Digital Fashion Illustration in Adobe Illustrator

Digital Fashion Illustration in Adobe Illustrator


Learn Professional Digital Fashion Illustration Techniques in Adobe Illustrator with our FREE Video Tutorials

Learn Digital Fashion Illustration in Adobe Illustrator for FREE!

We’ve had so much love online and so many requests in response to our existing fashion illustration tutorials that we thought we’d expand the range! We’ve now created a whole series of in-depth video tutorials that showcase the various methods used to create detailed professional fashion illustrations using Adobe Illustrator. Like all our tutorials, they’re completely free to watch. We don’t ask you to subscribe or sign up-  just click the video to watch!

Fashion illustration is a highly subjective matter. There are hundreds of different illustration styles out there and most are based on a person’s experience and ability to draw freehand. With this in mind, we’ve attempted to take the pain out of digital fashion illustration by creating a series of tutorials that demonstrate fashion illustration techniques in Adobe Illustrator. You don’t need any prior experience of Adobe Illustrator and you certainly don’t need to be a talented free-hand or fashion specific illustrator. We source, copy/paste and trace face and body images found on the internet using the pen tool in Adobe Illustrator. When tracing real imagery, it produces fantastic realistic results in a fraction of the time, leaving you more time to perfect your actual garment designs.

First, we demonstrate how to illustrate the face, we then add skin tone, makeup, hairstyles and then illustrate a series of body poses. Finally, we show you how to piece all of these separate elements together, giving you the potential to create hundreds of different fashion templates, ready for your garment designs. Once again, you don’t need any prior experience using either Adobe Illustrator or freehand drawing and the course is completely free to watch.

This digital fashion illustration course is designed to fill in the blanks of our existing courses and answer some of the questions that our followers have asked over recent months. We hope you enjoy the content and learn something truly valuable.

We love hearing from you! If you enjoy our content, please share it with your friends and leave us a comment. Likewise, if you have any issues with the techniques taught or you have time-saving tricks that could help our followers then once again, please leave a comment- we can always create a new tutorial to showcase the concept and we’ll also tag you in to say thanks!

Download the Fully-Editable Fashion Illustration Template Pack!

If you love the fashion illustrations and elements that we’ve created, you can now purchase the fully-editable fashion illustration template pack from our sister site, DesignLab.London. Click below to view the product on the DesignLab.London site. This fashion Illustration template pack gives you access to all our fully-editable illustrations, templates and content that we’ve created whilst producing these tutorials. The pack took weeks to produce and will save you weeks of work, allowing you to concentrate on what’s important-your fashion designs. Click the image for an overview or click the button to purchase the pack.

FREE Digital Fashion Illustration Tutorials

Part 1 – Face & Portrait Illustration

Create detailed illustrations of the face without any prior experience of free-hand drawing or Adobe Illustrator. Learn how to copy, paste and accurately trace the outline and details of the face from portrait imagery found online. Learn how to transform or mirror image the finished illustration to speed up the process and create symmetrical face illustrations. Finally, learn how to stylise the finished illustration using line widths, skin tones and colour fills.


Part 2 – Adding Makeup Concepts

Design and apply your own makeup concepts to your existing portrait illustrations. Learn how to add blocks or colour, experiment with transparency, and apply a range of filters to create soft subtle layers of colour that complement and enhance the skin tone. A compact, fun tutorial that showcases a very powerful and useful set of tools. It’s a firm favourite of ours!

Part 3 – Illustrating Hair Styles

Create hair templates from scratch to radically transform the look and identity of your portrait illustrations. Learn how to map the initial hair outline, add hair strands with stylised line art, create colour layers, and finally adapt each hairstyle to suit each portrait illustration or face shape. It’s a long process, but once you have a range of hairstyle it dramatically increases the number of different portrait styles that can be created.


Part 4 – Illustrating the Body

Learn how to create a range of beautiful body illustrations, poses or fashion templates to go with your portraits, makeup and hairstyles. This is the final piece in the puzzle when it comes to creating your own professional fashion templates. Similar to Part 1, we demonstrate how to copy/paste and accurately trace the outline and details of the body from high-resolution swimwear or lingerie imagery found online. Next, you will learn how to add depth and texture to the illustration using line widths, and skin tone. Finally, we demonstrate how to add a simple garment layer such as a swimsuit or activewear.


Part 5 – Creating Model Templates & Digitising Hand-Drawn Fashion Illustrations

In this tutorial, we demonstrate how to create and print transparent model templates from your existing face, hair and body illustrations. These model templates are then printed on to A4 and used as templates to sketch a range of designs. Once the designs are finalised, we scan them back into Adobe Illustrator and once more trace or transform them into beautiful digital fashion Illustrations.

Part 6 – Adding Colour, Print & Texture to your Digital Fashion Illustrations

The moment you’ve all been waiting for! In this tutorial, we demonstrate how bring your black and white digital fashion illustrations to life by adding colour, print and texture using the eyedropper, clipping mask and swatch tools. It’s possibly the most interesting and fun tutorial out of the whole range… Enjoy!

Looking For More?

Why not check out our existing range of FREE fashion illustration tutorials. It’s pretty much the same stuff but there’s always something to be learned. 

leggings fashion illustration leggings sports wear luxe patternlab

Learn how to design a range or collection of leggings in Adobe Illustrator, using pre-made fashion templates from Pret-a-Template. 

digital fashion illustration patternlab

Learn how to scan and digitise your hand-drawn fashion illustrations with Adobe Illustrator.

S1. EP4. Digital fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator

S1. EP4. Digital fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator

S1. EP4. Digital fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator

In this episode, we demonstrate how to transform our hand-drawn fashion illustrations and sketches from S1. EP3 into gorgeous precision digital artworks or digital fashion illustrations, using Adobe Illustrator CC. It’s a comprehensive tutorial that goes into a lot of detail about professional fashion drawing in Adobe Illustrator. It is supplementary to S1. EP3’s process of hand drawn fashion Illustration.

Fashion Illustration & Layers

Digital fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator can be a tricky process especially if your illustrations are quite complex. It can be hard to get right without following some basic methodology. I know this because I’ve spent years playing with it. As with most digital artworks, layers are incredibly important and useful. Separating complex parts of your illustrations into layers, allows you to turn a very complicated illustration, with many elements, into manageable bite size pieces. Not only that, but it allows you to place collections of elements on top of others. This is very handy when you want trims or design elements to sit on top of the colour layer. If your elements are all combined on one layer you will have a very messy illustration that is hard to work with and change at a later date.

In this tutorial we show you how to create these layers and what parts of your illustration are kept on each layer. This will keep you fashion illustrations neat and easy to use. Think of it like a filing system. If all your important docs are in one big folder it becomes hard to find them quickly. If you categorise them into subfolders (layers) you will have a better chance of finding them and keeping track of them. We use four key layers when creating fashion illustrations. They’ve been listed below in order of appearance from top to bottom, with details about what they might contain.

The outline layer (Top layer):
The outline layer is the outline or silhouette or your garment. It is usually a thick outline that shows where parts of the garment start and finish. This layer is important and the line width must be quite thick to give your illustration some depth or dimension. This layer might also detail openings or finished edges within your garment. A pocket opening would have a think outline to demonstrate that it is not a seam or part of the garments construction. It is essentially a finished edge. 

The details layer (Middle layer):
This layer contains all of your trimmings, buttons, pocket flaps, cuffs… you name it! Anything that might be used to make up the details of your garment. Think of it as the “design details” part of your garment mentioned in S1 EP1 – The key concepts of fashion design. These can either be darts, seams or even trims. The trims are often self contained elements that might hold yet more details or can be filled with colour independent from the “body layer”.

The body layer (Middle layer):
The body layer is simply the outline of your garment, without a thick line. This layer could contain a flat-colour, print, fabric scan or texture. It is separated from the other layers to make it easy changing colours, prints and textures quickly without having to edit the whole illustration. It’s a simple layer with few details but a very important part of your fashion illustration all the same!

The model layer (Bottom layer):
The model layer is pretty self explanatory. In S1. EP3. we downloaded some fashion templates or fashion models from Pret-a-template and used them as a template to design on top of. Because we used this fashion template, it is important to also use it for the digital version of our fashion illustration. Luckily Pret-a-template provide digital copies of their fashion templates, so it’s a simple case of copying this model template and dropping it into the model layer of our illustration. The model layer sits at the very bottom so that our garment and all its various layers and components sit on top. 

More complicated fashion illustrations might need more layers but this is a really good starting point when it comes to the basics of fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator. 

Line weight

As we mentioned above, line weight is important when it comes to creating illustrations with depth. Generally we use a thick outline for the finished edges and silhouette of our garment.  We use thinner lines for seams, stitch lines, creases, pleats and other design elements. We could even use a dotted or dashed line to highlight stitch lines. It’s completely up to you! Using a combination of line thickness, creates an almost 3D effect and goes a long way when beautifying our fashion illustrations. Bellow are some values that I use when creating our illustrations:

Outlines: 1.5px (Thickest)
Seams: 0.75px
Creases, folds, pleats: 0.35px

The thickness of these lines depends on the size of your fashion illustrations. For example, if you are working on an illustration that is on A3 these lines might appear quite thin. Similarly, if you used the same line thickness on an A4 page they would seem thicker. You can come up with your own line thicknesses but it is completely up to you and your illustration style!


Colour, print using clipping masks

In this tutorial we also show you how to add flat colour and a basic print to the “body layer” of your illustrations using clipping masks. This is a really important part of the tutorial. Adding colour, print or fabric texture will bring your illustrations to life! You can add pretty much anything you wish, whether it’s a simple colour fill, a print that you’ve made or even an image that you’ve created or downloaded. Adding a colour is the simplest way of bringing your designs to life, but it can look a bit basic – Flat colour has no depth or detail. Adding a print, texture or image to your illustration (using a clipping mask) gives the best results although slightly harder to pull off. Luckily the process or technique is exactly the same each time. once you have mastered it, you’ll be adding all kinds of things to the “body layer” of your illustration!



Below you will find some examples of my own digital fashion illustrations, created in Adobe Illustrator, using the Pret-a-template fashion templates. These artworks are free to download and use. Each illustration includes all the various layers, line widths, colours and prints. They should help you better understand the video tutorial and processes we use when creating fashion illustrations. 

Click image below to download fully editable fashion illustration pack.

The benefits of digital fashion illustration

Digitising your fashion illustrations or fashion drawings is not required. A lot of designers or illustrators are happy to present their hand-drawn fashion illustrations as is. It all really depends on your own personal taste and ability when illustrating by hand. To be honest, i’m (Ralph) not particularly talented at adding colour using traditional means, such as watercolour or coloured pencil – I rely heavily on the digital approach. I find the precision lines, depth of detail and ease and speed of changing colours, print and texture incredibly helpful when both conveying my ideas to the client and then adapting them to my clients needs after the initial brief. 

Although this tutorial is around 50 minutes long, it really doesn’t take that long to create each illustration. I’ve broken down the process and explained it in detail, which obviously takes longer than normal. It takes me around 10 minutes to create each individual fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator, which is not long at all. If you are new to Illustrator it might take you considerably longer. The more time you dedicate to it the faster you will become. You can even copy and paste design elements such as: sleeves, necklines, outlines or even pockets to a new design, speeding up your design process even further. Either way, it’s a lot of fun to add colour and prints to your finished illustrations.


What’s next?

In the next episode we’ll show you how to create stunning fashion prints that can be printed on to a range of different fabrics, using digital fabric printing companies such as Spoonflower. We’ll buy a collection of flowers, take high definition imagery on a dark background and import them into Adobe photoshop. We’ll then cut them up, position them, change their colours, combine them with tropical leaves, and output them as full-size full-repeat digital artworks. It’ll be a lot of fun and should shed some light on professional digital printing techniques.

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