Fabric in Marvelous Designer

Download the Marvelous Designer project file of the satin dress.

Download the Marvelous Designer project file of hat, sweater and jeans.

Download the Marvelous Designer project file of the sheer fabric top and skirt.

This Marvelous Designer tutorial will be covering fabric and its properties. The properties of your fabric are critical for simulation and especially for animation.

This is essentially the script covered in the video. You can watch the video to learn the concepts, then use the information below for reference while working in the program.

Correction - Since creating this tutorial, it has been brought to my attention that MD does in fact respect the bias cut. It seems that the 2D window does run with standard warp and weft. If you place your fabric at a 45 degree angle, it will recognize the bias and drape. However, you may still choose to use the preset that I created for a more drastic fluidity in your garments.

Some of you don't do much with fabric in MD because you take your work elsewhere for texturing. I know many people use Zbrush and other tools outside of MD. I have to admit that MD has some serious limitations with depth and you should use other tools to implement displacement or bump mapping. However, you need to use MD to get the proper drape on your garments before you export them out for further texturizing.

There are essentially three kinds of fabric. Woven, knit and felt. We'll take a look at all of them. Before we get started talking about fabric physical properties, let's do an overview of the other fabric settings.

New Fabric

To make a new fabric, click the Add button on the Fabric tab. This creates Fabric_1. You can change the name in the Property Editor window, by selecting the Name and typing a new one.

You'll also notice a Copy button. If you have a fabric that you like but just want to make minor changes to use somewhere else, select the existing fabric and copy it instead of starting over.

To apply the fabric to a pattern, just drag the fabric on top of the pattern.


The next section in the editor is the Material. Click the arrow to the left to open up the options. You'll see that you have three tabs; Front, Back and Side. You can set each of these individually for your fabric. By default, Back and Side have Use same material as front selected.


To apply a texture, click the left icon next to Texture. This opens a file chooser for you to select your texture. The MD manual doesn't provide a file types list, but I have chosen JPEG PNG and even a Photoshop PSD. To remove the texture, click the little trash can icon and it will be deleted from the fabric.

Once the texture is applied, you can transform it. Click the Transform 2D texture tool and click the pattern. Rotate the texture by moving the cursor to the dotted edge of the circle until you see two circular arrows. Click and drag either clockwise or counterclockwise.

To place the texture differently within the pattern, move the cursor until you see a white arrow head. Now click and drag to move the texture to a different position. It might be helpful to think of your pattern piece as a window with the texture behind it.

You can scale the texture uniformly by clicking one of the large white dots with a red outline. Drag away from center to scale up and drag to the center to scale down. You'll see that MD tiles the texture automatically.

If you want to scale the texture in only width or height, click the smaller white dots with a red outline and drag.

Although you can apply the same fabric to multiple patterns and rotate or move the pattern independently, you cannot scale them individually. If you scale the fabric texture, all the patterns that share it will scale also.

There is a Desaturation attribute under Texture. You can turn this on by clicking the checkbox and play with these settings to change the shadow and brightness of your texture.

At the bottom of the Material attributes list you will see a Texture Transformation option. If you open this you'll see very precise setting capabilities. If you know the angle, width, and height for your texture, you can enter them here. This is very helpful if you are creating several different garments in different project files that shared a texture. You could set them all with the exact same dimensions.


The next fabric property is Color. Click the box to open the color picker. If you know exactly which color you want, you can enter a color using the RBG, HSV, CMYK or Hex numbers. If not, just click the bar are the right for the correct hue and then fine tune it by clicking in the box at the top.

Your choices are applied dynamically, so the 3D window will update as you change the color. When you are selecting colors that will be reused on various patterns, that may not have the same fabric, I suggest you save the color. To do that, just click the Add to Custom Color button after you have chosen a color in the color picker. It will put it at the bottom of the dialog box and you can choose the exact same one for other fabrics. You can do this for Specular Color and Emission Color, too.

If you have a texture applied, the color is an overlay. Textures work best in grayscale. If you have a texture with color, choosing a color here will mix with the texture color and you can get unexpected results.

There are two other Color attributes: Ambient Intensity and Diffuse Intensity. Ambient Intensity is the amount of light reflected from the environment onto the garment. Diffuse Intensity is used to set the light that disperses over the garment surface. These are advanced settings and you probably won't use them too often, but you should play with them to see the effects they produce.

Specular Color

Specular Color is the next property. Specular Color is the shininess or reflection of light off the fabric. Use this to show glossy fabrics that have a shine. Satin, velvet and even leather will benefit from some specular color. You'll note an attribute of Shininess here with a slider. Move the slider back and forth to determine what you think is most appropriate for your garment.

Emission Color

Another property of fabric is the emission color. It works very similarly to the other properties. Personally, I haven't found much of a use for this one, because it is not something you commonly find in real world garments. Emission color makes your fabric glow or become luminous.


The last property is Opacity. This is something you'll use frequently when modeling and also to show transparency in fabric. When you are modeling, you may want to turn down the Opacity so you can see through to the model. This will help you determine if a pants crotch is too low in relation to the model, for example. You can make a sheer fabric simply by selecting a color and then turning down the Opacity.

Delete a Fabric

If you have fabrics that haven't been applied to a pattern, you'll notice there is a trash can icon next to the name. You can delete unused fabrics by clicking this icon.
Now let's move on to the Physical Properties of fabric.


Felt is commonly used for appliqués or for hats, but felt is rarely used as a garment fabric. Felt has no structure per se. The fibers are 'felted' together, which basically means they are matted. There is no weave at all. Felt is quite stiff, so the appropriate Preset in MD would be the leather setting.

I must say that MD is not the best choice for making hats. The model's hair won't squish, so you have to make the hat taller or let the top of the hat mound, like I've done here.

Let's take a look at the settings on this fabric. I have two fabrics the top of the hat, and the band and brim. The top is set to cotton, because it needs to conform to his head, or actually his hair. We'll ignore that one for now and concentrate on the band and brim.

I have a texture applied that gives it more of a felt look. I've applied a brown color to the texture.

The band and brim are set to the preset of S_leather_belt. The S stands for simulation.Preset fabrics have a prefix associated with each one. The S is a non-fabric, which is appropriate for leather belt, interlining, buttons and zippers. You wouldn't want to use this leather for a jacket, it's far too stiff.

The D prefix is Draft. These are fabrics that simulate quicker and are appropriate when you're doing a lot of design and pattern editing. The R prefix is reality. These will be more taxing on your computer and are appropriate for your final work. The A prefix is for Animation and the only item is the waistband. Weird things can happen during animation and this preset will help you keep the waistband in the correct place.


The next fabric we'll discuss is knit. Knit fabric is composed of a series of interlocking loops. It's not a flat fabric like wovens, it typically has more dimension. How a knit fabric looks depends a great deal on the type of stitch used. There are many combinations of stitches in knit patterns.

All of these fabrics are knit. Knit doesn't have to be bulky at all. One common denominator between all knit fabrics is stretch. Knits always stretch to some degree. The stretch of a knit fabric is measured by its length in a relaxed state and then when stretched out. The difference is calculated as a percentage.

You may be asking why this matters to you. When simulating, a knit fabric will react much differently than a woven. It wrinkles differently and has a spring to it during movement.

Also, a knit fabric edge that doesn't have a hem or edging will roll. This is a unique property of knit. You can't make a pair of leggings out of a woven, they simply won't stretch enough for a model to walk. All of this is important if you want to create the most realistic clothing possible.

You'll see there are several knits available in the MD presets. There is a Draft Knit and two different Reality knits, Jersey 20's and just Jersey.

Although this sweater's collars, cuffs and body are all using the preset R_Jersey, there are two different textures applied. If we get up close you can see that one texture is a ribbed knit and the other is a more standard knit. This would be appropriate for this type of sweater.


Next we'll take a look at woven fabrics. This is, by far, the broadest category of fabric. You can have everything from a thick wool to a sheer chiffon and everything in between.

It's important that you understand how a woven fabric is constructed. It consists of threads on the horizontal axis, which is the weft and the vertical axis, which is the warp. Although all woven fabric has a warp and weft, the way it's woven will determine the texture you see. Weaves are not all one up, one down. Some have several threads up and then one down and so on. This is how you get the variety of textures.

Woven fabric typically has very little stretch. The only exception is the bias, which we'll cover a bit later. Nearly all the MD presets left on the list are woven.

Now we're going to take a look at the properties of these fabrics so you can understand the difference. I created a spreadsheet with all the presets and their properties, which makes a comparison very easy.

You'll see that warp and weft are listed individually, so you can adjust them separately. Some fabrics require that the warp and weft are different because the stretch and bending can differ between direction. You'll see that knit has a setting of 32 for weft stretch and 20 for warp stretch. The pique fabric, which is a basket weave cotton, has a setting of 10 for the bending weft and 48 for the bending warp. These are significant differences.

You'll also notice that the Draft presets, for the most part, have a stretch weft and warp of 32, yet the Reality presets use 49. I'm guessing the higher numbers require more processing power.

If you're not familiar with fabrics, all of this is going to seem a bit overwhelming. There are some very common fabrics that you probably have at home. Find a garment in your closet made out of simple cotton, something out of leather and/or wool, perhaps a jacket coat, a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Lay them out on a table and work with them.

Bend them, stretch them, try to crease them and make a pile of each one. Watch what happens. Now refer to the MD presets and they will make a lot more sense to you. I'll provide this worksheet on the website, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel.

There is one property of wovens that is not present on the preset list, that I think is very important. If we take another look at the woven illustration, you'll see a notation for Bias. Bias is 45 degrees off the warp or weft. You will hear that clothing is 'cut on the bias'.

If we take this pattern and lay it out you'll see the grainline running on the warp. This is very common. Most patterns aren't cut on the weft because the fabric isn't wide enough to cut out larger ones.

Some patterns are cut on the bias – like this.

If you hold up a square of fabric with either the warp or weft running vertically, the fabric will hold it's shape because the cross weave holds the structure. If you cut a garment on the bias, you'll see that there is no structure. There is nothing to hold it anymore and it drapes a lot.

If you want to prove this, grab one of the garments you've been testing and pull on the bias. Stiff denim will stretch this way and cotton will, too. Even knits will drape on the bias.

Cowl collars and sexy dresses are cut on the bias because you want that level of draping. You can't drape a woven or a knit anywhere near the way you can drape with a bias cut.

The type of fabric that is cut on the bias will dictate how much drape you get. A satin will almost go liquid, it drapes so well. That's why you see a lot of sexy satin dresses.

MD doesn't have any type of a bias fabric. Using the specs from all the other types of presets, I created my own. Here's a gown with my bias fabric applied to the skirt section. The neck strap is set to the leather belt preset, so it will hold up the dress firmly. The top of the dress is simply cotton, again for structure. Use whatever fabric preset that is necessary to get the shape you want. It's okay to mix and match within a garment. I put a texture on the fabric and applied the color red. This dress has specular color applied, too.

Bias cut fabric shows the outline of everything underneath it. Because there is no structure, bias cut fabric hugs the body and conceals very little. Keep that in mind when choosing to use it.

Laces and Sheers

You may want to add laces and sheer fabrics with color to your garment. This presents a unique challenge. Although you can play with the Opacity to make a fabric sheer, you will lose the details as you lower the value. The best way to achieve successful laces and sheers is to use PNG files. PNG files allow you to have a transparent background.

You can use the Color property to add hue to your lace or sheer texture or you can bring it in with color already applied.

Here is a sheer fabric that I had in my fabric stash. I scanned the fabric in and then dropped out the white using Photoshop. Then it was saved as a PNG file.

Here is the fabric applied to a skirt. There is no color applied, but I did add specular color in a light grey. This gives it a silver effect. When the light hits it you can see the colors shimmer, just like in the real fabric.

These butterflies have been added as lace. I found a lace butterfly on the web and used Image Trace in Adobe Illustrator. I saved the file out, opened it in Photoshop, changed the background to transparent, and saved it is a PNG. I used the Transform 2D texture tool in conjunction with the pattern sizing to get perfect butterflies all the way around.

Since the butterfly was brought in as white, I was able to apply a color to it and then use the same color on the waistband of the skirt. Be careful when applying your lace. Although it appears that there is nothing between the butterflies, there actually is transparent fabric. If this were placed where it could interact with another part of the garment, the illusion would quickly disappear. The lace would distort where the invisible section was hitting other things. In this design the lace illusion holds up well and I particularly like the shadows being thrown on the avatar.

These instructions and examples should get you on your way to designing garments with real world fabrics that drape the way they should.



marvelous designermd project files