Hints & Tips For Budding Fashion Illustrators

Advice and Tips

If you’ve got your mind set on becoming a fashion illustrator then you’re going to need a lot of confidence and perseverance because you’re not alone. Fashion illustration is a very, very popular area of illustration with people drawing pretty costumes on everything from exercise books to expensive velum paper. Your work will need to have an edge, it’ll need to stand out as a cut above the rest.

A good way to get started of course, like with any aspect of illustration, is to build up a portfolio of work. In this case, fashion illustration work. Have a look at the latest fashion collections of some of the big designers, Vogue is a good place to check – they seem to know what’s what. http://www.vogue.co.uk/fashion/autumn-winter-2012

There’s plenty of great photos of fashion for you to base your work on. Choose a stylish outfit and get to drawing. Now, you’re going to need the right kind of equipment obviously, you don’t want your work to stand out for all the wrong reasons, so invest in some good quality pens and pencils, (http://www.cultpens.com/index.html) paper and colours – acrylics, watercolour, pen and ink – that sort of thing. Sketch the figure of the model first, the basic area of space that he or she fills, where there arms and legs are. Make sure the proportions are correct before you add any clothing at all.

Typically, fashion illustration models are very skinny with small heads, long elongated arms, legs and body and oversized feet. This is because, rightly or wrongly, fashion is usually designed with a very skinny person in mind, and for the illustrations they also want to focus on the footwear (hence the oversized feet).

Once you’ve got the body drafted out, you can start adding the clothes on. Don’t forget the creases and folds in the fabric, that’s important for creating a realistic look. Ideally you’re going to want to be able to tell just by looking at the image what the clothing is made of, is it thick and rough, velvety soft or gossamer thin?

After the clothes are outlined you then need to colour and shade the artwork. The body is usually very plain, either black and white, left as pencil, loosely sketched in fineliner or kept to neutral skin tones. The focus with these pieces is always on the clothes, models are never supposed to be the centre of attention. (Maybe someone needs to tell them that sometime…?)

Eventually if you keep at it, you’ll have a decent portfolio of work in front of you. If you’re really aiming for the best of the best, then say you’ve made ten pieces for your portfolio right? Well, once you finish the tenth one, go back and redo the first one. Put them into a nice portfolio case, here, let me Google that for you: Artist Portfolio Cases In Ascending Order Of Price

I’ve put the search in order of price, low to high. Obviously you don’t want to spend too much money, but be careful of buying something that looks like you still go to high school.

I’ll go into detail about porfolios another day, it’s a big topic. Bottom line is, make it look nice. Once that’s done, do a little research potential employers. Have a look for fashion houses in big cities, model agencies, art galleries and budding fashion designers. The internet is packed with people looking for creative talent, you need to use your imagination, where are people going to need fashion illustrations? If you’ve looked and you’re struggling, try pitching to agencies instead. With any luck you’ll get picked up by one of them and they’ll do all the leg work for you. The Writer’s and Artist’s guide book comes out every year and is full of the contact details of publishers and agencies. You can get the latest copy from here at Amazon if you like the sound of it: The Writer’s And Artist’s Yearbook 2013

Why not post your portfolio online too, places like Deviant Art and Red Bubble are free. Or if you’re a person of independent means, you might fancy buying some space on Directory Of Illustration which gives you a twenty image portfolio for the jaw droppingly astonishing price of $2,695. Is it just me, or is that really expensive? I suppose they are well known and they produce a catalogue of portfolios which important movers and shakers will check in when they’re looking for new talent, but for nearly three thousand dollars, they’re a bit of an investment on your part.

Anyway, that’s the best I can do for you for now. I hope it’s not been a total waste of time, every little helps right? Drop me a line if I can assist further.


The Satisfaction Of A Job Well Done.

Recent Commissions

Ah, bliss. I’ve ticked off another job from my noticeboard, I’m dividing my time now between making relevant amendments to the job I’ve got in progress (as and when the client requires it) and also the same-old, same-old work hunting type of thing I normally do.

The job I’ve just completed was for HeatCool, which is a Chicago based air conditioning company. You don’t really get that over here, air conditioning. I mean, obviously it must exist, I’m sure I’ve been in some shops and felt blasts of cold air that weren’t coming from the front entrance. It’s just not as prevalent over in this country as it is in the states.

It’s almost like a strange reverse world, or at least it was when I was over there. I was in a hot southern state and everywhere was fitted with a/c units, you’d walk past the open doorway of a shop and be suddenly struck by an Arctic blast, it was bliss, temporarily providing respite in the blazing heat of the American day. It’s exactly the same in England, but in reverse! In this country you walk past an open shop doorway and they blast heat out at you, compelling you to stand still and attempt to thaw out your bones for long enough to perhaps be tempted inside. In America you actually catch yourself saying, “shut the door quickly, you’ll let the heat in!”

Well, I’m glad that HeatCool like their new advertising postcard, I certainly enjoyed putting it together. Although it was a long and interesting road, I’ve saved all the variations of it so I can watch it evolve. I shan’t bore you with the minutia of each variation in between the first draft and the final draft but suffice to say, it changed a lot from beginning to end.

First Draft
Final Draft

The brief initially was “pop-art” themed, hence why the first draft is very much in the pop art style. As I worked with the client and made amendments based on their requests the overall image changed somewhat until it ended with the final draft you see above. I think they’re both equally pleasing in their own way and now I know more about air conditioning units, pop art, Roy Liechtenstein and the city of Chicago.

Prefer Another Style?


If I got money every time someone told me they prefered another style I could make quite a lucrative living out of it. I’ve even started ammassing a collection of emails in case that day ever comes when I’ll get paid for the backlog.

It annoys me so much every time I get it too, got one this morning if you hadn’t figured it out. Didn’t just suddenly wake up and think hey now it bugs me. No, I had a message from one of the many creative freelancing type websites I’m a member of, it was actually the potential client’s second response. Their first response yesterday was that they were rejecting my offer of work because my bid was too high, so I knocked a few quid off it in the hopes of landing the job anyway and lo…today I get a message telling me they’re rejecting my new bid because, they prefer another style.

If they had just stuck to their guns and said it was too high, it wouldn’t have bothered me so much. I could have just thought, well they’re pushing it if they think I’m going to reduce my costs any lower some other schmuck can work for nothing if they want to. It wouldn’t have bothered me. But it’s the fact that they “prefer another style” that really sticks in my craw, don’t they realise that I work in a variety of styles? There’s only room on the website to attach one image to your bid to give the potential client’s a flavour of your work, out of all the images in my portfolio I have to pick something relevant to the task at hand. He was looking for someone to design a fun, friendly map so I sent him an attachment of a map I’d already done. Granted, the map I sent him was more “Treasure Island” than “Magic Kingdom” but I thought, at least he can see I’ve done maps before, obviously I can make them more or less realistic depending on the needs of the client. It’s not like you ask me to do something new and I’ll fall onto the floor twitching and frothing at the mouth or anything.

I have a range of styles for goodness sakes, a range of styles. I can do things realistically, cartoony, delicately, boldly, graphically or paintedly…my style changes to suit the needs of the client so why do they all seem to think that if I haven’t already created exactly what it is they’re looking for, it’s something I will be unable to do. Are they that narrow minded? Do they really believe I’m lacking in any brain or talent whatsoever that I can’t follow a brief?

Infuriating it really is. I know, I KNOW, I could do the project he’s asking for, I could do it really well. But because I haven’t already done it, it would seem, I’m not the style he prefers.

*long drawn out sigh*

Back to the drawing board.

The Sin of Wrath

Rage On!