Chapter 7. Fashion Figure Drawing – Drawing Fashion Accessories


A fashion illustrator must be able to create the ideal figure for any given design or concept in clothing. Fashion accessories would not have much presence if it were not for the display stand of the fashion figure supporting them. This chapter will give you the principles for adjusting the human form to accentuate any fashion accessories you may be called upon to execute. Fashion illustration is one of the few areas of art where rules matter because they communicate age, character, and style, not to mention the designer’s intent.


Figure proportion should always be subject to the needs of the particular accessory, garment, or action of the body. The following proportional breakdown will give you a starting point to create an ideal figure. In life drawing, the figure’s proportion is commonly seven and a half heads tall. In fashion illustration we stretch the figure out to eight and a half heads, giving us a taller figure that is in tune with an ideal figure for fashion and accessories. Some illustrators stretch their figures to nine, ten, or even twelve heads high. The proportion shown here is more conservative because accessory illustration is not as open to fantasy as garment illustration can be.

The proportional height sections of the female and male figures are basically the same, with only a few distinctive differences, listed below, that give them immediate gender recognition. The following proportions are meant to communicate a typical adult figure and are based on general body types. To draw your figures smaller in proportion will result in a different kind of figure, i.e. petite, junior, or even a child. It is also usually necessary to thin your figures down a bit from a natural weight or they will appear to be plus sizes, which is a separate fashion category.


A female’s shoulders will be about the width of a head or less. An adult male’s shoulders will be a head and a quarter wide. Men’s shoulder width should have a more triangular shape than females’ (D), and a female’s shoulders should always be kept narrow in relationship to her hips.

Males will have more bulk as well as definition in their muscle tone, especially in the neck (E) and shoulder (F) area. They are generally bigger-boned and have a straighter, less curved waist area then a female (G). Because the male waist tapers right into the pelvis, there is not as much curve in the hips. A male’s pelvic bone was not created to give birth, so it is narrower then the female’s (H). A male’s leg muscles should obviously be more bulky (I).

Although female hands and feet were typically small and delicate in the past, our culture now holds a different image of a woman. Hands, from the wrist to the tips, should be about the size of a head. Larger hands will communicate a stronger and more confident person. Smaller hands can seem frail or weak. Feet, when viewed from the side, should also be about a head size. Both hands and feet on males should be larger in size and angular. When drawing men and women together, you can lengthen the male’s legs slightly to make him taller.

1  Begin with the head size (top of the skull to bottom of the chin); the head size is the standard for relating all figure sizes and ages.

2  Adding one head will bring you to the point where the underarms enter the upper torso. It is right above the nipple line of the female’s breast. This head includes the neck (which is usually stretched a bit) and shoulder thickness.

3  The third head brings us to the waist of the figure, or the navel. It is also the first section where you begin stretching out the figure. Adding about a quarter of a head size will open up the mid-torso and add height to the upper figure. This is essential for a design area as well as visual comfort for the figure. You will also need to stretch your upper arms out a bit to bring the elbows even with the waist. If the arms are extended away from the body, use an axis line to maintain the right arm length.

4  The fourth head brings you to the crotch of the figure—the area where the legs enter the torso. All design really takes place within these first four heads; everything below the crotch is simply length—micro- mini, mini, mid-thigh, above the knee, below the knee, and so on. As long as you maintain the integrity of these four heads, you can lengthen the legs as much as you desire and your illustration will always seem to relate to an actual human figure. The crotch is also even with the wrist length (slightly above the thumb joint) (A).

5  Five heads down brings you to the mid- thigh, an important proportion when it comes to blazer and jacket length. It is also the proper location for the fingertips to hit.

6  Six heads should bring you to the knee.

7  The seventh head does not have as specific a marker as the others do, but comes to about the bottom of the calf muscle (B).

8  The eighth head takes you to the ankle. Note the inner ankle bone is higher then the outer ankle bone (C).

8.5 A half head brings you to the floor and includes the foot with a medium-heel shoe height.

The extra three-quarters of a head to stretch the figure to its eight and a half head height is added equally between the fourth and eighth head. If you draw a more exaggerated figure with longer legs, keep the bottom portion of the leg (knee to ankle) longer than the upper leg (crotch to knee). Because the ankle flows right into the foot, this section of the leg is longer and should always appear to be so.


Besides proportion, gesture is another powerful factor that an illustrator can manipulate to give a fashion figure visual impact. It is easily accomplished by breaking the figure down into two main box forms, to represent bone structures. The upper box (A), goes from the deltoid muscles down to the bottom of the ribcage. The lower box (B) is the pelvic bone. These two boxes cannot change their shape. They are joined together by the spine, which goes up into the back of the skull. The body moves by the boxes pivoting against each other as they swing on the spine.


In a frontal (or back) view, the gesture to watch for is the shoulder and hip juxtaposition (C). As the weight of the figure is transferred to a primary leg, it pushes the pelvic bone up while the shoulders bend downward to balance the weight. It also causes an equal and opposite reaction on the other side of the figure. There is also a crunching on one side of the figure (D), balanced by a stretching on the opposite side. It is important to establish the center of gravity. On a standing figure this falls directly from the throat to the floor. Draw a plumb line along this line. The foot supporting the most weight of the figure (E) should be at its end.


Consider the depth of the boxes. The upper box is wider at the top from both front and side because it includes the shoulder blades and deltoid muscles. The pelvic box is the opposite, wider at the bottom, narrow at the top, especially for the female form. In a side view, look for the pelvic thrust forward (F). The upper torso continues to move outward under the breast toward the pelvic bone for both male and female figures. The plumb line is still under the throat, which means the legs need to come back under the neck to balance the figure (E).


In a three-quarter view, it is essential to consider the breadth of the boxes and think about two sides at once (G) and (H). Observe the center front of the figure (I), which consists of the center of the throat, center of the breasts, navel, and crotch. The upper box leans back because of the natural outward angle of the upper torso, while the lower box angles back to the crotch. Keep this in mind when considering how clothing wraps around the body, shown here by the boot tops that curve in different directions (J). As with any pose in perspective there will be a higher/lower foot. Keeping this perspective will ensure your figure moves comfortably in space. If you draw both feet as flat side views they will not be consistent with the hips and will look awkward (K).


Gesturing the male figure based on his box structure works very much the same as it does with the female. There are two obvious differences to keep in mind. First, the male’s upper box is always broader in the shoulders than a female’s. There is much more of a triangular shape to his upper body (A). Second, the male’s pelvic box structure does not have the extreme width at his hip bones as the female (B). Notice also that all the figures have the same center of gravity or plumb line from the center of their throats straight down to the floor where the most weight is being distributed (C).


Watch for the natural juxtaposing angles of the shoulders and hips as the figure’s weight shifts back and forth to the foot that has the most load on it. The weighted hip is pushed up while the corresponding shoulder is pushing down. The balancing foot will always be below the center of the shoulders (C). As the arms swing with the motion of the strut, one will come more forward, the other back. Watch this perspective when drawing so their form keeps its proper perspective (D). The unweighted leg is lifted from the bottom of the knee and must be foreshortened. This will cause the foot to be seen as a top view, its length about one head size in proportion.


Make sure the neck comes forward out of the shoulders not straight up out of the top of them (E). This will keep your figures looking relaxed. The upper torso of a male angles forward as it moves down to the pelvis, just as for the female. Draw a male’s torso outward to the top of the pelvic box bearing in mind that a male’s gesture is typically not as extreme as a female’s (F). Watch that the foot direction points the same way as the knee (G).


Keep your eye on the body proportion. It is easy to make the upper torso too short between the shoulders and crotch. Watch for the angles in the body as it sits or leans (H). Avoid drawing straight verticals and horizontals in your figures, as they will tend to make it look stiff. As the body leans back and the pelvis is pushed forward, you will see more of the bottom of both the top and bottom boxes (I). You should also note that this forward gesture pulls the buttocks under the figure (J) so they do not protrude at the back. Watch for the center front of the figure (K).


There is no greater tool to assist in drawing than the ability to see shape. It is a method of observation that will help you successfully approach and interpret even the most difficult subjects. This lesson will help you understand the process of observing and drawing shape.

Shape drawing is not merely contour drawing. It is not dealing only with edge, but with forms in space and how those forms relate to each other. It is a way of comparing angle, perspective, curves, and volume to arrive at the accurate proportion and character of a subject.


It does not matter if you have an accessory, a figure, or a cityscape in front of you; seeing shape will allow you to see relationships in space and draw them with confidence and accuracy. Rather than looking at this figure as an abundance of details and textures, begin by breaking the figure down into graphic, colored silhouettes.


Imagine the shapes as solid colors, observing the specific characteristics of their edges—the smooth surface of the skin contrasting with the broken fluff of the feathers’ edges, for example. Compare all edges, angles, curves, and gesture (red lines) to the strict horizontal and vertical lines (green lines). Look at negative space shapes surrounding the figure (magenta areas). Negative shapes help with checking angles adjacent to areas like arms and legs. By focusing on an object’s shape, you can edit out all of the unnecessary gathering or wrinkling that will clutter the garment and distract from the designer’s intent. Only draw shapes that are completely enclosed. Do not draw folds and wrinkles, but try describing the interior of the garment only by what you can observe on the exterior. Sometimes it is better to isolate shapes, like the foreground glove separated from the bodice; at other times you can combine shapes like the hair and hat.


Begin at the top of your page so you can include as much of the figure as possible. Use a large enough pen size that you will not be tempted to sketch or get too detailed. Draw one solid shape—the hat or the hat and head together. This first shape will dictate the proportions of all the remaining shapes. As you draw, keep your eyes more on the object of study than on your work, only looking at your piece to check your progress and the relationships of the shapes. Remember, accurate observation is the goal—better shapes are more important then more shapes. After drawing your first shape, draw the next shape comparing your angles, proportion, and size to your first shape. Continue to draw down the figure, comparing its shapes, angles, and proportion with horizontal and vertical lines. You should be drawing shape to shape. Do not fill in your shapes, as that will cause some shapes to dominate and overpower the form and unity of the line drawing. You do not have to draw a line around every shape, but combining some shapes as you draw down the figure will simplify the details while still producing a solid, powerful image. This technique can also be used to produce preliminary drawings for more elaborate works. Once your large shapes are completed, you may want to go back and draw some shapes within shapes using a smaller line weight, as shown here with the hat netting.


Once you have learned to see shapes in space, practice drawing them using your favorite media while concentrating on expressive line quality to enhance them. Try drawing the most extreme contrasts in value you can achieve with the medium as well as your hand pressure or gesture—light and fragile line versus bold and dark. It is still not necessary to draw a line around every shape, but by using shape your hand has the freedom to confidently bring life and emotion to your linework, while still maintaining solid form.


Fashion begins with Silhouette, so it makes sense to begin your illustration with that same consideration. Illustrating fashion is not just about the basic clothing style, but the ideal image of what the designer had in mind. If you begin by studying the silhouette of the garment, it will give you the foundation upon which to build your exaggeration and fantasy styling, while still holding true to the designer’s intent.

When having a model pose in a garment, encourage them to bring the character of the ideal wearer to life. It is your mission as an illustrator to perfect the image of the garment along with the character of its patron. Pin it, clip it, tuck it in, and fluff it up to make it fit correctly and present its quintessential personality. Consider what features need to be focused on or emphasized in the garment. Be aware of hand gesture, foot perspective, and overall body posture and pose, all of which can help or hinder in bringing the garment to life.

This silhouetted image was drawn on watercolor paper with a hard graphite pencil. The earring and martini glass were masked out with a liquid masking solution. Then a wash of clear water was put down over the entire surface of the paper to give the paint a vehicle to move around in and blend together. Immediately after the water had soaked into the paper but not dried, a wash of diluted paint was added. A little salt was sprinkled on the background while it was still wet to give the starburst effects. After the first layer of watercolor was completely dry, the solid silhouette of the figure was painted in with slightly diluted watercolor. When the figure layer was dry, the defining detail shapes were added into the hair, cape, and skirt with undiluted color. When drawing a garment that is mid-calf in length or longer, it is wise to proportion your figure to nine or nine and a half heads tall, which will ensure it does not end up looking like a petite figure. After the surface was completely dry, the liquid mask was rubbed off to reveal the bright white paper. The background lines and shapes were added last to connect the figure to the page.

Silhouettes can be soft-edged, as with this feather-trimmed jacket. The face and gloves were protected by a liquid mask, then the paint was added to a very wet surface. This technique of working wet into wet created the soft transitions of color and draping in the garment. After the piece was dry, some black pastel was added with a cotton swab to make the blacks a deeper tone. Because pastels are basically dry pigment and go down with a matte finish, they are almost undetectable on watercolor. They can also be used for defining edges or punching up shadow tones so you do not overwork your painting with brushwork.

These small silhouette studies were painted directly on dry paper with a small brush and concentrated watercolor. The smaller a figure is, the more important it is to exaggerate gesture so it does not become a rigid form. This exercise is also a powerful tool for practicing extreme gesture in your figures.


Shadows are key to showing the form of any object or figure. Even when you are working in a looser style, it is important to indicate a light source to give dimension and movement to the garment. The more you accentuate the shadow contrasts and gradations, the more realistic your piece will become. There are basically two types of shadows: form and cast. The third element, which sometimes needs to be considered, is highlight. To achieve extreme structure it is necessary to exaggerate all three.


Form shadows are the shadows that happen as light moves across the surface of a form. Their main character is that they have soft edges. When starting, first establish what is shadow (A), and what is light, or local color (B). Once you have established the shadow shape you can add depth and increase form by adding a core (C). The core of a shadow happens when light can no longer reach around a shape and can also not be reflected back around on it from the surfaces surrounding it. The core is the darkest area of a form shadow. The core also helps create a reflected light (D). A reflected light should never be as bright as the light area of the form. It is a secondary shadow tone.


Cast shadows occur when light is blocked from one object by another. It is the same principle as the shadow puppets you make with your hands by blocking the light cast on a wall. Cast shadows have more strict, harder edges. They are also darker at their base (E) or starting point. They soften slightly in shape and tone (F) as they move away from their source because of atmospheric light. They are a powerful tool to use for separating figures from a background or one object from another. The cast shadow intensifies the reflected light on the sphere.


If you are drawing a reflective fabric like satin or patent leather, you will also need to consider a highlight. This sphere was finished by adding a warm #2 art marker to the back of the paper, which then became the local color of the object. A highlight with white pastel was added, keeping it soft on the edges to give a glowing feel (G). This technique will give you ultimate form on your objects. Highlights should be focused primarily on the side of an object that is closest to the light source (H).



Establish a light source and stay true to it (A). Build your form shadows on the most obvious drapes first. The drapes will immediately begin to have a feeling of a light side and a dark side.


Now work in the cores of the form shadows and also lay in your cast shadows. The angles of the cast shadows all follow the same perspective (B). Your drape will feel well formed but also very sterile. It is necessary to break the edges of the shadows with movement.


For a textured shadow edge, the light or local color areas are primarily left white (or open (C)). The fabric’s texture should be added to the shadow edges to avoid shadow spottiness all over your figure.



The technique of describing light on the lit side of the figure is called “burning out” (C). It also helps keep the drawing simple to read. The more texture on a piece, the greater chance you have of flattening your form.


Establish your general shadow. Look for ways of connecting shadows into a continuous shape rather then small broken spots, which can look more like pattern on a garment than shadow. Illustrate form (soft-edge) and cast (hard-edge) shadows when possible.


Begin to add secondary shadows such as the breast plane and the pelvis area (A). Adjust your shadow edges to create the feeling of drape and gathering of the fabric as affected by the body (B).


Lastly, add any color, pattern, texture, or highlight that the textile requires. Here a subtle marker tone was added behind the garment and a highlight was added to the lit side of the form (C).


There are three more essentials to consider when approaching the fashion figure: gesture, mass, and form.


If you ever feel stiff or uninspired about the drawing in front of you, take a break and draw some gesture poses to warm things up. Use a live model whenever possible, or have a stack of fashion magazine reference in front of you to draw from. Do not forget to time yourself.


The figures on this page of gesture drawings were each drawn in one-minute intervals. This quick sketching technique will teach you to find the flow of the figure’s movement and to exaggerate the angles caused by the boxes (see pp. 166-167), but without taking time to draw their shapes. Note that there is minimal detail. These figures were drawn with an art marker and are meant to capture movement, not body form. You must guard yourself against thinking about the body contour or specifics. Only add enough defining details to explain body perspective and direction. It is best to stand up when doing such fast sketches so you have maximum use of your drawing arm and do not lean on your pad. Begin with the figure’s head so you establish the proportional key and then challenge yourself to get from head to toe in one minute. If there is time remaining, begin to flesh out the figure’s form. Note that the plumb line (green) and height proportion are still maintained even at this speed.


When a figure shape or form is hard to see as line, another way to approach the object is by drawing the mass of it from the inside out. Both the glove and male figure drawings were started from a center point and then scribbled or hatched toward the outside edges of the shape. Do not become distracted by detail when trying this technique; squinting your eyes will cause the figure to go out of focus. Start with a continuous tone and, as you develop the shape of the mass and it becomes more and more representational of the form, begin to increase the value contrasts where necessary and define the edges. This sketching technique is also useful when it is necessary to draw quickly on location while maintaining a feeling of solid form in your figures.


Form is established in two primary ways: first, when the overlapping of lines or shapes takes place (A), and second, when you draw the planes of a shape or around its edges while observing their perspective. Try to see a line map wrapping around the body, as shown here by the lavender lines on these figures. After drawing the figure’s contour, begin to draw lines over the surface, which represent the direction of the forms as they head toward or away from you. Understanding these contour directions is paramount in bringing proper fit and perspective to garments on the body. This exercise teaches you to observe the directions of cuffs, hems, and center front contours, and explains the arm and leg perspectives (B). It is also important for understanding foreshortening, as with the raised leg of the seated figure. You can practice form drawing with any object or figure in life as well as using photos.


Hands can add elegance and attitude to your accessory or be totally distracting if you overemphasize their presence. When drawing any hand, keep your focus on the shape and contour structure, not on the nails, knuckles, and veins. Rather than show the hundreds of ways a hand can gesture, some successful methods of observation are shown here so you can draw any hand in any position you desire. Keep in mind that larger hands will communicate power and confidence, whereas small or fragile hands can be unappealing in their message.


The basic shape of the hand can be seen as a diamond. The fingers and palm separate at the halfway point between the fingertips and the wrist (A). The knuckles’ arc starts at the base of the fingers and continues through all the joints to the fingertips. Note the relationship of the thumb tip to the index finger’s first joint as well as the pinky tip to the second knuckle of the third finger (B). The hand has a center line that comes from the middle of the wrist proceeding through the center finger (C). This center line will assist you in seeing proportional differences when drawing three- quarter views.


Structurally, female and male hands work in the same way, but their characters should be drawn differently. The female hand commonly has more gesture than the male’s. In general, draw her hand thinner but not gaunt to avoid her hands looking weak or claw-like. Her fingertips should taper slightly toward the points, whether you are giving her actual fingernails or not.

The male hand is beefier and more angular in appearance. The fingertips are more squared-off and the gesture will not typically be as arched as that of a female hand. For simplicity, fingers of both genders should be combined whenever possible. This will add to the overall stability of the hand. Try to position hands either in naturally relaxed poses or in some kind of action. Avoid flat or spread out stiff-looking hands in all cases.

This fantasy illustration of ribbon gloves is a preliminary drawing done for an in-store display. The pencil drawing was scanned and then transformed with an edge filter tool in Corel Paint, before a black background was added for more drama.


The easiest, most successful, way to draw any hands is to observe their shape. When looking at a hand, do not think of it as fingers, knuckles, and details, which can throw you off and distract you.


As a drawing exercise, try to see the hand as a colored shape or silhouette in space. As you draw, look for the angles and proportions within the shape. Begin by observing the general shape (D) and then start to break it down unto smaller increments of angle and curve (E). Compare these lines continually to horizontal and vertical axes.


When drawing the finished hand, keep the outside contour dominant over inside detail. It is always necessary to show bone structure when drawing the hands. This keeps the hands from looking limp or rubbery.


This hand-on-the-hip pose demonstrates drawing a hand while observing its planes. This is another method of observation that will give the hands good structure and keep them looking strong. Notice the arced relationship of the joints and the importance the side plane gives in adding perspective to the pose. The bone structure of the fingers should only be emphasized on one side: the top. If you accentuate the creasing underneath or fleshy part of the finger as well, your hands will have a skeletal look.


When drawing hands in action, as with these handbag poses, the hand is simply a support for the accessory. The straps in the hands should rest comfortably against the fingers. Do not overexaggerate the weight, or the effect on the fingers caused by the object, as this can warp the structure of the hands. Notice that the hand details are kept at a minimum and tone was added on the edges to keep the structure solid.


Feet are more than just a supporting base for the figure. They can make or break your pose if their perspective goes awry or their shape is warped. Two common problems that occur are drawing feet too flat, in both side and frontal views, or giving them too much height so your model appears to be standing on her toes. Following here are some observational truths to watch for when drawing feet on your figures.


The basic shape of the foot is a wedge. From the top, the foot divides in half in the middle of the inside arch, or instep (A). It tapers from the heel to its widest point at the ball joint of the big toe (B). From the ball of the foot the toes begin to angle inward again (C). The toes themselves have a progressive angle also, increasing from smallest to largest (D). Notice that the orange outline mimics the general shape of the sole of a shoe.


The wedge shape of the foot is most obviously seen in the side view. When drawing a shoe on a foot you should always draw the foot from this outside angle. Notice that the foot is basically flat to the ground, unless it is inside a shoe with a heel. In this position, the ankle and leg will be at a right angle to the floor. The heel bone area of the foot makes an outward extension, highlighted here by a ball shape (E).

When a heel is added, and also a slight perspective that is a more common view for a standing figure, notice that there is a center front line just as on the figure (F). Make certain that you draw the front curve of the toes (G), which shows their height and depth; this is necessary to create structure and stability for the foot (H). These angles are essential when drawing any type of shoe on the foot.

When a higher heel is worn, observe how the top arch becomes more pronounced (I) as the foot becomes more extended. The ankle perspective will also begin to increase (J).


In every three-quarter view there will be a higher and lower foot. Check this perspective by comparing the angles by using horizontal and vertical lines (K). You can also see the inside arch (L) in this view and how it affects the foot and shoe sole shape. It is best to not overemphasize this arch. Strapping has been added across the upper foot to give you an idea of form as well as the center front of the foot. The toenails are just indicated so they do not distract.


When drawing front-view feet, special attention should be given to defining the top plane of the foot (M). The big toe will angle in slightly and the entire toe area should have height as well as width. Notice that the inside ankle bone (tibia—N) is higher than the outer (fibula—O). These feet have been drawn standing in a medium heel height.


This foot has a slightly higher viewpoint than the front view. Notice that as the foot is extended out and down, the upper arch becomes more pronounced (P). An extended foot will be about one head size in length.


The heel takes center stage and should be narrowed as it moves up the leg (Achilles tendon—Q). The foot will spread out as it moves forward to the toes. Draw the toes behind the ball of the foot whenever possible (R) to create form. Note the perspective of the foot as it goes away from you. The heel of a shoe will be lower than the toes in a back view (S).


Because you will always want the accessory to remain the focus of your illustration, you should sometimes consider featuring your items on a partial figure. By cropping in with a tighter view, you can direct the viewer’s eyes wherever you choose. When cropping a figure or body part, it is recommended that you do not cut the figure at the joints—ankles, elbows, or at the neck. This can create an uncomfortable visual that may make your figure appear to have been amputated in some way. Always crop the figure at a midway point, such as mid-thigh, mid-face, or mid-arm. You may choose to put a border or window around the partial figure, as shown in the leg and skirt vignettes opposite, or you can fade the figure, as shown in the illustration of the face. If you take the latter approach, beware of cropping the figure symmetrically, especially on the legs as it can make the figure appear to be standing in water. It is better to use an asymmetrical fade in most cases.

This illustration was drawn with pastel pencils; art markers were then used to add color and the background. The articles being featured are the jewelry, belt, and handbag. The simple garment shape stops you from getting caught up in the details of the clothing and merely complements the accessories.


Gloves should be drawn as if they are a second skin on the hand. Do not express too much bulk at the bends or flange and keep the wrinkling clean, with firm shapes. For female gloves, taper the fingertips upward to the nail as you would for the hand. Men’s gloves should have a more square, boxy look to the fingers. A lively hand gesture will help bring life to the gloves.


These legs were used for a hosiery advertisement. They were drawn in graphite and then toned in a photo-editing program. It is important when working in such a tight style to have anatomical correctness, but not to overemphasize the muscle contours or wrinkles.


These hatpins needed to be drawn in black and white for use in a newspaper advertisement. The pins were drawn with a black pen outline to make them pop out from the hat. The face was drawn in graphite to keep it a softer tone so the attention would be on the pins and not the character of the face.


To make sure the chain belt didn’t get lost against the skirt texture, the highlights were burned out to give a pure white background to show the details. The fade-out technique supplied a soft contrast to the hard edge of the chain.



Eveningwear can be anything from a little black dress to a ball gown. It is perhaps the most sought-after category to illustrate. It calls for drama and attitude from the figure while offering more exciting fabric textures and clothing silhouettes. Creating the perfect character for an evening frock is every bit as important as the outfit itself.


Sportswear is another huge category in fashion. It includes all casual forms of separates as well as some dress and athletic wear. The poses for such clothing are usually more active and the drawing styles can be more energetic and loose.

This vintage Korshak dress with multiple pleating around the hips was done in watercolor over a 6B graphite pencil line drawing. The length of the figure was exaggerated to emphasize the drama of the full trumpet skirt bottom with train.

The green tulle dress was rendered using art markers on marker paper. It is a good example of illustrating transparent fabrics. The tulle skirt was done by layering the transparent markers in three different colored tones. This fabric has a crisp linear quality to it so the marker edge is left more obvious. Notice how an impression of the legs comes through the skirt to give strength to the pose. The legs were drawn first, the left with a light skin tone, the right with a light green tone, and then the skirt colors were layered over them. The bodice was achieved by first laying down a skin tone and then a medium green tone over it. The beading and highlights were the final touches, done with fine-line pen and white paint.

These linen capri pants with pleated top were done with markers on a slick marker paper. The ink lines were done first with a water-based pen so that the art markers, which were alcohol-based, did not dissolve them. After the ink line dries, the marker can be put directly over the top of it. This piece was done for retail in-store display and was supposed to be a loose, designer-like sketch. The final display was enlarged to be eight feet high.

This graphic print sundress with a pink crinoline was done with a confident and fun pose. It was drawn with colored pencil on the front of marker paper; then marker was applied on the back for skin tone and shadow depth. The highlights were created by not coloring the paper from behind on those areas. The pattern was added last to the shadow areas with colored pencil, appearing to “burn out” in the highlights. This approach helps create a sense of bright summer energy and reflection. The hair, head wrap, and lifting of the skirt all help create a more sporty atmosphere.


Separates are a huge part of the fashion world. They are items that can be mixed and matched in multiple combinations. Shown here are two different techniques that demonstrate the diversity of approach and attitude possible when illustrating the same category of clothing.

This strikingly realistic marker rendering was done by Dijana Granov. She started with a line drawing in gray colored pencil on a bleedproof marker paper. She then used multiple layers of transparent alcohol-based art markers to create rich values and form. After touching up the details with colored pencils, she gave it a final outline with a fine-line pen and then pushed the highlights and reflections with a white gel pen. Also notice the powerful leather handbag rendering.

This quick sketch was done as an art marker demonstration. It started with a water-based, fine-line pen drawing. Then transparent alcohol-based art markers were put down over the top of the linework. For each garment piece there are three marker tones used; the local color, the shadow color, and the dark detail shapes within the shadows. The highlights on this piece were created by leaving the paper area untouched by the markers. Note the exaggerated walking pose to add a lively, active feeling to the illustration.



Men’s suits and formalwear is an area of fashion illustration that demands a clean, structured style. The poses tend to be basic, even static-looking. Tailored suits and tuxedos should have smoother lines and even lapels—this is not a place to have a lot of organic lines or gestured exaggeration. The shoulders of a suit jacket will tend to look squared-off and give a broader feel to the male silhouette since they are formed by shoulder pads and interfacing. The number of buttons a suit has is very specific, so stay true to the quantity, spacing, and size.


The casual male tends to be a younger, more active figure. He can be posed any number of ways including in an action pose. Clothing style may be loose or tight, layered, or minimal, but most likely it will be comfortable in manner.

On this double-breasted suit, notice that the center front line falls from the point at which the lapels overlap, not the button line; this is true on all suits. On a formal suit there should be a half inch of “linen” or cuff showing out of the jacket sleeve and a dimple in the center of the tie under the knot. This suit was drawn with markers and colored pencils, then cut out and mounted onto a board with watercolor strokes. The unfinished marker side gives the art style a looser feel. It can be used as a design presentation sketch or retail sales advertisement.

This unstructured suit or sportswear illustration has a much more relaxed pose and attitude in the drawing. Areas of contrast with a formal suit include things like turned-up lapels, softer shoulders, and the open-front jacket. Rather than draw in the shadows with colored pencil, this piece was shadowed using a warm gray marker over the top of the jacket color. The jeans were shadowed with a blue marker color. Then colored pencil was sketched on, giving a textured feeling as well as a washed-out look.

This skater was drawn with a combination of watercolor and charcoal pencil. The paint was handled in a very shape-oriented way and with a limited palette of only three colors. A pastel gesture shape was added to the background for a gritty urban feel. This piece is more geared toward an editorial publication.

This punk figure was drawn with black and white charcoal pencil and made more dynamic by drawing it on a bold colored paper.

This young urban guy started as a pencil line drawing that was scanned into a photo-editing program. After capturing the linework as individual shapes, the illustrator filled the figure with solid color. The whole figure was then grabbed as a shape and dropped on top of a cityscape that had been photographed and turned into line-art.


The following fabric rendering samples show some basic techniques for approaching some of the more common fabrics you may be asked to illustrate. Although they are done primarily in marker with colored pencil and pen line, the principles for rendering remain the same in any medium.


The color character of the fabric was first achieved by saturating the drawing with three blue marker tones and then blending them together using a blending marker.


To finish, use a medium-blue colored pencil along with a white pencil or pastel. Notice the detail and focus added to the seam lines that are so common on thicker fabrics like denim.


When rendering shadows on white clothing it is best to use a warm or French gray for warmer whites and a cool gray or sapphire blue marker for cooler whites.


Lightly draw guidelines vertically on the garment with a hard graphite pencil following the fabric draping. Begin by drawing all the downward slash marks in every other row. Repeat the same technique with the upward slashes until there is enough pattern to indicate total coverage. Observe that patterns tend to get narrow as they wrap over an edge.


Lay down the shadow form first. A warm gray was used here and gave a soft lavender tint to the shadows.


After laying down some light guidelines, draw the main square shapes at even intervals. Add the cross lines in a repetitious order, along the long corner-to-corner lines, then the left side slash, then the right. This will keep proportions consistent. Add some soft highlights over the pattern with white colored pencil or pastel if the fabric is reflective.


After using a pigment pen to draw the main outline, establish the shadow tones using three values of marker: light, medium, and dark. Flesh tones were used here to indicate a see-through effect behind the lace.


Use a warm gray marker over the dress area. Lay down the lace pattern. Watch for the repetition of the pattern. Start with the biggest shapes, then work your way down to the smaller ones. Finally, indicate the netting if necessary.


Begin with the shadow tones, keeping the drawing fluid in character; the more reflective the surface, the higher the contrast of light to dark. Three tones were used to create the form on both the figure and the dress.


Highlights are key to making a reflective surface come to life. White paint was used to add fabric depth and detail. The reflections are fluid and gradate from harsh to soft. Dots of white were used to indicate the sparkling fabric.


Keep the shadows simple and primarily on one side of the figure. Avoid spotty or harsh value contrasts.


First establish your guideline colors—the blue grid lines. Then draw the pale color lines that intersect vertically and horizontally. Add the white lines with white paint or colored pencil. Keep them softer in the shadows and ensure they follow the movement of the fabric.


Establish the figure outline, then render the skin tone, including the part to be exposed under the sheer fabric.


Use a medium-blue marker to render the satin’s local color. Add darks and lights with a dark blue marker and white colored pencil. Keep the reflections soft- edged and glowing. Use a lighter blue marker to color over the skin tone representing the sheer fabric. Add some shadow with the medium blue from the dress and some soft highlights with blue pastel to look like reflection under the sheer.


Draw the shadow forms of the garment. You will need light, medium, and dark values to create the reflections of the sequins. If the sequins are the same color as the fabric, use the shadow color for the medium reflection sequins. Then add the dark reflections with a darker marker from the same color family.


Add highlights with white paint in both medium and bright values keeping some reflections close together. Keep the majority of the highlights in the lighter areas of the garment. A few quasars will help to emphasize the sparkling quality of the surface.


Vinyls come in dull and high- gloss textures. For a duller finish, do not leave the white spaces when rendering in marker. Add them later with white colored pencil. Keep the reflection tones very fluid-looking when laying down the initial reflections. Using dark grays for black at first rather than pure black allows you to use black as your darkest shadow tone.


To finish glossy vinyl, push the blacks with a 90% gray marker or darker. Soften the edges of the reflections with a blender marker. Paint the highlights with white paint, gradating them from hot white to gray. The blue reflected light added with colored pencil adds secondary form.