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









S1 Ep4 – Digital fashion illustration using 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.


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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!

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.

More FREE Fashion Illustration Courses & Tutorials

Why not check out our other FREE fashion illustration tutorials. We’ve got a whole series of courses that will help improve your skills and knowledge about digital fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator. Take your pick from the course outlined below!

Part 2 Adding Makeup Fashion Illustration Master Class

Master Course – Fashion Illustration

Our most comprehensive and up-to-date fashion illustration course yet. Learn how to create your own unique model templates including: customised faces, hair, makeup, body poses and much more. Then add your fashion designs to create stunning professional fashion illustrations.

fashion spec drawing free tutorial adding colour texture and print

Technical drawing – Fashion Illustration

Learn how to create professional technical drawings to accompany your fashion illustrations. Watch this 5 part FREE fashion illustration course. It’s a must-see!

fashion illustration in Adobe Illustrator free courses tutorials patternlab

Legging Design – Fashion Illustration

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


  1. ST


  2. Armin Babaei

    Hey Ralph,

    Great series! You mentioned that Pret-a-template provides digital copies of their fashion templates. I can’t find that, how did you download the SVG? Looks like the only option is PSD.


    • Ralph Pink

      Their illustrations are PDFs but they fully editable in Adobe Illustrator. Simply download and open it in Adobe. Use the small selection tool (direct selection tool) to select the model template/ elements. We will be releasing our own fully editable model templates very soon. Keep an eye on social media. They’re going to fabulous!

      • Anonymous

        Perfect, Thanks Ralph.


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