How to Improve Your Fashion Illustrations

Huge colourful fashion drawings laying around on big white tables in the best design studios with your initials in the corner. Who did not have this thought flashing by while starting up on their next masterpiece? Great looking works definitely enhance portfolio of any artist and gets the focus on the main part, the idea. The path to get there is simple — practice. Here are some suggestions on how to get to that next level.

  • Pose. Make sure, that pose of the model you draw reflects the mood of the garment, or a subject of the drawing if it is fashion illustration. For example, intricate and exaggerated poses rarely appropriate for demonstrating an office wear. But they are a must with evening or club wear. Poses that are too static or generic make ideas look ordinary.
  • photo with pencil hands drawing, fashion drawing, and words pactice makes it better

  • Hands. This is always a tough part. I myself spent hours mastering hands drawing but still not satisfied with the result. It takes a lot of practice to get better. Correctly drawn hands make drawing look much more professional, help to express mood and enhance perception.

    Thankfully for me and anyone out there looking to improve there is a wonderful tutorial by Mike Koizumi. It is a step by step explanation of how to draw hand from different points of view. Moreover, it provides a nice tip on how to draw a hand from every imaginable angle.

    For more in-depth knowledge of hand’s anatomy, the ways they can help to express the mood, emotions and meaning of fashion illustration or fashion collection I suggest to read the classic book Drawing Dynamic Hands by Burne Hogarth. This is the most comprehensive book ever published on drawing hands, definitely must read!

  • Cover of Drawing Dynamioc Hands by Burne Hogarth
    Drawing Dynamic Hands by Burne Hogarth

  • Face. Our brain is trained by evolution to recognize faces. We pay huge attention to facial expressions and features. So just a hint of eyes, nose and mouth could make your drawing more live and pleasant to look at.
    Check this post by concept artist Xia Taptara for really good examples on how to draw female faces. It starts from basics, so it is easy to follow.

  • Style. It is what makes your drawing unique and it takes time to find it. Some authors recommend to begin drawing with classical 8-heads figures. Others suggest that copying different styles may help to find your own. I am sure that both paths will certainly lead to improvement of drawing skills and will help to find the best way to express your ideas. Get the basics right and then start experimenting.
    Here is a fantastic video from Sycra Yasin showing on example that with persistence and a bit of a talent you can chose to draw in a style you like (or few of them):



  • Background. It is surprising how just a few strokes outlining a ground or a shadow could add volume to a figure and separate it from the background. Try it and see yourself.

  • Gym and museum. Interesting pair, but no kidding. Going to the gym will enhance your anatomy knowledge. Working on your body will give you the notion of muscles layout and body movement range to draw figures correctly. And in any case you will still have nice side effects – improved fitness and more positive energy so needed for any artist. As for museums, the more you explore other artists’ ideas and works the more inspiration and food for thought you would have in your own attempts. Classic, contemporary, street art — all adds up to your style.




  • You may also like to read about:
    Top 5 Fashion Illustration Books
    Fashion Portfolio: Design and Presentation by Anna Kiper



    Top 5 Fashion Illustration Books

    I know it can be very frustrating to have a fantastic idea and not be able to put it on a paper equally brilliant.
    In this post I suggest some good fashion illustration books that will help to put your idea where you thoughts are.

    Best books on Fashion Illustration OpenFashionIllustrationBooks


  • Fashion Illustration Techniques: A Super Reference Book for Beginners by Zeshu Takamura
  • ZeshuTakamuraFashionDesignTechniquesBookCover If you need fast results and have no time to comprehend body anatomy in details go for Fashion Illustration Techniques: A Super Reference Book for Beginners by Zeshu Takamura. With a bit of practice you will be able to draw a decent fashion figure in a week.
    In this book Zeshu Takamura introduces original figure drawing technique which is considerably different from the European art traditions. There is no complicated anatomy, just step by step guide: easy to follow and to produce invariably good results.

    Apart from featuring sufficiently great amount of model poses the book also covers almost all subjects an amateur fashion artist or designer will need. It includes textile rendering techniques, chapters of depicting fashion flats (technical drawings) and clothing, explicit “drawing from the photo” tutorials as well as loads of tips and tricks to give a sketch more professional look.

    At a glance
    Body measurement system 8 heads
    Illustrating men No
    Illustrating children No
    Colouring and fabric rendering techniques Yes
    Exploring media Yes
    Drawing fashion flats (technical drawings) Yes
    Figure stylization No
    Drawing from a photograph Yes
    Drawing accessories Yes

  • Drawing for Fashion Designers by Angel Fernandez and Gabriel Martin Roig
  • AngelFernandezDrawingForFashionDesignersBookCover This brilliantly illustrated compendium hits broad range of topics from drawing a croquis to developing a collection. It describes how to gather and organize sources of inspiration, to alter a portfolio and illustrations to industry standards, or to perform market research and meet the expectations of target group and much more. Though some subjects are covered in brief with not many details I still recommend this book for a number of good reasons.

    1. Media

    The reason number 1 is the chapter “Selection and use of materials”. This section is a great time-saver as it contains many helpful tips of applying various paints and brushes on a myriad types of paper (I don’t even think that there are so many of them!). Also it explains clearly which medium to choose for desired result. Whether we’d like to resemble a printed illustration with clean outlines and opaque colours or wish a gentle transparent look for the drawing.

    2. Folds and drapes

    This book is one of the few that pays great attention to depicting dressed figure. In the way many authors study the construction of human body, Angel Fernandez and Gabriel Martin Roig, on other hand, examine the anatomy of folds and drapes, as well as difference between drawing bias and grain cut. These explanations are priceless!

    3. Stylization

    Distinctive style, author’s manner is the main difference between professional illustrator and inexperienced one. However, not many books include a guide on how to develop it. Drawing for Fashion Designers reveals main principles that can help to develop unique style and express the design idea in full.

    At a glance
    Body measurement system 8, 9, 10 heads
    Illustrating men No
    Illustrating children No
    Colouring and fabric rendering techniques Yes
    Exploring media Yes
    Drawing fashion flats (technical drawings) Yes
    Figure stylization Yes
    Drawing from a photograph No
    Drawing accessories Yes

  • Fashion illustration. Inspiration and Technique by Anna Kiper
  • I absolutely love this book!
    AnnaKiperFashionIllustrationBookCover This book is brilliant. It does not have comprehensive point by point tutorials, you will not find much about the anatomy or about the use of painting materials, but it is good!

    Filled with colourful and vivid drawings the book unfolds the subject of fashion illustration in exiting and artsy way.

    I recommend it for everyone who enjoys drawing fashion illustrations. You will have fun, and even more if you have prior experience in drawing.

    So if you are after brushing up the drawing skills – Anna Kiper’s Fashion Illustration: Inspiration and Technique is definitely worth to read.

    If I may draw a parallel between fashion illustration and cook books I’d say that while Zeshu Takamura’s Fashion design Techniques is like step by step recipe book, Anna Kiper’s Fashion Illustration is more like compendium of colourful food photography and decorating table ideas. Being very laconic it features abundance of stunning illustrations, so it really doesn’t matter that there are so little words, it leaves more space for designs.

    This is surely a kind of book you would want to go through few times scrutinizing details and apprehending the way drawings were made.

    At a glance
    Body measurement system 10 heads
    Illustrating men Yes
    Illustrating children Yes
    Colouring and fabric rendering techniques Yes
    Exploring media Yes
    Drawing fashion flats (technical drawings) Yes
    Figure stylization Yes
    Drawing from a photograph No
    Drawing accessories Yes

  • Fashion Illustration School. A Complete Handbook for Aspiring Designers and Illustrators by Carol A. Nunnelly
  • CarolNunnellyFashionIllustrationSchoolBookCover The book focuses on the traditional drawing topics from the figure basics to drawing flats.

    Carol A. Nunnelly deploys a great variety of poses and positioning within her book. She also introduces the body mapping concept of drawing garments on figure which I found extremely helpful.
    However, the book could be much better if the chapter of texture rendering were a bit more carefully arranged. Now it looks oversimplified.

    At a glance
    Body measurement system 9 heads
    Illustrating men Yes
    Illustrating children No
    Colouring and fabric rendering techniques Yes
    Exploring media Yes
    Drawing fashion flats (technical drawings) Yes
    Figure stylization Yes
    Drawing from a photograph No
    Drawing accessories Yes

  • Figure Drawing for Fashion Design by Elisabetta Drudi and Tisiana Paci
  • ElizabettaDrudiFigureDrawingBookCover If Fashion Design Techniques by Zeshu Takamura is a step by step recipe book, Anna Kiper’s Fashion illustration. Inspiration and Technique is an inspiration book, Figure Drawing for Fashion Design is definitely a reference book.

    It can be very helpful both for novice and seasoned illustrators, and all of those in between.

    This comprehensive course on drawing fashion figures lays good foundation to work with and provides the most sufficient way to draw a large variety of fashion elements: from any part of the human’s body to clothing and accessories. It is really helpful as reference while depicting various poses and body movements.

    Though teaching the basics is accompanied with extensive detailing which may seems to be superfluous for ordinary fashion sketch, I’m sure extra knowledge won’t hurt. At least you would know where to find it where you need it later on.

    I have the first edition of the book dated 2001. Some reviews complain it was systematized and lacks clearness jumping from one subject to another. Apparently, this was one of the reasons for the second version to see shop shelves in 2010. Now it is believed to be greatly expanded and updated. Also it seems to be more structured and logical then first one. I think there is nothing wrong with older version if that’s what you can get.

    At a glance
    Body measurement system 8, 9, 10 heads
    Illustrating men No
    Illustrating children No
    Colouring and fabric rendering techniques No
    Exploring media No
    Drawing fashion flats (technical drawings) Yes
    Figure stylization Yes
    Drawing from a photograph No
    Drawing accessories Yes



    At the end I’d also like to mention Figure Poses for Fashion Illustrators. 250 Templates for Professional Results by Sha Tahmasebi.

    The title reflects it all. There are 250 royalty free templates featuring different poses in the book as well as some basic information on the subject of drawing. All poses are duplicated on CD as .tif and .jpeg images.




    Free Fashion Figure Templates from Purfe

    While reading these books and trying different techniques I made some croquis of 9 head models.

    They are free to download and can be used for individual purposes or as reference to your own illustrations (Attribution-NonCommercial License). Looking forward to see your designs!

    Download Fashion Figure Template Download Fashion Figure Template Download Fashion Figure Template
    Front pose Hand on hip pose Diagonal pose