Basic Figure Drawing for Costume Designers || My Costume Rendering Process

Basic Figure Drawing for Costume Designers || My Costume Rendering Process


(gentle piano music) – [Bernadette] So I’ve
gotten a lot of requests to do an in-depth walkthrough
of my sketching process, so hereforth lies that. I must disclaim that there
are so many different ways to draw and produce
effective costume renderings, and everyone has different favorites and different mediums they
excel particularly well in. Personally, I do most of my work in watercolor, ink, and gouache, so this is the particular process I will be focusing on today. First, I start with some watercolor paper. I like to work no bigger
than standard letter size. Some people enjoy working
big to really spread out, but that’s not really my jam. I like to do the initial pencil sketch right onto the watercolor paper, but some people prefer to
do the sketch separately and then trace or transfer it on. This could be useful if
you don’t quite yet know what the costume is going to look like and want to play around a bit with the design on some scrap paper, or if you’re not yet super comfortable with your figure drawing and want to get all of your
messy, half-erased alterations out of the way on separate paper before committing to the final rendering. I like to start with the basic figure, and find pose extremely
important in conveying character, and even potentially
giving you the opportunity to show how a garment will move. So, for pose references, references are indeed hugely important, you shouldn’t rely on
your memory or imagination to recreate the truly accurate figure. I often look to dancers, or for historical things,
contemporary portraiture. I’m particularly fond
of referencing the poses of those Dresden figurines, especially for whimsical
18th century things, since those poses are just so light and whimsically delightful
and floaty and wonderful, and I just love them a lot. Oh, and it is also, in
my own biased opinion, very important to learn how to draw faces. The human brain has
this remarkable ability to fill in a human face at
the mere suggestion of one, so it actually works out
that the harder you try to draw every detail of a face, the less realistic and more cartoonish it can end up looking. A mere suggestion of
lines in the right places will actually prompt the brain to fill in where all the rest of the
structure and shadows should be. Just like put the eyes
about halfway down the head and leave enough room for a chin. It took me a while to figure out those basic proportional things. Faces give your character
so much more personality and so much more life and reality than what is basically
otherwise a mannequin, so I do always highly
encourage a good face. Maybe I’m just biased. I love doing faces, and will spend a stupid
amount of time on them instead of doing the actual clothes. But anyway, personally I don’t worry about how many heads there are
in a height, or whatever, I just sort of sketch out the
basic structure of a person, making particular note
of where the ribcage is, how the spine is positioned,
where the pelvis is, and how long the legs are. I realize this is vague, but this comes with lots and
lots and lots of repetition. A lot of daily doodles on subways. I’m not kidding, this
is one of the best ways to learn how to draw. Regular, daily practice
drawing normal people doing normal things, especially
when they aren’t posed. You need to work quickly
before they change position, which forces you to
capture the basic frame and the movement of the figure
quickly and instinctually. Then you can worry about the details of how the hands are positioned and how the collar folds over. When I have the basic outline of a human, I then pull up some more
references for the clothes. If you’re drawing historical, absolutely under no circumstances should you draw without
primary references, or your proportions and silhouettes will almost certainly be off. I’m doing 1890s evening wear today, so I’ve pulled up a couple
of inspiring Worth gowns and sundry such 1890s evening
things on the old Pinterest, things with a vaguely similar silhouette, so I’m not Frankensteining
elements of different garments that would’ve been worn
for different purposes. It’s super important to keep in mind the under structures that
go underneath the clothes, which parts of the body are accentuated, reduced, concealed, repositioned. Some particularly important
distinctions to look out for are the position of the waist, whether it’s raised, lowered, or natural, the position of the bust,
whether it’s pushed up, left natural, accentuated, or flattened, the position of the armscyes, whether they’re dropped down onto the arm or sit up on the shoulder, and of course the length of hems, and those are just the absolute basics. The more detail you can replicate, the more attention you can pay to where seams hit the
exact points of the body, the better you can understand
the layers of dress, the more convincing your
historical figure is going to be. Whilst I was designing for theatre, I didn’t ever do these elaborate, flowery background detail bits. I only do them now because
I no longer have to finish four dozen renderings in a fortnight, and I can have a bit of fun with them, but I do recommend putting
in some sort of background, however simple, just
to give your character a bit of setting. For painting, I tend
only to need two brushes, one large number 10 for for backgrounds and larger skirt areas, and a smaller number
four for everything else. When working with watercolor or gouache, it’s better to use brushes
made from pure sable, not blended with synthetic, since the plastic fibers repel moisture, but sable retains the paint better, so you can keep painting
for longer intervals without having to keep re-dipping. I’m also going to mask out my figure with some masking fluid, which basically dries like a
rubbery film that repels paint, but can also be peeled off later. A lot of people really hate this stuff, but I’m quite fond of it. Just be sure to spread
it on with a cotton swab or something disposable, since this will ruin
your nice sable brushes after one single use. I’m only doing this because I plan to do the actual figure in watercolor, which is translucent, and I don’t want the background
layers to show through. If you’re planning to
do your entire figure in something more opaque, like gouache, then you don’t need to worry about this. You can just but your
background wash over the figure and it won’t really matter. The watercolors I use are mostly just from this standard palette, but I do have a few stray
tubes of additional watercolor for colors not available here. These tubes tend to be more expensive, which is why I don’t buy
all of my colors in tubes, but a few supplements are fine. I’m then just covering my entire
paper with a layer of water so that the colors flow more softly. It’s important to note
that for watercolor, there is a significant textural difference between using the paints on
wet paper versus dry paper. Dry gives more fine detail, while wet gives softer, runnier colors, so you’ll need to do
a lot of experimenting with different moisture levels to understand how the paints behave if you’ve never done watercolor before. Personally, for my backgrounds, I prefer to do a wet on
wet wash for subtlety, then go in and spatter some paint over either the damp or mostly
dry paper for added texture. I also use tea leaves. A quick sprinkling of
these gives the paper a nice agéd, spotty texture, which I’m personally very fond of, but I know it’s probably not the best idea for archival purposes, as I imagine the acids in the tea leaves don’t collaborate with paper longterm. Oh well, good thing we
can document these things on the Internet, right? But, the point is, you can experiment with non-paint materials
for additional texture. Salt will absorb the water and pigment for some interesting
effects, as will sand, so, have some fun. Once everything is dry, I
can peel off my masking layer and brush away the tea leaves. And now to actually paint the figure. This is done mostly with watercolors, in addition to some gouache
for any necessary opacity. By the way, gouache is basically
just opaque watercolor, and it’s awesome. Unfortunately, gouache
doesn’t come in nice palettes, and you have to buy
each tube individually, and the tubes are expensive. The good quality stuff at
least does last forever, and really there’s absolutely no point in buying the not-good quality stuff. Winsor & Newton I’ve found to be the best. All the other brands that I’ve tried dry plasticy and don’t re-wet, whereas a decent quality gouache will be able to be rewetted
and used indefinitely. You can use gouache entirely, or, as I’ve become fond of doing, to provide some added bits of texture to a watercolor painting, or where you need to layer
one color on top of another without the previous layer coming through, such as with stripes or tartans. Once again, I always like
to start with the face. I find giving the figure some life helps me to figure out
the clothes somehow. Once again, I’m doing this wet on wet, so wetting the entire face and neck area, then just dabbing the
smallest bits of pigment in areas that need deeper
shadow or bits of red. The cool thing is, while the paper is wet, the paper is very malleable, so if you’re not happy with a color or the density of a shade, you can always just lift it back off with a bit of clean water. Then I just paint the clothes. I try and work in long, determined strokes rather than short, sketchy strokes so that the paint coverage
looks even and not overworked. And in terms of maintaining
neat lines and edges, don’t be afraid to turn your paper. The tip of the paintbrush
produces the cleanest line, so running this along the
outer lines of the figure, rather than using the
underside of the brush that you can’t see, will give you much cleaner edges. Here is an example of using
drier paint on a dry surface. You can get very crisp texture detail while the paint isn’t
spreading out on a wet surface. Once all my paint is thoroughly dry, I then like to go over
with some fine ink pens to define the outlines. This is something I’ve only
started doing as an illustrator rather than as a costume designer, as I was always told never
to outline costume sketches, since it makes them less realistic and not a good representation
of what the clothes will look like on a human in reality, but I have spent my
entire life longing to be the 21st century embodiment
of Arthur Rackham, and since I am primarily
an illustrator now and don’t do costume renderings
for anyone but myself, no one can stop me. I should probably now
take a moment to state that drawing is not a talent. It is not a divinely bestowed gift or genetically inherited trait. It is a skill that is learnt
through lots of practice. That being said, we shall from
henceforth no longer utter that loathsome T word. It’s all to do with the
observations of your brain connecting with and developing
the muscles in your hand, and that’s only something
that can be achieved through, like any muscular
development, regular training. It can be done! Just draw lots of stuff. Draw all of the people,
all of the body types, all of the clothing. Quick sketches, detail sketches, study the skeleton and
the muscular structure, and hey, practice by tracing photographs, that really does help, too. Observe reality and proportion, and don’t just rely on memory. That’s my advice, good old hard work. And with that, our lady is complete. I hope that was informative somewhat, and maybe inspires you to do some drawing. But for now, back to sewing.

100 thoughts on “Basic Figure Drawing for Costume Designers || My Costume Rendering Process

  1. 2:55 Don't think we didn't catch that little Cathy!
    Also, If you want some really nice gouaches for cheap, HIMI is available on Amazon for about 17 dollars and it is a HUGE palette especially for that price.

  2. I have never used water colors before, only tried oil paints. But i always admired and love water colors but i don't have the courage to try it. Probably im just scared to fail at something i love. But you inspired me and now faced with the truth of that you can do anything just practice because you can't do anything with just having a talent. So thank you as always 😊

  3. "This jacket fits so well, you've got a talent for making clothes!" Sure, it totally didn't take three mockups and pattern pieces that were altered so many times they're falling apart to make this tailored jacket. Also you'll scream when you see how I did the pockets. They're made from an old table cloth; I ran out of lining fabric because I forgot the pockets during planning, _again_. Talented as heck lol.
    Also you can reuse gouache??? I didn't know that and probably threw out a lot of money 😐 Thanks for the info!

  4. I always do my smaller paintings with gouache, and my bigger paintings in oil🥰 this was so enjoyable to watch💕

  5. Iv'e just never been brave enough to video my sketch work. I am getting braver- but prefer to just show the result of my sketching work. You are amazing!!

  6. Wait… you're primarily an illustrator!? How am I just learning this?? A woman of many talents – er – much hard work!

  7. 7:23 that is acrylic gouache which as you said dries permanently and does not rewet. it doesn't have anything to do with the quality but the type of gouache you're using, just read the labels.

  8. Those candles bottom left SOOOOOOO beautiful and eery loooove!!😍😍😍😍 Your style is so soothing to watch! I'd watch any and every draw with me video you upload!

  9. Your work is so incredibly beautiful! Pure joy to watch this video, I hope you can find time to do some more videos about drawing. ^_^ And so nice that more people are talking about the terrible t* word!

  10. Also, I love how all the historical fashion YouTubers openly acknowledge that Zack Pinsent is the bee's knees, so to speak, which he is. I mean that guy is fabulous

  11. – In regards to your discussion on masking fluid: I've found that you can use soap to form a sort of barrier between the brush and the masking fluid (or, at least, that's what I think its doing). I still wouldn't use it with an expensive brush because I find that you can't really coat the bristles sufficiently to fully protect from the masking fluid and some will end up right up at the ferrule where its hardest to get a good coating of soap so I just use a set of very cheap brushes, wet them, rub them over a bar of soap, and then use the masking fluid. It lets me use a wider range of sizes of applicator for my masking fluid which is great for me and, with the addition of the soap and cleaning periodically during the process of applying it, I can use a brush multiple times before it gets too worn. The tendency for the clumping of masking at the ferrule just means my brushes end up a bit fatter and less consistent if I was applying water or something thin too so they may be used even longer if I use them as a slightly larger sized masking brush.
    – In regards to the acryla gouche you showed, it won't rewet and dries plasticy because its basically an acryllic paint with added things to make it more opaque and a bit more water-soluable when wet whereas the Winsor-Newton gouache you showed is a normal gouche.

  12. I was able to draw, slightly no natural talent, after years of practice. Stopped 30 years ago. I want to start again but soooo scared to. Yet, I have nothing to lose. It's only for me. I put of sculpting figures for years, and find I sort of can do it. Practice is really the key. Sketch books for me then. I used to love mixing water colour, pastel pencils and a little ink

  13. Just Lovely! I so enjoy your sewing videos and such, and find your art just as fun! would love to see more videos on it, As i find there aren't many people doing this style and i really love it, very inspiring!

  14. drawing for me was always something i only ever did to visualize my future projects, but even only using it in that capacity, its amazing when I look back at the sketches I made ten years ago when I got started how much I've improved. That being said, its always great to watch someone who's taken the time to learn the skill at work.

  15. thank you for stressing how much drawing is a skill and not a natural born talent, ive been drawing for more than a decade and when i draw something everyone says wow i wish i was talented like that and im like, pls just practice and we can have fun drawing goofy things together 🙁

  16. Hi, This is absolutely lovely. Alas, one of the myriad of things I never practiced, but one I highly appreciate in your little film. Yours, Ann

  17. Wonderful video and tips!! Yes, it does inspire me to get some watercolors and try. My father bought pencils, pastels, oils, and watercolors when I was young, but my mom didn't like the mess and threw them all but the pastels pencils away. I can pencil sketch, sometimes well sometimes not so well. Faces are the worst for me. Practice, Practice Practice (I do like sewing better than sketching) As always, love your videos!!! Thank you!

  18. As a regional theatre actor who generally books historical character roles, I’m downstream from this sort of artist rendering as in I’m the one who has to wear the costumes made from these kind of designs. Sometimes for months on end. As general notes to fledgling theatrical costumes designers out there, first – gotta do that research. Period. I’ve been mis-costumed twice, oddly enough for the same role with two different companies. Don’t do that. That means I end up arguing with the assistant costumer in front of me, not their lazy boss back in New York. Nobody wants to do that. And I promise you, if you don’t do your homework, your actors will, and if you thought the kids at drama camp were fussy, just wait til you get to the pros. We are in this stuff for months at a time, so we have the right to be.

    Also, keep in mind the purpose of the piece; you wanna put me in a chemise, corset, petticoat, tunic, massive overskirt, fitted bodice, corduroy cape, wimple, stovepipe hat? Awesome! Where do I put my mic pack? And where do you suggest I put my mic? And what’s your bright suggestion as to how I keep my stage makeup on me, not my costume, in a high collared piece or a wimple? Corsets may look cute, but most of the time we are in loaners which do not fit “properly.” And I have to MOVE in these things. As in climb ladders, run, dance, etc. It may be all conceptual and dreamy for you, but there’s some poor soul apologizing nightly to the poor ASM who has to unlace a completely sweated-through corset and spray that thing down with vodka, at then end off all this.

    Always keep in mind these are work clothes and need to be as sturdy as possible. Add general wear and tear of nearly daily wear, the industrial setting that is backstage, and stuff like quick changes, and even I can beat up a costume in an alarmingly short time.

    And for the love of God, do NOT send your female actors out there without pockets! It doesn’t matter if they are not period correct, we need them out there. You wanna scare an actor? Have her realize seconds before she’s about to go on that she has nowhere to stash that cough drop and has to chipmunk it for her big scene. On opening night.

    Not I would know anything about that.

    Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

  19. Totally agree that gouache is awesome.. and also strongly agree to just spring for the Windsor Newton, everything else completely sucks, even most of the other expensive brands. Seems like the other brands think it's like really matte acrylic instead of oapque watercolor, it just doesn't behave like it's supposed to.

  20. 🥰 Art, my wheelhouse! ☺️ Love love LOVE the aged accent the tea leaves added!! Will have to try that.
    ☝️😊💭 Just a thought; that Holbein Acryla Gouache will not rewet once dried, because they are acrylic gouache and not regular water based. All other gouache should rewet however. Also, there are several great gouache palettes available online if someone doesn't have the bankroll to invest in a full set of tubes, and doesn't want to start with the basic 'cyan, magenta, yellow' triad and mix any other color from those. 🙂 Tfs!!

  21. As many others have said, anything creative takes practice, dedication and the willingness to learn. Runners weren’t able to run a 4 minute mile the first time they ran. Neither are artists able to paint/draw/sew masterpieces the first time they picked up their craft. Now you may have a proclivity to one type of craft (I’m too impatient for watercolors, I hated waiting for it to dry.) but that doesn’t mean you don’t need lots (and lots and lots) of practice.

  22. Sooooo pretty I really love your drawings!!! Especially when you turn them into actual costumes!! I’m looking forward to your next project!! ☺️

  23. I'm starting to study set and costume design for the stage and this video is super helpful. I've never been much of an artist (in the more traditional drawing/painting sense) and now I'm so ready to start practising!

  24. I was secretly hoping you would make I video like this. I love your whimsical style so much! I'm also a big fan of Rackham's work. I thought your work reminded me of his illustrations for Cinderella☺️ (You might also like Adam Oehlers' illustration. It's quite traditional and he uses a similar colour palette to you)
    I also respect your thoughts on talent. A lot of people assume that drawing is an innate skill and don't appreciate how much time and effort artists put into perfecting it.

  25. Thank you! I love how you give us such practical tips, all based on your experience. Do you know of an alternate to sable? I’m loathe to put animals at risk. Thanks for your suggestions!

  26. Hi! I appreciate you showing your process in designing a garment, as I find it pretty insightful. At 7:26, you mentioned that the gouache you used previously “would dry plasticy” and not re-wet. This is because the type of gouache shown (Holbein Acryla Gouache) was formulated to do just that! Instead of simply being an ‘opaque watercolour’, it’s essentially a watercolour-acrylic hybrid. Sometimes, the process of using normal gouache can be difficult for certain artists due to fact that paint from previous layers can sometimes rehydrate and muddy new layers. Therefore some artists will use Acryla Gouache to circumvent this issue. I hope this gave a little insight!

  27. Success happens when hard work surpasses talent. You can be the most talented, but if you don't have the passion and tenacity for the hard work then you'll never be successful

  28. As my drama teacher yelled one day, “you think Justin Timberlake is talented?? You hate Justin Timberlake that much??? He’s not talented. That’s HARD WORK, BABY. My boy JT works 16 hours in the studio everyday to be able to dance that well. Never disrespect artists like that ever again.”

  29. Stunning work. I love working with water colours,. However I only do landscapes and flowers. I am hopeless at humans and animals.❤️❤️

  30. I will keep that cheerful information close to my heart, but I can't help but still believe in native talent, and even flat out magic gifted by fairy godmothers. Why else do some children seem born with the ability to draw so well??

  31. That acryla-gouache is MEANT to dry without reactivation, it's an acrylic suspension! Regular gouache does have a different visual texture thanks to the mattifying qualities, but most colors can be reactivated and (potentially) lifted. I love your illustrations but I had to defend the acryla-gouache lol

  32. Lovely. Thank you very much for this, Bernadette. I was just today thinking about asking you about your Costume Sketching process.

  33. You should publish your artwork. You could use this video for the background. The resulting work could be titled Bernadettes Companion. A lot to learn here.

  34. Yes! Thank you for posting this video! Sewing entire wardrobe to go with 23” ball jointed doll for daughter’s bday and am giving her the patterns as well. But was not sure how to draw the figure with style of outfit & color on the envelope accompanying the patterns. Cheers!

  35. This is amazing, and very helpful. I draw a lot, but I am always intimidated by human figures, even though I love designing clothes. Thanks so much for this!

  36. Thank you for making this informative video. As it happens, I have only just received birthday gifts which include brushes, watercolours and watercolour paper! I am now inspired!

  37. Lovely work! A quick note about Gouache drying "plasticy and not resettable": the Holbein tube you showed on video is actually acryla gouache, which is acrylic with mattifiers added to make it look like gouache. So it literally is plastic and therefore not resettable. Just thought I'd mention it because when I first got into gouache I had to learn that through experience 😅

  38. You are so right about drawing. I don't think anyone should say "I could never draw." Until they have tryed for at least 100 hours.
    The true talent is tenacity.

  39. Neat! I've never really been a fan of watercolors…but your use makes them seem like something I might be able to use in the future. Thanks!

  40. The only drawing tutorial I will and have watched to design cloths. My method is untouched by help videos and I hope to continue to keep it that way. This video was great though.

  41. Thanks so much for this video!! I absolutely love your work and wish to incorporate some elements of it into my own art. This was so helpful!

  42. As one who has just put up her costume designs for the first time in the shop, it's so satisfying to see designs made for fun instead of work, the process is so much harder when you have to get it done quickly instead of getting to enjoy it. X3

  43. Ah, how pretty! (You can soap up a cheap brush and the masking fluid will not stick to it. Just rinse it in clean water.)

  44. I loved this! Is there a specific Pinterest board you look at for 1890s gowns? I love learning about clothes from those times, specially gowns!

  45. Just want to throw in, the cheap gouache you showed is Acryla-Gouache, which is a blend of gouache and acrylics, so it's not meant to be reactivated with water! Something to watch out for when buying.

  46. This is so beautiful and helpful! Will you be adding this illustration to your etsy shop? I'd love to hang it on my wall next to the others ❤

  47. Lovely picture. I have never actually designed a piece in art before making it in fabric.

    I’ve either worked straight from a pattern (long ago when I first started sewing clothes and was using straight from pattern to cloth out of simplicity or whatever) or I’ve taken a piece from goodwill and altered it completely to be nothing like it started life as. That started with my foray into steampunk and has hot left me. I make skirts from old cotton sheets (fabulously cheap material if I do say so myself) and take multiple panels from multiple skirts and fashion them into bustles, ruffles and corset covers.

    But that being said, I love your way of doing costume design and I’d like to sketch out a few prices that I can’t quite get my brain around, so that maybe they can be worked out more before I cut the skirt panels into the ruffles I want them for. I think I will do just that. Now to figure out how to draw a tartan in ruffle. 😂

  48. "that loathsome t-word" indeed. I am yet to encounter something in life that is purely talent and no skill, and frankly, I do not believe such a thing exists. Life is effort, there are no two ways about it.

  49. Beautiful!

    Also – I think I had a diary with the same gold cover as one of your old sketch books and had a moment of squeee!

  50. It took me years, years I say, to reject the voice of internalised social media that every art project needs to be perfect right away. Just make the art, have the fun, perfect doesn't exist

  51. Yes! Yesyesyes.. i cannot tell you how many times my parents have called my skills "talent" although it isn't! I've heard it so many times that i actually started thinking that "hey, maybe I was just lucky, maybe all of those years drawing weren't the thing that got me here" which is stupid, because a few years ago my drawings were.. i'm not sure how to explain them. You couldn't understand what i had drawn. And what angers me is that my parents saw my progress, and yet still say i was "blessed"! And whenever I try to tell them otherwise they dismiss me as "the lucky girl that is acting like she did all of the hard work even though she was just given it". And then they ask why i don't draw anymore..

  52. Thank you for putting into words what so, so many artists feel when they use that T word. It's like all the hard work and dedication that you've placed into a craft that you love is disregarded and chalked up to be nothing more than just some divine gift that's given out to special people. I feel like having to start somewhere or being diligent about practice brings about disappointment in a lot of folks since people tend to believe they must be good immediately in order to be a master in order to be talented or to be successful. It's a shame that there's so many skills to be learned and so many times potential wasted due to disappointment and diligence.

    This has unfortunately gotten rambly. Thank you again for your advice and a lovely walk through of your creative process. I absolutely adore the soft, velvety texture in your finished painting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *