I'm trying to make something very similar to this example:

enter image description here


I basically am trying to create various versions of fabric in Illustrator to show the layering process of fabrics in clothing. Any idea on how to achieve this? I'm looking into 3D Extrude and Bevel but I can't quite seem to get the natural curve.

  • 2
    That image was created in a 3D software for sure. You probably have to draw it manually, I don't believe you can do it just with the 3D tools in Illustrator.
    – Luciano
    Aug 18, 2017 at 13:06
  • any idea if it would be quick and easy to create in a 3D software?
    – Zachary
    Aug 18, 2017 at 15:09
  • Yeah it is easy. It is mostly shader tweaking anyway.
    – joojaa
    Aug 18, 2017 at 16:20
  • Thanks! I appreciate it. I'm a student so I'll give the autodesk a free trail option today. Unfortunately, I'm on an iMac so I can only use their limited supported iMac applications.
    – Zachary
    Aug 18, 2017 at 17:49
  • Do it in Blender. Take a look at this post. graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/78961/…
    – Rafael
    Aug 18, 2017 at 19:20

1 Answer 1


Drawing it as 2D is relatively easy in Illustrator or Inkscape if you can live without realistic textures having only flat colors and gradients. An example:

enter image description here

The following cartoon shows how to draw the surfaces. NOTE: to get the parts of the stack to fit, they cannot be drawn independently. One part is needed as reference when drawing another.

enter image description here

1) Draw a rectangle. Keep it quite low. Otherwise you run out of the space.

2) Take the shear tool. Drag it to skewed. Here the movement was horizontal.If you use a reference image below, drag the corners with the direct selection tool.

3) Insert new anchor points. Here they are approximately in the red circles.

4) Take the direct selection tool. Select the nearest corner only and drag it down.

5) Take the anhor point type conversion tool. Drag the corners to create smooth curves with Bezier-handles. Dragging defines the starting direction of the handles. Adjust the places of the anchor points and the handles with the direct selection tool.

6-7) At step 5 only one corner was bended down. Here 2 corners are bended.

8)To create some illusion of thickness make a copy. Give to one piece a color fill, but no stroke. Give to another a thick stroke but no fill. With the direct selection tool remove the marked sides of the stroke-only piece. If you select an anchor point and press DEL, the anchor and a curve segment vanishes.

9) Several movements in this:

  • select the stroke
  • goto the Stroke panel. Select straight butt cap and bevel join. Mitre and rounding would make all a little complex, so avoid them.
  • goto Object > Path > Outline Stroke. Now it's a filled shape - our edge!
  • move the edge to its place. It snaps easily if you have smart guides and snap to point on.
  • take the direct selection tool and fix the corners straicth by adjusting the anchor points of the edge.

10) Bending upwards needs moving the corners upwards. The starting point was image 3.

11) Make the curves smooth with the anchor point conversion tool. Take the scissors and cut the curves at the lowest points (=marked). You have now 2 open paths. Select them one at the time and press Ctrl+J (=join). That completes them to closed shapes that can be colored.

12) Color the halves. Here a linear gradient makes the fake shading. The upper side has a flat color. Learn carefully how to insert and modify gradients!

Using a reference: You can use a screenshot of another work as a reference. It really helps to get the placings and curvatures ok at the first attempt. Lock the reference image to keep it stable and unselected. You can make its colors and contrasts a little washed to help the visibility of the drawing. Most easily you do the washing in Illustrator. Goto the Appearance panel and reduce the opacity.

enter image description here

Having a texture: Nothing prevents adding also textures. Except the amount of needed work, maybe. Texture photos and shape patterns must be warped to fit. Ai's envelope distortion meshes are extremely difficult to use, so I recommend to do the warping in Photoshop in high resolution. The shading of the textures is possible with gradients by using layer blending modes or masked adjustment layers. It's not trivial to get the warping, the curvature and the shading to fit.

Here the shading is made by adding a curves layer that removes light:

enter image description here

Using 3D software: It surely gives the best results. But good software is complex. Easy to use 3D freebies do not have flexible enough ways to generate the surfaces or they do not make usable textured renderings. Every piece I have either cannot loft curves to surfaces or do not accept texture images onto curved surfaces or both. Lofting would be much more useful than extruding or sweeping a curve along another.

A good old workaround "use some easy 3D program for creating the shape and cover with a texture and create the shading in Photoshop's 3D" is not useful for this. The parts need different colors or textures They must be separate objects. Photoshop's 3D is poor when one wants to put together a multibody assembly.

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