This is not the final word on how to make fabric folds. In fact, I’m learning as I go. But hopefully this will help anyone who wants to make realistic-looking wrinkles and folds in their 3D clothing.
There are two reasons cloth folds: because it is pushed, or because it is pulled. Pushing can be anything from bending your elbow to gathering to pleating. In some way, two parts of the same surface are pushed together. That creates a fold. Pulling can be as simple as taking a step forward (causing a skirt to ripple back from the leg) or wearing a shirt that’s too tight and has to stretch over your stomach. It’s way more complicated than this, of course, but that’s a basic explanation.
You should check out this tutorial for more information. Or this one. Or this one is really good.
For SL purposes, there are two types of folds-- artificial and natural. Artificial folds are created by gathering, pleating, etc., and will remain the same no matter what position the clothing is in. Natural folds, on the other hand, are created by body position and gravity acting on the fabric. Here are some examples:
The bodice of Beyonce's dress is gathered, which folds will remain the same no matter what position she's in. The folds in her skirt are created by her leg stepping forward, and these folds will change moment to moment, depending on her position.
Jessica's neckline is gathered-- artificial folds.
The folds in her skirt are a result of pleating (artificial) and body position (natural).
Penelope's skirt has natural folds, resulting from the heaviness of the
*break to squee over the cute*
Okay, Abigail's skirt is also very full, but the crinoline supports it against gravity, and therefore it doesn't hang in deep folds like it would without the support.
Cameron's dress is tight enough that it pulls across the front, causing (natural) wrinkles.
JLo's dress is majorly gathered, creating all those tiny folds. (GUH I LOVE THIS DRESS.)
Now, SL. Creating non-prim clothes means you have to draw in folds by hand. This is fine for artificial folds, but natural folds look weird, because in SL they don't change and move with the body. You're always going to get a better look making artificial folds, like the gathered neckline on Jessica's dress. Still, you can make nice-looking natural folds, if not absolutely realistic.
It tends to work better on patterned cloth rather than straight flat color. I'm not sure why that is. Probably someone smarter than me knows. Anyway, here's my attempt to create natural folds in a full skirt.
It's going to look much better in a still picture than it does in world, because when the avatar moves, the unchanging nature of the folds becomes obvious. But hey, it's pretty, it covers your av's ass, and it requires no prims.
These folds are what I used in the above example, and I turned them into free brushes for download. Same goes as with the previous brushes-- use them on whatever you want, give them to whoever you want, change them however you want, just don't try to claim you made them and sell them. These are PS CS2 brushes; if you want to convert them into some other format, be my guest.
To use the brushes, use Robin Wood's or Chip Midnight's templates, and stamp these brushes over your fabric layer. The "Straight skirt highlights" brush should be used in a light color and set to overlay. The outer edges go on the bleed lines of the skirt. Reduce the opacity so you don't shine like chrome. Unless chrome is the look you're going for.
Use a dark color and set the "Straight skirt folds" layer to multiply. Fiddle with the opacity till you like it. Remember, too dark and it's going to look like vertical stripes.
Go make pretty skirts!
(and if you comment here and don't have an LJ, can you leave your SL name? It just makes me feel better about conversations. :)