View Full Version : setting up white drapery

06-03-2007, 11:20 AM
Sorry for making 2 posts on the same subject but I posted something similar on the still life forum and then I realized that it might be more relevant to the classical art forum.

I'm trying to set up some white drapery in a way that's similar to a white cast drawing (strong light from one direction, dark shadows on the other side). Does anyone have experience setting up white drapery or a cast? If so, I would really appreciate any info about how you created those dark shadows and minimized reflected light (i.e what kind of light you used, whether you used some kind of shadow box, etc).

Thank you in advance,

06-03-2007, 11:52 AM
Hi Rabia!

If you can, check out a photographer's studio or a museum. Basically you need to shut out all natural light (close the curtains) and one powerfull (spot) light at an angle of 30-45 degrees to the left or right and slightly higher than the subject. This is a tutorial for 3-D, but it was first used in photography and film.


Hope this helps.


06-03-2007, 12:00 PM
Hi Margreet,
Thanks a lot, that's really helpful. I guess I need to go to the lighting store and buy a spotlight. I thought I could get by with a directed reading lamp but it's just not good enough.


06-03-2007, 07:50 PM
To be honest, I really am a lousy photographer in real scenes. 3d is just a matter of moving a slider to produce more energy. For a set up in real life and what kind of lamps you need, perhaps the photograpy forum can answer your question. From my own experience: a directed reading lamp is not enough. They can't take much more than 60 Watts and you need 100 Watts at least.


06-03-2007, 11:11 PM
Rabia, I think Margreet has it right. A darkened room, a single light source, set fairly low, a surface for your fabric, which allows some drape, such as a small table, iron your fabric smoothly, and try it out. It's quite simple! Good luck! Val

06-04-2007, 10:14 AM
Although you can make a dark room, when I did a drapery study at the atelier, I had a fairly well lit room with one direct light source. Diffused light is ok as long as your main light source is stronger than the diffused light. You can accomplish this by using a lamp without a shade if you like. Thats how I did it at home. Those adjustable arm clamplight lamps are handy, and I picked one up at Walmart for about $7.00. It doesn't have to be photography quality to achieve what you are looking for. Just get a nice bright bulb and go for it. Learning to SEE shadow and shadow shapes in any light is the real key to good drapery. (So I am told. I am still not as good as I would like to be.)

The thing to remember about drapery studies is to make the darks a bit darker than you think they are. Its a good idea to do a value scale on the actual paper you are working with and see just how dark you CAN get. Really push that darkest value and work your way up to the white square. The darkest you can go should be your core shadow color. The pure white should be your highlights and the rest is somewhere in between. Its a good idea to keep this next to the drawing as you work so that you can keep it all relative. Once you have your scale done, decide what half of the scale is shadow and what half is light. Never use a shadow value where there is light shining on your setup and NEVER let your shadow values be less than the highest value of shadow. (That was the hardest thing for me to do!)

I was taught to get the large shadow shapes first in highest value from your shadow half of your value scale and then adjust the shadows deeper and deeper. Squint and then squint again and then squint some more until you see mostly 2 values, light and dark. Work your way slowly into details releasing your squint as you take in the various values and shapes. Take your time and take lots of breaks. Staring at a white drapery setup for hours can give you eye fuzzies. :)

This picture of my Drapery Study (http://www.annasellers.com/agallery/pages/ds021003.html) doesn't show the value scale across the bottom of the paper, but before I even began to shade anything I had to do one. That way I always had it right there to compare to.

The other thing I learned from doing this was to really punch those sharp edges where light meets shadow. It is the contrast that convinces the eye of the 3D illusion. Make the light a bit lighter and the darks a bit darker in those particular areas. You can goof up a bit on the rest if you have those places right. Think of the half tones as the support and the highest contrast areas as the star of the show.

I hope this helps and I would really love to see how things are going. Be sure to post your progress!

06-05-2007, 10:04 AM
Thanks a lot for all your advice. I ended up using 2 lights -- a plug-in spotlight from Lowe's and a 25W lamp that you can clamp on to a table (I clamped it to the top of my easel to light my drawing). Now I'm so tired from setting up my still life that I don't have the energy to begin...