Fashion Illustration : 6 types of fashion drawings you need for designing clothes

Overview of fashion drawing and the different types of sketches used in the fashion indusrty in the process of designing clothes

A dress starts as an idea in the mind of a designer.

But if it stays there no one will be the wiser. A fashion drawing is the first step in bringing that idea to fruition.

A fashion sketch consists of the figurative fashion drawing of a slightly exaggerated, idealized and stylized human figure (male or female) along with the clothes and accessories adorning it. 

You draw the human figure with your clothing design and present everything about the style of clothing, embellishments you want to add on it, then pepper it with the attitude you want to convey with that particular style  – there you have your fashion sketch laid out for the world to take notice.

So you can say that a Fashion sketch is the first step in creating beautiful garments

fashion sketch

The basic purpose of any drawing is communication. The fashion sketches/ drawings are used by Fashion designers and fashion illustrators to contain their fashion brief and communicate their creative ideas to the people who matter (a client, producer or a designer boss) how a piece of clothing they have in mind would eventually look. The fashion sketch maybe just an outline with the basic silhouette of the garment or contain all the details like what colors combinations work with it, embellishments, darts, pocket positions etc, accessories that go with it, even how much it would cost to produce.

Oh No, But I cannot draw? And I want to be a fashion designer!

So what! Do not worry. You do not need to know how to draw to be a fashion designer. Today there are many options. If you have an idea you can get professional fashion illustrators to sketch it. Then there are computer software programs that can do all the work for you, or you can buy from companies that sell you the templates; they have fashion flat sketches of any garment you could imagine. you can use your computer or your own drawing ability to add your own ideas to it.

But drawing skill is a boon in fashion designing. Drawing as said is a skill and not necessarily a talent. Skill can always be improved upon. Anyone can learn to draw with proper practice and diligent hard work. So not knowing drawing should not be an excuse not to pursue your dreams.

If you join a fashion course you would undergo a training in improving drawing skills.

You can get inspired by the drawings done by others. Pinterest boards like the one here can be sources of inspiration.

fashion board pinterest

How to draw for fashion?

First and foremost you should practice improving hand-eye coordination; this can improve your drawing skills. You can start practicing drawing by sketching someone you know. Maybe they can be persuaded to model for you. The right incentive works every time – like chocolates at my house.

First and foremost study the proportion of the human body thoroughly – The biology books you sold the day exams were over would have been of use now. That is ok. There are even more wonderful books (and not so boring) available to teach you everything about human anatomy as well as the muscle tone and how to draw various poses, how to get the balance line right (the imaginary line that is made from the base of the center of the neck down to the floor which gives the body a balanced proportion and helps in drawing position); how to add your style and movement to the basic figure.
You can look at similar drawings made by other designers or figurative photographs in magazines which will guide you in developing your own style.

One easy way is to practice by tracing over a model in a standing pose from a magazine.

What do you need to start fashion drawing?

the tools needed for fashion illustration

  • Get some good pencils (HB B and 2B pencils are used for drawing shapes and 4B, 6B & 8B pencils are used for shading, highlighting ); charcoal pencils.
  • A fashion sketchbook – this is usually an A4 size book ( or A3 or even A5 if you want a small pocket-sized sketchbook for jotting down ideas as they come)
  • Bond paper 80 gsm – high quality paper which is suitable for drawing; or Handmade paper with a rough texture to practice sketching; or Cartridge paper is a special type of paper best for illustration and light water colour sketches /paintings. You can buy it in different weights ( a 100 -160 gsm is ideal) and sizes A1, A2, A3, A4.
  • Pastel colors and color pencils for filling color. Water-soluble colour pencils can be used to make watercolor effects and if you use a paintbrush along with it to blend the colors no one would be wiser that it is made with a pencil.
  • Felt-tipped marker pens or even ballpoint pens
  • Scales – for making straight lines with proper measurement
  • French curve for making curved drawing
  • Tracing paper
  • A special no dust eraser that wouldn’t wear the paper.

The fashion sketchbook consists of all the drawings you have made – it is a collection of all your ideas. Sometimes the initial idea is sketched as it comes to you and then you streamline the design, add details to it at a later convenient time and place, maybe somewhere else.

How to draw a human figure in fashion drawing

In fashion sketches, the human body is not drawn the way you have learned to draw in the art and craft class. The proportions are exaggerated and stylized.

human figure drawing

The fashion figure is an abstract drawing with elongated arms and legs. They will have adopted a posed you will be incorporating poses of hands legs feet etc into your human form to show some style or attitude. You will optionally also be fleshing out the basic form to include facial features, hairstyles, gestures and even accessories.

Yes, for all this you will need to know how the human body is constructed but that does not mean that the exact proportions are maintained in the fashion sketch. The fashion drawing will be a stylized version of the human body with emphasis on certain characteristics or attitudes that the designer wants to emphasize.

The designers usually learn to draw the human body as it is and then adapt their own style of drawing it with practice.

The human figure is usually divided up according to the size of the head. The total height of an adult human being is said to be eight times the length of the head. ( a ratio of 1:8) Whereas the standing fashion figures are proportioned between 9 and 10 heads in height.

In fashion sketching, the legs are elongated, the neck is elongated and the area above the natural waist is also somewhat elongated. This is done so, so that the clothes are properly displayed in their glory and they are the highlight.

Important aspects of a  fashion drawing

The main highlight of your fashion sketch should be clothes and nothing else. You are presenting the garment and when drawing you should not lose sight of this. Everything else should be secondary and be complementing your garments.

If you can present the texture of the fabric and the drape of the folds of the fabric you will have a unique drawing. For that, you will have to master some drawing techniques which are easy to master but can create a stunning effect on your final sketch.

The garment is not drawn from one side. You will be asked to present the garment from all sides. If you can get a 3-dimensional view with your drawings you will have a winner of a fashion sketch.

Different types of Fashion drawings

What is a flat?

Also called a flat sketch or fashion flat it refers to 2-dimensional linear drawings (usually in black and white) of the garment (or garments), as it is laid in the flat and drawn from above; Flats are usually made with the help of software programs.  It will have all the design details you want to be included in the garment.

What is a tech sketch?

This is a flat sketch with details of the garment written in text (as callouts)

What is a spec ( specification )?

This is a more precise presentation of the garment, with all the specifications included on it like the fabric used, trims used, how much it will cost to produce etc. ; this is used for the manufacturing process.

What is a working drawing?

This is the drawing presented to the pattern maker with all the information needed for him to make the pattern pieces. Fabric swatches, the fasteners used should be included in the comprehensive information passed on with the working drawing.

What is Presentation drawing?

This is the final fashion drawing that a fashion designer makes to present to a client or producer.

What is a fashion croquis?

Croquis means sketch in French; In fashion, this refers to a figurative fashion template. It is the drawing of a figure that can be used as a template over which you can trace and draw a design or garment.


Basics of Fashion Design: Fashion Drawing by John Hopkins.

One book you should buy if you want to own all the fashion illustration pictures down the history of fashion : 100 years of Fashion Illustration

fashion illustration

Further reading to learn more on fashion drawing: 

  • 9 Heads, by Nancy Riegelman
  • Figure Drawing for Fashion Design by E. Drudi
  • Fashion Illustration by Fashion Designers by Laird Borrelli
  • Fashion Design Drawing Course by Caroline Tatham
  • Fashion Illustration: Inspiration and Technique by Anna Kiper
  • New Fashion Figure Templates: Over 250 Templates by Patrick John Ireland

Related posts : Best fashion schools in the world; Find out the Style of clothing popular today ; What is your fashion personality; Fashion subcultures

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

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