03
  • 1
    There's a Blender Tutorial here on youtube that could be helpful.
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 20 '20 at 15:06
  • I strongly suspect something like that, vector, was created with Xara, not Illustrator. From what I've seen, Xara tends to be much better at replicating photo realism with vectors - some method or tool to create intricate meshes from an actual photo. Windows Only so I've never actually used Xara.
    – Scott
    Apr 20 '20 at 19:38


In a 2D drawing program you must force 2 things to match: The geometry and its interaction with light. 2D programs know nothing of the 3D space and how material reflects light there, so it's up to you to make the things to fit.

Well trained painters and draughtsmen can do it, but the needed amount of talent and practicing is beyond the capabilities of an ordinary punter just like 1st class sport achievements or enjoyable playing of violin or piano. Learning to do it firmly (if it happens) can take years. Check these links:




Illustrator has gradient meshes and blending which both can be used for perfect coloring, but to see which gradients or blends are needed is anything but trivial. I must admit that the only practical way how I could make plausible complex fabric foldings in Illustrator is to cheat by tracing a photo.

3D programs can do it. If you can define the geometry the program calculates the 2D image for you with nearly zero effort. After defining the geometry only define the material and light conditions.

Even the geometry can be generated half-automatically if one uses physics simulation which calculates how a fabric settles if it's thrown over an object. Unfortunately learning to use such 3D programs properly takes easily several months.

Elementary level 3D programs can make only simple forms with no physical realism. Also the rendering is only algorithmic and low resolution, it's not ray-traced photorealistic like in high end programs. An example: A surface is generated by lofting along a curved path between 2 different folding curves:

enter image description here

Of course it's as defined, but the difficulty is to define complex enough geometry. This is far too simple when compared to how a piece of fabric would settle in reality.

Here's another not especially realistic attempt in the same 3D program (=Moi3D). It's still a loft between 2 curves, but the result is twisted:

enter image description here

For clothing designers there exists programs which can show to the designer plausibly what's the result when someone wears his designs. They can be easier for designers than high end 3D modelling programs because they are made to use clothing industry concepts instead of 3D modelling terms. But still the need of studying and practicing is substantial.

  • 3
    You can simulate cloth in 3d see make towel with blender but works in most professional DCC app.For graphics highly recommend a DCC app instead of a CAD.
    – joojaa
    Apr 20 '20 at 15:23

Quickly? No.

Could you do it with some time, practice and skill? Yes.

Using three pen-drawn bézier curves and the blend tool I've created one single fold - you can see how it could work to then build that up to create skeins of fabric:

enter image description here

But it would be neither fast nor efficient.

Sorry took me so long to complete my answer - I just didn't have time to put into this whilst working for primary client - however I just spent a short while in my 3D DCC tool of choice (Modo) setting up a softbody simulation, with wind and slight turbulence, and rendered one of the final frames out to get a quicky result to demonstrate how I'd approach this if I needed to such a task:

enter image description here

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.