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What is a Fashion Illustrator?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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A fashion illustrator is someone who creates drawings, sketches, and other works of art which pertain to the fashion industry. Fashion illustrators can work in a variety of environments, including fashion houses, design studios, and as freelancers, and the work can be quite diverse and interesting, especially in the case of people who are very talented. Work in this field usually requires a degree from an art or fashion school, along with extensive experience in the industry.

One of the most classic jobs for a fashion illustrator is in the sketching of concepts which have not yet been realized. When fashion designers start to develop a new line, they rely on fashion illustrators to bring their ideas to life so that they can have images to use in design and to sell the line before prototypes have been made. A fashion illustrator may work on everything from shoes to hats, developing and fleshing out concepts for designers.

Fashion illustrators can also develop patterns which can be used in the production of prototypes and garments on the production line. Many fashion illustrators, for example, work for companies which make sewing patterns. The fashion illustrator draws the garments and the instructions for their construction so that home sewers and seamstresses have an idea of what the garment should look like when it is finished.

Illustrators can also work on ad campaigns and other projects in which fashion illustration is desired. Using paintings, drawings, and sketches can create a timeless effect which some companies find very effective in the marketing of their products, and this technique also eliminates the need to produce prototypes, find models, and hold photography sessions. This can be an advantage when product lines are still in development, or when a company is too small to invest heavily in production before it has orders for its products.

Skilled fashion illustrators need to stay on top of market trends, and be able to predict emerging trends in fashion. In addition to producing images for specific projects, they may also make more general portfolio pieces to use in demonstrations of emerging trends, and to give designers ideas for work which may attract interest from the public.

Technical skills in drawing and painting are also critical for fashion illustrators. It is necessary to be able to capture the spirit of a design along with its precise lines, look, and dimension, and to be able to play with proportion and other aspects of art in order to achieve a desired look. Having a good sense of color, shape, and image dynamics is also important for a fashion illustrator, whether one is working on a sketch pad or in a computer program.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a SmartCapitalMind researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Illych — On May 21, 2011

@softener - It's not essential. I think typically it's better to have more hands on skill than drawing skill but it certainly couldn't hurt and many fashion designers know how to illustrate.

There are two books that are frequently used by fashion illustrators to learn their craft, those being 9 Heads: A Guide To Drawing Fashion by Nancy Riegelman and Fashion Sketchbook by Bina Abling. They both serve different purposes. 9 Heads will help you to learn how to draw the human body and it has a wide range of poses you can practice. Fashion Sketchbook will get you started drawing clothing.

Mostly though you need practice, just like anything.

By softener — On May 20, 2011

I'd like to become a fashion designer - is it important to have a background in fashion illustration? What are some of the best books for learning how to draw fashion?

By Sequoia — On May 18, 2011

I love the work of some fashion illustrators, even though it's usually only the final result of the finished dress or photo shoot that we get to see. There's a great book however called 100 Years Of Fashion Illustration which is really inspiring; it's amazing how stylish and sleek some of these illustrations are while maintaining simplicity. It covers the development of fashion illustration over the past century right up to the modern day where illustrators now make use of computer software and Wacom sketching tablets. Really helpful in getting the creative juices flowing for budding illustrators.

By anon151837 — On Feb 11, 2011

I'm an aspiring fashion illustrator now. Thanks so much!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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