Chapter 4. Bags, Purses, and Belts – Drawing Fashion Accessories


The category of leather goods is by no means limited to snakeskin or cowhide. Today, skin coverings are still used for purses and wallets, but their use has expanded to include everything from cell phone caddies to iPod protectors, with many other materials in use, too, including woven textiles and straw. Handbag embellishments range from tassels to jewels, and from fur to feathers. Their hardware is limitless and their styling and shapes include everything from fantasy fun to architectural. This is a huge industry within an industry and is an excellent avenue to explore if you are serious about illustrating fashion for a career. Within this chapter you will find many of the challenges and issues you will encounter in this genre and the answers for solving some of the questions that may arise.


Handbags can be hard-shelled forms or soft, unstructured shapes with innumerable expressions of textures. When drawing a handbag, consider what gives your particular purse life and then live it large. This casual bag by Ootra will help us gain understanding of all the basics involved in illustrating handbags.


This photo depicts the natural state of the bag and shows the challenge of giving it shape and life. When illustrating handbags, they should appear in their “full” glory, not empty or limp. Consider the side; if a side shape and form is not easily presumed with a front view, then a three-quarter view will be necessary to show its specific character. You will also need to display any handles or straps in a way that expresses their function with character.


Even with a softer-shaped bag, it is wise to establish a symmetrical underdrawing, represented here by the orange lines. This first sketch is used to figure out view, proportion, and balance.


This bag has three very distinct surfaces to render: the body is crushed velvet, and the strapping is black nylon with brushed silver hardware and black chain. The body of the bag is sketched with a pastel pencil to express its soft texture. The straps are drawn with colored pencil to give a cleaner edge, and the hardware and chains are drawn with a fine-line black marker to contrast both color and surface.


The velvet is rendered with pastel pencil, leaving the areas of local color untouched. The straps are rendered with colored pencil to give them a smoother feel. The chain will be primarily marker. This is also the time to lay in the dark reflective pattern that is pressed (crushed) into the velvet.


The finishing stages involve coloring the shapes with marker on the back of the paper. A light pastel pencil is used to add the light reflections that are characteristic in crushed velvet, and white paint is used to give edge and definition to the chain and the nylon straps. Some darker brown tones are added to the deeper shadow areas of the bag to give more depth.


Evening bags and clutches are a popular accessory for formal events. The iridescent silk bag with fox fur trim by Ootra, shown below, is a perfect example of the luxurious materials from which such bags are usually made.

This green beaded satin evening bag was drawn with graphite pencil then scanned into Photoshop where the colors were changed.


After drawing a light outline with a hard pencil, draw in your primary color shadows using a water-based pen. Then take a wet watercolor brush and bring the color across the bag, leaving the area for the fur accent unpainted.


Once the first layer has dried, put clean water down in the section where the fur texture will be, using a wide, flat watercolor brush. Before the water can soak into the paper, apply a saturated line of concentrated watercolor in the center of the wet area; the paint will automatically bleed outward to the edges, creating a natural fur effect. Use the same technique for the small zipper fur ball.


Once the paint has completely dried, add some darker hair details on the edge of the fur using a very sharp colored pencil. You should also add some white reflection on the fur with white colored pencil, since fox fur has guard hairs that glisten. To finish the bag and achieve the iridescent effect, use a violet colored pencil and add some weave lines together with some silk slubs to finish the texture.

This Modoki handbag, illustrated by Yumicki, was drawn with black fine-line marker and shadowed using warm gray art markers. The bunny character, graphic stripes, floral pattern, and ink splotches were all added in Photoshop


Straw bags can be made from many different kinds of grasses with many different weave patterns. The step-by-step below demonstrates tips for simplifying the complicated overall pattern of woven straw.

This Dior straw bag with embroidered flowers was drawn with water-based pens; then the drawing was dissolved with water and a soft brush. Black line was added with a permanent pen to bring out some of the details and add contrast to the metal fittings. The embroidered flowers and leaves were drawn with a stitch-like stroke and then highlights were added to create a raised effect.


First establish the bag shape and weave direction using a light graphite pencil. This clutch was drawn with pastel pencils to match the bright summer color. This particular three-quarter view allows you to see both front and side at the same time for better definition.


Render in your local color, overlapping different colors to add interest. A directional hatch line will keep the bag solid in structure while helping to create the woven pattern. As you complete the fill-in, start to define the straw pattern. Notice how the repetition of the size and spacing of the weave assists in giving a fresh look to the straw. By gradating your value you can simplify the texture by burning out the pattern in the highlighted area or fading it into the darks.


To finish, punch in some dark values along the weave crevices and their individual edges. Erase out some highlights on a few of the straw sections in the shadow area, and push the shadows under the flap to add form. Some highlights can be added with white paint to show the reflected surface that most grasses have.


Many kinds of fabric can be quilted. This step-by-step demonstrates the easiest way to gain the dimension of the quilting together with the softness the surface seeks to create.

This orange quilted Chanel bag was drawn with a fine-line pen and completed using pastels. Marker strokes were used at the edges to ground the bag to the page.


Draw light guidelines using hard graphite pencil. Keep the pattern even in size and centered on a vertical and horizontal axis. At the crossing points, arch your line a bit as though you were looking over a slight dome. The quilted shapes should narrow as they wrap around the edges of the object. Go over the pencil line with a fine-line marker. Draw freehand, allowing the subtle irregularity of the line to add to the soft feeling of the quilting.


Choose a light source and sketch in the shadows, concentrating them on one side of each raised area, intensifying your tones at the vertical crossing points. As you soften the shadows, focus the darker tones from corner to corner, not around the quilted areas. Leave the highlight side completely unrendered.


For added depth, choose a darker tone and accentuate one shadow edge together with a corresponding corner. Clean up your highlight shapes if necessary or add white highlights using colored pencil or white paint.


Branding or monogramming fashion accessories is common practice today. There are a couple of tricks demonstrated here that will simplify your task.

The bags featured here were drawn for a newspaper advertisement in graphite with an art marker base. Notice that some of the initialing is inverted; this is intentional by the designer and must be carefully observed and matched when illustrating.


After drawing the initial bag structure, lay in guidelines that follow the form of the bag and also create the proportion and placing of the monogramming. Some branding will be horizontal and vertical; others will follow a diagonal pattern.


Using art markers, loosely render in your shadows and local colors. In this particular style, the highlights were left as the white of the paper. Lay in your monogram design with colored pencil, keeping the placement and proportion of the markings as consistent as possible.


Continue to define the monogram shapes. To add interest and save time, you can fade the design into the shadow areas or dissolve them as they wrap around the edges. Burning out the print in the highlights is another way to counter the flatness that an overall pattern can cause. White paint was added for the reflections on the hardware, and top-stitching was added on the trim for detail.


Beading and bejeweling has always been an important characteristic of evening bags.

The bugle bead encrusted purse featured here was drawn and rendered in graphite, then tinted after scanning to create the subtle gold tone of the beads. Notice that the highlights as well as the darks were rendered in an oblong shape to correspond to the bugle beads' specific character. A few quasars were added digitally to express the highly reflective surface.


This cupcake minaudiere was sketched with guidelines for the rhinestone color patterns. Notice that the gold metal lip and closer are drawn with fine-line black pen for bolder separation. A center line was used to keep the base symmetrical even though the top was not.


Using the small rounded point of an art marker, lay in the local colors of the rhinestones, beginning with the lighter colors and adding darker reflective colors next. There is no reason to draw the side stones in detail; fade them out as they start to wrap around the edges. This will keep the focus on the center of the bag.


To strengthen and finish the rhinestone effect, add some colored line with a fine-line marker using a circle guide. Then add some facet indication to some of the stones—do not over render the stones or it will cause too much detail and darken the value of the true color. Add highlights with white paint and a small brush.


Some handbags come in unique shapes that are hard shells. Described here is a simple way of illustrating bags that allows easy color adjusting if the same bag comes in various colors or if a designer wants to experiment with their color choices before going into production.

These satin handbags were all drawn with graphite pencil and then scanned into Photoshop to tint them their individual colors.


Since the bag is symmetrical, it is best to begin with a center line with a perpendicular bottom line. The handle was first drawn with straight-edge lines, then divided into sections. The sections were then divided into braided partitions that created the wrapping effect.


Using a 2B graphite pencil, darken the outside line of the bag and handle. Lay in a soft gradation from bottom to top to capture the glow of the satin. Note the strong dark reflection shadows on the metal handle. Next, add a gray marker behind the drawing to reduce texture and blend the piece together. Finally, add the highlights to the middle of the handle with white paint, to help communicate a rounded feel.


To finish the bag in color, scan the art into Photoshop and isolate the pieces using the masking tool. Once you have separated the handle from the handbag body, you can adjust the color hue to the appropriate colors. By creating the art in this way you can now change the color of the bag to any shade or tone the designer wants to see or that a store has available to sell.


Metallic finishes have two basic characteristics. The first is the sparkling effect shown below on the featured silver bag. The second is a more liquid reflection similar to patent leather, shown in the stepby- step. It is worth noting that, as fun as they might be to draw with, a metallic colored marker does not give you the same effect visually when it is reproduced. The steps below explain how to achieve a successful metallic look every time, without a metallic marker.

This silver bag is rendered with a sparkling effect. Notice the dots of highlight added with white paint.


Because this handbag is very structured, it is important to begin with a symmetrical underdrawing. Note how guidelines were even used to ensure proper placing of the handle rivets.


Using black and copper tone water-soluble markers, draw the outline shape as well as interior shadow shapes. Because this bag is quilted the darks are focused along the seam lines.


With a wet watercolor brush, begin to dissolve the marker one section at a time, pulling the tone toward the center of each quilted shape. In some areas, indicate the stitching, which emphasizes both the thick leather material and the quilting technique. Remember, the more reflective a surface is, the higher degree of light and dark it will reflect. Liquid-looking white highlights were added with paint after the surface had completely dried to give the tones more contrast.


Tooled or embossed leather has a pattern pressed or cut into its surface to create a relief effect. Because of its three-dimensional effect, it needs to have a definite light source to capture its form.

This bag was rendered in watercolor; white paint was applied to accentuate the highlighted ridges.


To give this checkbook cover more defined edges, draw over a pencil guideline with a fine-line black marker. Only draw the major pattern areas, leaving some of the more minor shapes for colored pencil later.


Use two different marker tones over the line drawing, one for the local color and another, darker tone, for the deeper valleys and the edge stitching. Then add some deep red tints using colored pencil and a dark warm gray marker for the punch-hole effect. The stitching was rendered from the ends inward, leaving the natural white paper highlight in the center. You may also outline some of the pattern edges with a darker brown marker to add more depth.


To finish, use a sharp white colored pencil to capture the edges of the raised design. Make sure you keep your highlights consistently on the same side throughout the entire piece. For maximum depth, add a blue or green reflected light on the opposite side. Touch up highlights on the stitches and add in more design details with a brown colored pencil if necessary.

Even though this satchel by Tina Berning is rendered in a loose style, the top stitching was drawn with an even, mechanical feel, which adds structure and strength to the bag.


Leather goods have taken on a whole new meaning with technology making new items available daily that need covers both for aesthetics and protection.

This featured men’s accessory collection contains alligator wallets and billfolds together with a sliver-trimmed flask and cufflink caddy. It was drawn with graphite pencil and then scanned so it could be colored electronically. Not only does the color distinguish the items from the background but so do the differences in texture.


This lizard business card holder was drawn with colored pencils and then markered on the back to add local color. It is mostly the small edge highlights that give its scales texture.


Both covers here began with a fine-line pen and were then filled in on top of the line drawing with markers. The ostrich cover has a fine-line brown marker added to capture the wrinkled feel of the skin. Highlights were added to raise the feather bumps. The python pattern was added over a grid-like scale drawing following the light, medium, and dark tones in the snake’s natural pattern. Highlights were applied only to the edges of the scales to keep them simple and clean.


This cell phone cover was drawn to show the textured back, with only a partial section of the front drawn behind it to show how it fits. It was illustrated with a fine-line black pen on vellum, then marker was applied to the back of the image. Colored pencil was added for tinting the darks as well as highlighting. Vellum allows you to see the image clearly from both sides, making rendering easy.


Fabric or cloth handbags must show their soft, drapey nature without looking too puckered or modeled.


Velvet and suede are common for both evening bags and jewelry totes. When a bag is soft in nature, it should not be drawn limp or shapeless. Stuffing your bag with paper when illustrating it will give it healthy buoyancy. To add impact, you might also try putting a textured bag against a contrasting surface, as with this leather glove next to the suede bag. This piece was drawn in graphite and then the hue was changed in Photoshop.


Woven or tweed-type fabrics should have a feeling of “threads" making up their color. This tweed clutch by Ootra was drawn with pastels on black paper, giving it a rich color with a sense of strong lighting. Allowing the shadow side of the bag to dissolve into the paper brings more attention to the button details and the plaid print.


Tapestry fabric can be drawn as a colored pattern or as solid shapes, with the thread marks added last to enhance the effect.


Cloth bags can be drawn with pastel pencils on white paper, leaving the white of the paper exposed for soft highlights.


Additional textures you may encounter include: pleated fabrics, alligator skin, woven leather, nylon, and patent leather. You will find step-by-steps elsewhere in the book that demonstrate specific formulas for rendering similar materials, but here are a few tips for rendering these bags.


This evening bag was drawn with graphite pencil using marker behind it for the local color. Pleating is a specific pulling together of fabric. Unlike draped gathering, which is more sporadic in nature, pleating has a regimented pattern. The “tuck point” of each pleat should be the darkest spot of the gather. Note that highlights are focused only on the highest area of the bag’s bulge; this ensures that the bag remains strong in form despite the intense patterning.


The detailing of a woven leather handbag can be overwhelming to draw. This Dior bag was drawn with a fine-line marker on vellum paper and then rendered with watercolor to give it a looser, painterly look. Notice that the woven strips are not matched exactly. By following basic vertical and horizontal guidelines and curving some of their edges, the strips have the illusion of moving over and under each other. Highlights were added with colored pencil and focused from one continuous direction. This helped communicate the form of the weave.


This bag was drawn with graphite pencil, which makes it easy to render both the pattern and the value contrast. Once finished, the bag was scanned and then colored in a photo-editing program. This particular view makes it easy to see both the design and the width and depth. Notice how the clean lines and smoother rendering help to emphasize the firm nature of the skin.


Patent leather has the highest degree of reflection of all the leathers. It needs to communicate the darkest dark of whatever color it is to the whitest highlight. It should have very liquid reflections that relate to the object’s construction. When rendering black patents it is best to use a black medium so you can achieve maximum darks. The bag, wallet, and belt here were all rendered with black charcoal pencils. Using black markers for black objects will hinder you being able to have gradations on your piece unless you render outwardly with lights. The light gradations on these pieces were achieved by letting the white of the paper come through.


Nylon and softer slick fabric bags present unique challenges to illustrate. They must be structured enough to clearly communicate their shape and usage, but not be so hardedged so as to lose their suppleness. Notice that the fabric drapes and wrinkles have been simplified and angled a little to communicate a crisp yet very pliable feel. These nylon bags were rendered in colored pencil with some pastel used to add soft gradations. Marker tone was then added on the back of the paper for the local color. The subtle grid of the fabric and strapping were added with a sharp colored pencil to follow the movement of the material. Highlights were added on the cloth and strapping with colored pencil to keep them on the softer side. All the hardware was drawn with fine-line black pen to give it a high contrast from the fabric. White paint was used to draw the labels and added to the metal pieces and zippers to make them stand out.


Chain mail is back in fashion and showing up in everything from belts to blouses.

This large collar piece was first drawn with pencil in a loose spiral design. Then, using a fine- line black marker together with a circle template, it was detailed to define some of the “ring” shapes for more structure. The initial pencil underneath provided its gray metal coloring. Notice how the highlights are consistent in shape and placement, which helps create the overall mesh feeling.


A symmetrical underdrawing was established for the bag shape, frame, and closure. Hand- drawn flowing guidelines were laid down for the metal links to give a feeling of softer mesh. Using a fine-line black pen, outline the more solid pieces of the bag such as the handle and closures.


Draw enough of the links to establish a firm silhouette. Notice how some of the details are left in pencil to give an appearance of light reflecting across the surface. By rendering in larger dark tones before you start to detail the piece, you will give it a more connected feeling.


To add reflection and finish the piece, use white paint with a small brush and cover over some of the link shapes in the shadow area. Also highlight some of the link edges consistent with a light source coming from one direction. A shadow to one side of a piece can be used to communicate the thickness of a straight-on view.


Belts should always be drawn as if they have life. Curves should be soft and twisting and look comfortable. Make sure you express the thickness of the belt’s material on turned edges so the belt does not appear to be paper-thin. The step-by-step below specifically deals with rendering the metal studding or conches found on many southwest or punk-style belts.

The featured belt was drawn with black pen line, then rendered using graphite pencil with marker for the local color. By scanning it into a photo-editing program, it is easy to manipulate the color into any variation.


Establish a line drawing that is symmetrical and outline it using black pen line. This will communicate a hard metal surface as well as keeping it separated visually from the belt or host object. As with any accessory, shadow and light should move from one side to the other to create form.


Rendering should be from solid black to pure white to emphasize metal reflection. Smudge in a soft gradation to give a feeling of atmosphere and provide a tone into which highlights can be added.


To finish, add some reflected color with a light-tone marker or colored pencil. Highlights should be kept repetitious on the high points and focused as if coming from one light source. Note that the reflections are dot-like rather than painted strokes.


Handbags or purses come in a huge assortment of sizes and shapes. The silhouettes below represent some of the more common family names to help you categorize the bags you are working with.

BACKPACK or BOOK BAG: This bag has shoulder straps and multiple compartments designed to hold all that a student needs.

BOWLER BAG: A dome-shaped bag named for its similarity to bags used for carrying bowling balls.

BUCKET BAG: A silhouette resembling a bucket shape (wider at the top) that typically has a rounded bottom.

CHANEL BAG: Typically is quilted and has a chain shoulder strap.

CLUTCH or EVENING BAG: A handheld bag sometimes containing a hidden shoulder strap inside.

CRESCENT BAG: A bag with a half-moon or semi-circle shape on top collapsing upward into the handles.

CYLINDER BAG: A tube-shaped bag commonly used for storing cosmetics.

DRAWSTRING BAG: A bag that closes at the top with a chain, cord, or rope laced through grommets or eyelets and then cinched.

DUFFLE BAG: A large rectangular bag with two top handles and a zipper closure on top.

FIELD BAG: A small rectangular bag with flap-top closure and long shoulder strap.

HOBO BAG: A small to large bag with a soft-cornered trapezoid shape and a shoulder strap.

KELLY BAG: A classic handbag or purse with a slight trapezoid shape and a hard handle.

MESSENGER or COURIER BAG: A rectangular bag with a large flap-top closure and a long adjustable strap designed to be worn over the shoulder and across the chest.

SATCHEL: A medium rectangular bag sometimes having strapped compartments on the sides. It has a short carrying handle and is reminiscent of a doctor’s bag.

SHOULDER BAG: Variable shaped bags with a medium- length strap for carrying over the shoulder and hanging down around elbow height.

TOTE: A medium to large square or rectangular bag with open or closured top for carrying everything.