fashion illustration tutorial…

Today I’m sharing another step by step tutorial for creating your very own whimsical fashion illustration from a photo you love……it’s easy and fun!

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First, gather your supplies, including, of course, a photo! For paints I like to use an inexpensive artist’s watercolor set like the one on the left to create quick washes of saturated color. I also use certain “go to” tube colors like Flesh Tint and Naples Yellow mixed with a little white gouache to create flesh tones and blond hair. I have plenty of watercolor pencils on hand and a very sharp #2 lead pencil in addition to a couple of round #2 watercolor brushes. I always use a white eraser (never the pink kind!) and, just to make the whole experience as lovely as possible, I use a porcelain plate and china teacup as my palette and water dish. When your space is beautiful you will create beautiful images! I always paint near a window in natural light.

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Step 1: The Croquis

An easy way to establish the fashion figure or “croquis” on the page is to use templates for the head and torso like I have shown here:

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I recommend making your own templates by downloading a simple croquis from a website such as this one. Using bold colored paper or card stock, trace around the oval of the head and cut out two trapezoids which will become the upper torso and the lower torso. By manipulating these shapes you will be able to show movement while keeping the figure grounded on the page. From this base you can add arms and legs. Also, you will want to make the feet oversized triangles to start- always bigger than you think they should be! You can erase later. The standard croquis guideline is to make the figure 9 heads long – I like a figure that is closer to 8 heads long – it is all your personal preference and will become a factor in creating your own signature style. Play around with these shapes often and you will get really good at this!


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Once you have created your croquis you will want to erase as much of the pencil as possible while still showing a faint line. Then, using a flesh colored watercolor pencil, loosely go over the light penciled outline adding curves and movement to your figure. These lines will be erased with your first wash of color so don’t worry about making a mistake!

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Step 2: The Paint

Now comes the fun part….you get to paint! I always start by filling in the flesh areas of my illustration first, usually face, limbs, etc. I like to mix flesh tint with white gouache for fair skinned beauties and for more exotic coloring I add a little brown, a little yellow – you just have to play around with it. I also establish a light wash for the main color of the outfit, always leaving lots of white. It’s easy to add color, a little more challenging to erase! The wash you create now will be a beautiful underlay as you add detail later.

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Once the foundation is laid you can really have fun with color. I love to paint flowers so this floral gown is a dream! I started with the bigger flowers and also added her hair. Stay very loose and don’t worry about being literal – this is how you will develop your own signature style.

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Fill in the rest of your colors and, again, don’t worry about being literal, enjoy the paints!

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Step 3: The Pencils

Finally, using your watercolor pencils, loosely outline the major shapes and add a few folds to the gown. I also like to draw little circles for the shoulders and knees. For this drawing the face is very simple – a smudge for the eyes, nose and mouth…. I will go into more detail on painting faces in an upcoming post!

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And voila – you have a whimsical fashion illustration! I would love to see your work and feel free to ask me questions in the comments below!


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