2. Pick your subject.
For Karman, “selecting something strange, unusual, or interesting is always good because if it’s a known, classical subject (like a woman in a Lester painting) it’s not going to be as compelling as something that people haven’t seen before.” And if you want your illustration to look effortless, keep it simple. “The subject shouldn’t be too complicated,” advises Karman. “I find that, personally, I don’t like when there’s a lot going on in the piece. Simplicity is more powerful.” A female figure wearing an amazing hat, a pair of shoes with complex embroidery, or a textured t-shirt can all be the beginning of something beautiful.
3. Explore body proportions.
In fashion illustration, the figure you’re drawing is usually divided up according to the size of the head. “The total height of an adult human being is anywhere from 7 to 8 head lengths, on average. Fashion models are, on average, 8 to 9 heads tall. Fashion figure illustrations exaggerate that further, using 9 to 10 heads, even going up to 11 heads for very exaggerated styles,” says Hong. In the history of fashion, the 10-head figure has been the standard elongated proportion for female figures. But Hong confirms there’s also room to break with tradition: “We are definitely starting to embrace different body types. The 8½-head proportion is a more realistic length of body, and is much more modern-looking these days.”
4. Strike a pose.
Think of your figure’s pose as the foundation of your design drawing. It dictates how the garments will hang off the form, bringing life to the different fabrics and silhouettes featured. First, play with curves and other geometric shapes to create body elements, then practice sketching different poses to see which ones give the most realistic movement to your character’s look.
5. Draw the clothing.
Imagining how the clothes will appear on your figure allows for unbridled creativity. “If I choose to make an article of clothing the focal point of my piece, it will usually feature interesting proportions or a beautiful color combination. It’s something that I can imagine myself translating onto paper, like depicting feathers with a certain brushstroke or capturing chiffon material with a light wash of paint,” says Karman. Always keep in mind the fabric you are featuring and stay true to its texture and pattern to give your fashion illustration a realistic touch.
Try mixing up different materials.
Illustrators often use different drawing materials to evoke specific moods. “The goal is to bring an energy, flow, or personality that might not have been part of the original designers’ vision,” says Karman. Infuse your own sensibility into your fashion illustration using pencil, charcoal, and paint materials individually or mixed together.