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How to Draw Fashion Illustrations by Heather

Hey guys! I’m Heather Anderson. I blog about fashion, hair, beauty, and art over at Latter Day Style. Elaine was nice enough to let me guest post and teach you guys more about fashion illustration.

Like you guys, I love Clothed Much. I’ve been following the blog for a while and love Elaine’s polished, yet relaxed style. When putting this post together, I knew I wanted to feature some of Elaine’s outfits. I was planning on just choosing three, but I couldn’t decide.. There were too many good ones and I ended up with ten looks! Read on to learn more about fashion illustration.

My desk


  • Pencil, sharpener, eraser
  • Color medium (colored pencils, markers, gouache, paint, etc.)
  • Black pen
  • Paper (computer paper, tracing, or vellum paper)


  • Oval stencil, circle stencil, French curved ruler, or standard ruler
  • White out pen and gel pens
  • Utility knife
  • Drafter’s brush
  • Clothing catalog, pictures to draw from, reference books
  • Prismacolor markers, colored pencils, Micron pens for outlines

Drawing the Fashion Figure


Add the basic landmarks, head, shoulders, waist, hips, knees, elbows…
Connect the dots.
Draw the basic figure.
Transfer the image.

Most fashion illustrations are based on the standard 9 heads proportion, even though most people are only 7 heads. What this means is the total height of the figure can be divided into 9 equal parts. Even if you don’t plan on drawing your fashion figures based on the standard fashion template, it is still important to first understand the human body, how it moves, and how it is shaped so you can create realistic and artistic sketches.

Gather pictures and catalogs. It’s also a great idea to take a figure drawing class, and practice, practice, practice. Only after you have mastered the basic fashion figure can you move on to making it your own.



After mastering the fashion figure, each illustrator finds their own style. It is important to have your unique look:  maybe big eyes is your trademark or a tiny waist or spindly long legs. The point here is to try new things until you find what works for you. My illustrations have gone through a few changes over the years, and sometimes I even tweak my look to match my audience. I have come to like my figures, which are shorter than most illustrations, to have bigger heads, hips, and long legs.

There are lots of wonderful fashion illustrators. Be inspired by them, but stay true to your art and always keep it original. Above are some samples from a few of my favorite illustrators. Notice what changes each made on their fashion figures.

Sketching Your Design

After deciding how your fashion figures will look, it is important to make a master copy of this figure. I outline it in black permanent marker, and if I am doing quick sketches or a collection, I place the master copy underneath my new blank piece of paper. I then draw my clothes with the light outline of the body as a guide. Designers often use light boxes or vellum paper (a thick tracing paper) to do this, but I find plain computer paper works just fine.

There are a few techniques that will help your illustrations look more realistic.

  • You want to keep your lines smooth, fluid, and relaxed.
  • When drawing gathers, keep your lines loose (think cursive Ms and Ws).
  • Wrinkles can be illustrated by a couple of wide loops.
  • Pleats are more structured and exact.


Rendering Fabrics

In fashion illustration, it is important to know how to draw fabric. Illustrations are about getting an idea across, and fabric choice is a huge part of that. So, collect fabric samples and get familiar with different materials and prints.



Start with a few rows of circles.
Layer your darker colors.

Drawing sequins can take a while, but if done right, it can add interest to any design. There are lots of techniques for drawing embellishments. I like to start with a light base color coloring in almost the whole piece while leaving some white areas for shine. Then, I go in layer by layer with a darker shade drawing simple circles. At the end, I dot in my darkest circles and add the shine using colored pencils, gel pens, or white-out pen adding random dots and half circles.

Add shine.



The easiest way to draw prints is to break the whole print down into sections; most prints are easily divided into rows, grids or clusters. Floral prints can easily be divided into vertical rows. Sketch lines following the movement of the garment. Afterwards, you can break up your print. Instead of drawing a flower with a stem, look for shapes. A flower can be sectioned off in the top as a circle and the bottom, a heart.



Draw out your jeans.
Lay down your color.
Add a few white lines for the twill weave.
Draw stitching.

It’s crucial to know how to draw jeans, and because there is such a variety of colors, washes, and finishes, it’s important to know how to draw a variety of looks. Usually, for lighter jeans, I use grays mixed with light blues. For worn, muddy jeans, I mix brown and indigo blue. For this dark wash, I stick with a simple blue, added some white colored pencil diagonal lines to represent the twill weave, and finished up with white stitching.



Start by laying down the lightest color.
Add in your shading.
Add shine, and you’re done!

Hair can be tricky; the more practice, the better. Don’t feel like you need to draw every strand of hair; keep it simple. Start with the lightest color of hair first covering the whole area except where the hair shines. It’s helpful to draw from a picture or, as Bina Abling does, draw a little sun on one corner of the paper and shade your illustration according to that light source. So, if you draw a sun on the right, your shading should be on the left of your figure. Slowly add darker layers of color. Finish up with colored pencils by adding in extra color and a few strands of hair.


Skin tone is pretty straight-forward. I like to start at the top and work my way in sections. I do a first coat of color, then go back and add my shading. I shade on the opposite side of my light source and where any piece of clothing ends (necklines, sleeves, hems, etc.) After the skin is done, I like to add a little color to the lips and cheeks.




The other side of fashion illustration is the technical side. Called technicals or “flats,” these illustrations show how each garment would look flattened when off a figure. Flats are supposed to be to scale, exact, and detailed. These serve as an instruction manual for pattern makers and seamstresses. If you want to design, but can’t seem to be able to draw, this is an option. There are computer programs that can help you create designs. But, I would recommend at least learning how to draw basic flats so you can always be able to sketch ideas and designs.

My Finished Sketches

I hope you guys enjoyed learning a little more about fashion illustrations. There is so much I couldn’t include and so much more to learn. If you want more, check out my sketches, get a copy of the grid, and see videos on how I drew these sketches of Elaine.
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