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Cheat Sheet

Fashion Drawing For Dummies

From Fashion Drawing For Dummies by Lisa Arnold, Marianne Egan

Fashion drawing is all about attitude, exaggeration, and style. As you develop your fashion illustration skills, infuse your work with personal flair — your signature — to create a look unlike any other. Start by observing the golden rules of fashion drawing, mastering the S curve and other figure drawing techniques, and putting a creative spin on the fashion drawings you create.

Following the Rules of Fashion Illustration

Fashion drawing isn’t known for having a lot of rules, but it does have a few pointers. When drawing fashion models, remember the following guidelines:

  • Know the difference between figure drawing and fashion drawing. In fashion drawing, go for a stylized look over realism. Show just a few key folds or shadows instead of every detail, and leave some white space.

  • Exaggerate!

  • Render proportions appropriate to the model’s gender and age. For adult figures, keep heads small for a graceful look.

    Start with a stick figure to set your pose and proportions and make sure the model looks balanced before you get too far into a drawing.

  • Diversify your fashion poses and views (front, side, back, and three-quarter) to draw audience interest. Tilt the shoulders and hips to create active poses.

  • To avoid a flat look, curve lines with the figure’s body. Have necklines and hemlines wrap around to the back of the figure. Let fabric prints cut off at the seams or disappear over the edges.

  • Experiment to keep your art fresh.

  • Know when to fix a drawing, stop it, or scrap it.

  • Practice, practice, practice.

How to Draw a Basic Fashion Figure

Fashion figures need attitude as well as style. Here’s how to draw a basic fashion figure with a look that rules the runway. Start by creating a fashion croquis, or rough sketch of the body:

  1. Lay tracing paper over a full-body picture of a model from a magazine and use a pencil to trace around the perimeter of her body.

  2. Draw lines to show the angles of her shoulders and hips. Trace a center line down the front of her body and draw an oval for the head.

  3. Break your figure down into basic shapes, using two trapezoids for the torso and cylinders for the arms and legs, as in “a” in the figure. Include circles for the elbows and knees.

  4. Remove the tracing paper from your model.

  5. On a piece of sketch paper, redraw your fashion model freehand, but lengthen the torso, arms, and legs.

    The new figure is taller and narrower and has a smaller head in comparison to the rest of her body. Fashion figures almost always have long, slim torsos and long, slender limbs, which make the clothes look better.

  6. Use a black pen to draw over the areas of the body that you want to show. Erase the pencil lines.

    See the “b” figure.

    Drawing a fashion model freehand with basic lines and shapes.
    Drawing a fashion model freehand with basic lines and shapes.

Developing Your Own Fashion Illustration Style

When you first start drawing fashion illustrations, it’s easiest to imitate someone else’s style. But eventually, you need to develop your own signature look. Try these methods on for drawing style:

  • Experiment with exaggeration and play with proportions. Draw attention with outrageous hair or go for a minimalist look.

  • Specialize in the clothing types you like best.

  • Study other artists’ work. Borrow design elements from them but don’t copy their style.

  • Keep up on the latest fashion trends. Read magazines, visit websites, and scope out styles at department stores, boutiques, and vintage shops. Perfect the art of people-watching. Watch old movies and find inspiration in costumes from film and stage.

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