Fashion Illustration in Adobe Illustrator – Designing a Range of Leggings

Fashion Illustration in Adobe Illustrator – Designing a Range of Leggings

Fashion Illustration in Adobe Illustrator – Designing a Range of Leggings

Digital Fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator is a fantastic tool to have and something that can speed up your design process immeasurably. In these tutorials, we explore the use of layers, fashion templates, creating illustration outlines, adding design details and then populating them with colour, texture and print. It’s a long course but we cover all of the basics which will be enough to give you a comprehensive understanding of digital fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator. If you have used Adobe Illustrator in the past, these tools and tricks should be pretty easy to grasp. If you are new to using Adobe Illustrator it can take a bit of time to familiarise yourself. Don’t worry, simply watch each tutorial in sequence. We explain step-by-step how we build our digital fashion illustrations.

Watching the tutorial and working in Adobe Illustrator on the same computer can be tricky. Switching between screens can be a bit of a nightmare. Instead, why not watch the tutorials on a tablet or iPad, place it next to your laptop or computer, open Adobe Illustrator and follow the tutorial, step-by-step. You can pause the tutorial at any time. We’ve found this technique incredibly useful and it reduces the learning curve dramatically.

Digital Fashion Illustration Tutorials

Below, you will find our list of “Digital Fashion Illustration in Adobe Illustrator” tutorials. It’s very simple- start at the top and work your way down the list! Each tutorial is in order the order you should watch it. It is important that you complete each tutorial in order. This will ensure you don’t miss anything crucial. Once you’ve finished all the tutorials, you should have a firm grasp on the basics of creating fashion illustrations in Adobe Illustrator. You can then go on to learn and develop your own skills with your own designs.

That’s pretty much all you need to know so why not give it a shot? Before you know it you’ll be a pro at fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator!

PART 1 – Using Fashion Templates & Creating a Fashion Illustration Outline

In this tutorial, we take a look at pre-made fashion templates from companies such as Prêt-à-Template. We demonstrate how to resize, adapt and use them to suit our specific project or design needs. Finally, we create the outline layer and discuss why layers are so important for Fashion Illustration in Adobe Illustrator. Visit the Prêt-à-Template site to view their entire range of fashion templates.

PART 2 – Adding Design Details Technique 1 – Using the Pathfinder Tool

In this tutorial, we start to add our design details. These are the panels that are drawn within the outline of the leggings illustration. They make up the various panels or seams of the legging’s design. Later, these panels can be filled with colour, texture or print. There are numerous techniques to create the panels that form the design details layer, however, this tutorial focuses primarily on one technique – using the pathfinder tool.

PART 3 – Adding Design Details Technique 2 – Creating Fillable Panels

This tutorial also focuses on adding design details, however, this time we use a more simplistic approach. We simply draw our design detail panels side-by-side, without the need for the pathfinder tool. This is the most common way to create design details and fillable panels.

PART 4 – Adding Colour, Texture & Print to the Design Details or Panels

In this tutorial, we look at how to apply colour to the panels within the design details layer. We also explain how to create a texture using the repeating elements and the swatches palette. Finally, we explain how to group panels, within the design details layer, to change colour quickly and consistently. It’s a fantastic process that allows you to create hundreds of designs quickly and easily.

PART 5 – Creating a Line-up of Styles, then Batch Adjusting Colour & Textures

In the final tutorial of this series, we explain how to combine our individual fashion illustrations on one art board to create a gorgeous line-up of designs. We also explain how to batch-change colours across all of the fashion illustrations, making it incredibly fast and easy to experiment with colour, texture and print. This allows you to create hundreds of line-up variations in no time at all. This tutorial really demonstrates the power of digital fashion illustration vs hand-drawn or painted fashion illustrations.

Fashion Illustration in Adobe Illustrator – Full Length Video

This video is the full-length version. It features the exact same content but this time without all of the breaks and pauses. Enjoy!


If you do feel there is something that we have left out or you need specific advice then please feel free to comment or ask us a question. There is a comments section at the bottom of each tutorial. Adding comments or asking questions is a great way for the community to learn together and get answers to similar issues.

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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