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How to Create Folds & Wrinkles in SL Clothing

How to Create Wrinkles in Clothing

In order for clothing to look natural in Second Life, you must have some folds or wrinkles in it.   Without some form of lighting and shadowing from folds or wrinkles, Second Life clothing just looks too painted-on, too artificial.  So if you want to make clothing, you need to learn some folding and wrinkling techniques.

How Do We Get Folds and Wrinkles?

Let’s look at fabric.  As you look at the way fabric drapes over a body, you’ll see that there are the places the fabric is being pulled or being compressed.  Folds or wrinkles are created wherever fabric is loose and is affected either by pulling or compressing.  (Fabric pliability also has an effect, but for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll stick with common clothing materials.)

So in order to have folds or wrinkles, we need the following:

1) Pull or compression; and

2) Some sort of looseness in the fabric.  Let’s look at each of these.


If there’s no looseness in the fabric, then we won’t get any folds or wrinkles.

Take, for example, a lycra leotard (to the Left).

It’s tight and stretchy, and you wouldn’t expect to see any folds or wrinkles.  Yet, the forces of pull and compression are present.  The leotard is tightly wrapped around the body which exerts pull on the lycra fabric, but there just isn’t enough looseness in the fabric to cause wrinkles.

Compare that to a normal fitting cotton shirt.  With a cotton shirt, we have looseness, and in places where there’s pull and compression, we’ll see folds and wrinkles.




We know that need have to compression or pull on the fabric to get folds.

Let’s look specifically at pull. Where do we get pull from?

Well, one type of pull is gravity.  Gravity exerts a downward pull on the fabric.

A good example is a loose fitting skirt (to the right).

Gravity is exerting a pull on the skirt.  And we get folds in the skirt.



We can also get pull from a shirt stretching across the body.  We need a little looseness in the fabric where it’s being stretched across the body, but if we have some looseness and pull, we’ll get folding and wrinkling.

A good illustration of this (to the Left) is to look a shirt worn on a woman (who has larger bust than me :)).

The material is stretched across the bust, and we have clearly have pull there.

But there’s not enough loose fabric to get folds in the bust area.

Just below the bust, however, the material is a bit looser and we’ll see folds there.



.Vertical and Horizontal Folds

Here’s something that help you.  If we have a downward pull (the pull of gravity), we’ll get vertical folds.  A loose skirt (above) is a perfect example.

Now let’s consider a sideways pull, the type of pull that might happen a slightly loose shirt below the bust area on a on women.  What would you expect?  Yes.  Horizontal folds!

Let’s continue with our example of a shirt on a women.  Notice that I was careful to say “slightly loose” when I was referring to the looseness of the shirt.

What would happen if the shirt was really loose?  What happens then?

In that case, gravity exerts more of a pull than the tightness around the woman’s body, and we end up with…yes!  Vertical folds.

We can see that plainly on the shirt worn by the model to the right.



We also get folds when material is compressed.  An obvious place where we get compression is the joint of limbs.

If you fold your arm, the material on the inside is compressed and it causes folds.

The illustration (on the left) shows folds at compressed areas: the arm pit and under the elbow.

The same thing happens when you bend a leg.

Movements cause compression.  Turning you body may cause a shirt to compress on one side and stretch on the other.

We don’t normally have to worry about this in Second Life clothing.  We never know which way the avatar is bending, so we just assume that the avatar is in a neutral position.

But . . .  we do have to consider other ways fabric is compressed.  We can get compression from the way the fabric is sewn.

Gathers at the top of the skirt will create folds (see illustration to the right).

Gravity also comes into play here, and along with gathers on the skirt, we’ll get long, vertical folds.  So what we are seeing here is a combination of compression and gravity.

This just keeps getting better!



Plaits in slacks will cause folds (to the left).

Once again compression and gravity work together in the small short folds that are created with plaits.

We’ll also get folds from elastic or drawstrings running through a casting.





Finally, one last way we can get compression is by tucking clothing.

A shirt which is tucked in a pair of pants will have compression areas where the loose material is gathered together.

If you tuck a nice, loose shirt in you pants, you’ll have some wrinkles in one or more spots.

In the case of Obama, to the left, the shirt has a series of folds where it’s been tucked in the side.







The Effect of Light and Shadow

Now that we have an idea of where we get folds, we need to also understand something about light and shadow.  In real life, we see folds in fabric because of the way light is cast on the fabric.  Unless it is an unusual situation, light almost always comes from above.  (Hello up there!)

The graphic below shows a light source just slightly above a strip of fabric.  Notice how the folds appear: those facing the bulb are light.  Those facing away are shadowed.


.When creating wrinkles in Second Life clothing, you need to decide where you want the light coming from.  Light will be coming from the top.  That’s a given, but you can angle it.  In other words, you can have the light shining over the left shoulder and slanting down toward the right side of the body — or visa versa.  Using an angle, upper-left-to-lower-right, or upper-right-to-lower-left, is the way to go.

The illustration (to the right) shows the light and shadow patterns when the light source is coming from the upper left

Once you decide upon the angle, keep it that way.  Don’t change it while working on that clothing item.

In other words you don’t want light coming from upper left to lower right across a shirt collar, and then from upper right to left on the body of a shirt.  That’s a no-no.

Let’s look at light on the vertical folds.  If the light is coming from the top left to bottom right, the top and left sides of the folds would be lighter than the right side of the folds.  That makes sense right?

Imagine yourself holding a flashlight in the dark.  The lightest areas the faces of the materials which most directly face the light.  The darkest areas are those facing away.

And light on the horizontal fold?  The top of the folds will be lighter than the bottom of the folds.  That makes sense too.  Hey, this all is making sense.

So when you make folds in Second Life clothing, you’ll need to lighten and darken them.  For fabrics such as cotton, there’s a gradual change between light and dark.  If the fabric is shinny such as latex (which seems to be a popular material in some segments of Second Life society – oh yes!), the difference between light and dark is sharp.  That’s what makes the material appear shiny.

Where to Put the Folds

Lastly the question arises is where exactly should you put folds?  To prepare yourself, I suggest making some observations.  Look the folds and wrinkles on clothing worn by real people.

I do that every so often when I’m people watching.  For some reason, I find myself doing that quite often at the gym when I’m on the bicycle or a tread machine.  I look at the folds of the clothing people pumping and sweating away like me.

(And you thought I was looking at something else.  Nope.  No cute butts.  Just looking the way clothing folds.  Ha ha!)

But there’s another way to do it, and you can do it right now while sitting at your computer.  Use Google Image search, and look for shirts or pants or skirts.  You’ll find plenty at on-line stores.  Look at the models and where the folds appear.  That’s actually quite helpful, and I often will save the image, and create similar folds in my clothing.

(Having said this, I do want to point out that often fashion and model photographers will manipulate lighting and smooth out clothing wrinkles in Photoshop.  That’s to be expected since they are getting paid to make clothing look good.  As you look on the Internet, you’ll need to sort through a number of images until you find ones that look most like what you see in real life.)

Using photos, or real life observations, decide where you’re going to place the folds on the UV Map.

Folds have some width and are mostly straight and tapered at either end.  You don’t need a lot of folds.  I think you can go overboard with folds.  You just need a few in the right places to give the illusion of realness and looseness in the clothing.

How To Make Them

There are a number of different methods of making wrinkles (I’ve compiled a list of the methods and links to descriptions of each at: Annotated Guide to SL Clothing Tutorials).  However, there is one method that is a generally accept as a standard in Second Life, and I’ll explain how it’s done below.

I have experimented with other methods, but I like this one because it’s fairly quick.  For me the other methods take more time to execute, and I haven’t found any advantages.

I will be using Photoshop terms, but this method can be used in GIMP, Photopaint and other graphic programs that allow you to work in layers.

To start with, you need to create the main outline of the clothing item that you are creating and add details.  An example of how you arrive at the main outline is described in the sleeveless shirt tutorial (and in more detail in Main Outline).  Briefly that means opening up the UV Map and saving it under a new and an appropriate name.  Then you create the main outline, add hems, seams and other details like buttons.

I often start with an off-white layer, but when it comes to making folds, it’s easier to work in a color.  Let’s use a medium blue.  I’ll discuss how you work with very, very light colors and black in a minute.  So add some color to your outline first.  Then follow the steps below…

When you are ready to add wrinkles and folds, begin by creating a new layer.  This layer will sit above your “Main Outline” layer (as shown below).


Fill the layer with 50% gray (below).


Then set the blending mode to “Overlay” (below).

What are doing here?  A 50% gray layer with an “Overlay” blending mode will not affect the main outline layer.  Well, it will affect it slightly, but only slightly. The gray layer, for all intents and purposes, is transparent.  But if you lighten or darken areas of the gray layer, those areas will darken or lighten the same areas on your main outline.

You probably catching on at this point.  We will be creating our folds on the gray layer, and those folds will show up on the Main Outline.  The Main Outline is where the shirt (or whatever item you’re making) gets its color.  The light and dark areas on the gray layer will create the effect of light shinning across the folds – and it all shows up on the Main Outline.  We’re putting into practice the same concepts that we talked about above in the Light and Shadow section.

One last thing I wanted to point out is that we are doing this on a separate layer.  If you make a mistake, you haven’t screwed up your Main Outline that you’ve worked so hard to create.  In fact, by using a separate layer, it’s easy to ease.  How would you do that?  Just paint over it with brush u sing a 50% color!  Kool!

You’ll notice that at this point, the gray filling in the “Wrinkles” layer covers the entire UV map.   If we leave it there, we’ll end up with gray arms, and we don’t want that.  There’s an easy way to remove the gray.  If you’ve followed the directions in the Main Outline tutorial, you’ll have a Layer Mask in the Main Outline layer.  It’s just a matter of copying the mask and moving it to the Wrinkles layer.  To do that, hold down ALT (PC) or Control (Mac).  Then click on the Main Outline’s layer mask and drag it to the Wrinkles layer.  Presto!  The gray is removed – as shown below.

You can remove the gray in other ways.  For example, if you don’t have a layer mask, you can use the Magic Wand to make a selection.  You want to make the selection on the “Main Outline” layer.  Click with the Magic Wand outside the colored area.  Now that you have a selection, highlight the “Winkles” layer.  Then select Edit >> Clear.  The gray is removed.

To make the highlights of the folds (the light areas), you will be using the Dodge tool.  To make the shadowed areas of the folds you will be using the Burn tool.  If you haven’t used it before, you’ll find in your toolbox along with sponge tool (see below).

You’ll need to play with the settings, but here are some to get you started.  This is assuming that you are working with 512 x 512 pixel image.  (All of my tutorials are based on this image size, which is the size that you import into Second Life):

Burn & Dodge Tools:
Soft Brush, Width: Approx. 7 Pixels.
Range: Midtones
Strength: 100% Strength

Keep your lines fairly straight.  I usually start out with the Burn tool and draw a dark line.  I’ll repeat it once to make it a bit darker.  Next, using the Dodge tool, draw a line just above the dark line.  (I’ll repeat that as well.)  Remember that the light is hitting the top of the fold so we want the lighter color on top.

If you’re not using a graphic tablet (or even if you using a graphic tablet), there’s a trick that you can use to keep your lines straight.  Using either the Burn or Dodge tool.  Left click on the place where you want to begin the line.  Then hold Shift down and click where you want the line to end.  Presto, a straight line!  Yes it looks too straight to look real but you’ll change that in a minute.

When drawing the lines, don’t draw them all the way to the edges of the UV map.  If you did, you have to match it up on the other side – and that’s not easy.  So save yourself some trouble and keep away from the edges.


Now for the fun part.  Select the Smudge tool.

The smudge tool will blur the two lines together and it will also taper the line.   Here are some smudge tool setting to help you get started:

Smudge Tool
Soft Brush, Width: Approx.  15 pixels
Mode: Normal
Strength: 45%

Center the smudge tool over the both the light and dark lines approximately in the mid point.  Then sweep it towards one end.  The sweep it to the other end.  You’ll notice that it stretches the lines out and it tapers the ends.

When using the Smudge Tool, you may need to practice some.  To start over, just re-fill the layer with 50% gray, or paint any part you don’t want with a brush using 50% gray.

After smudging, I’ll usually do a bit tweaking, adding a bit more burn or dodge here and there.

Some designers will end up by blur just a bit.  This time using the Blur tool (not the smudge tool – there is a difference).  The Blur tool is set at around 15% and the folds are blurred every so slightly.  Or they use Filter >> Blur >> Gaussian Blur at less than 2.0.  I usually don’t do any blurring.  The smudge tools seems to work fine for my taste.

Here’s what the shirt looks like after adding several more folds.

Notice in this case, we’re using the idea of compression.  We have slightly loose material which is being tucked under the pants.  If you are making a shirt that is not tucked then you would want to make the folds more vertical.  (Untucked shirts require using the Second Life jacket layer.  When using the jacket layer, you have to be careful with folds since layer crosses a UV seam.  I’ll cover the jacket layer in an upcoming tutorial.)

Give this a shot – and with a little practice you’ll find that you can make folds and wrinkles in no time.

The end result viewed in Second Life.

What About Folds on White or Black Clothing

First, if you look carefully at a white shirt in real life, you’ll see it’s really an intermingling of various subtle shades of very pale grays.  Depending upon the light source, it might have other color tones.  (If you stop in a paint store, they will often have a display which allows you to see how the color of paint chips change slightly under different light sources.)  It’s the same for Black.  Black is often not quite a true black (the absolute absence of reflected light).

So when you make white or black clothing, don’t use the pure white (256,256,256) or pure black (0,0,0) found your graphics program.  Instead of pure white, use a light gray. Instead of pure black, use a very dark gray.  Additionally, in either case you can use a very, very light bluish tint instead of white, or very, very dark blue color instead of black.

Illustrated, below, is a bluish-gray that was used to color the outline used in the Sleeveless Shirt tutorial.   Even though it’s not a perfect white, it looks great in Second Life.  The bluish tinge actually helps, playing a little trick on the eye, making it appear more white than it is.  Amazing!

You may be able to achieve enough gray by using male and female shading.  For instance if you have run through the Sleeveless Shirt tutorial, you will have added male or female shading to the shirt.  It’s actually layered underneath the Main Outline (where your color goes).  If you start with almost white color, you actually end up with some light gray and that’s enough to bring out the folds.

No matter what, you can always adjust the color in the Main Outline layer.  That’s easy to do, particularly if you have created a layer mask as I have explained in the Main Outline section. You tweak white or black to get just the right amount of color to create that beautiful white shirt or imposing black cape.

To return to the main page on making clothing:

Guide to Making Second Life Clothing





Keywords: Second Life creating folds, wrinkles and creases, creating wrinkles and creases in Second Life Clothing, making folds, wrinkles and creases in Second Life Clothing

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