Drawing, Guides, Illustration

How to Draw Clothing Guide

May 31, 2014

Drawing clothing is an essential part of figure drawing. To make the garment look convincing, the artist should know how to translate the folds, wrinkles and creases they see into convincing lines on paper.

This guide will show you how.

The Basics to Drawing Clothing

The best way to do this is by breaking down the intricacies of a piece of clothing into manageable lines and shapes.

Shapes used when drawing clothing.

Shapes used when drawing clothing.

sleeveThere are five basic shapes and lines that make up most clothing, which are the J shape, the S shape, the curved line, the V shapes and the U shape. These shapes are demonstrated in the first image, below.

Tip: To help remember these shapes the artist can recall the mnemonic, “Jane Swung Upon the Curved Vine”.

robe sketch demoNow, take a look at the shapes demo. All of the five basic shapes are used to draw the robe.

  • Sharp folds or creases are drawn with the V shape. You will find this
  • shape in areas where there is a lot of tension in the fabric, such as jeans pulling across the hip joint or where the fabric is crunched. 
  • Soft, shallow folds are drawn with the U shape. 
  • S shapes and curved lines are used to denote draping or deep folds, usually indicating curves of the figure underneath. 
  • J shapes are used to convey the look of cloth when it gently folds onto itself or folds around the body wearing it.

Drawing Clothing on a Body

When fitting a garment onto a body, the number one rule an artist should remember is that the garment should fold around the body. Novice artists often draw clothing that looks like paper doll clothing. It has no depth.

How to draw clothing by Andrew Loomis.

How to draw clothing by Andrew Loomis.

Each of the five shapes can be used to make clothing look like it is hanging from a 3-dimensional body.

Go back and look at the drawing of the robe. Notice how the robe curves around the body. Because the lines are properly placed, even though you can’t see a body, you know where the body parts are. This is because the curved and S shaped lines curve outward over protruding body parts.

Clothing should always curve outward from the body part it encompasses. Take a look at third picture, below. Notice how the sleeve wraps around the arm with a J and V shape. This makes the sleeve look like a separate object instead of part of the arm.

This drawing shows how the shirt’s collar should drape around the neck. Once again, J shapes are used to show how the collar is wrapping around the body.

These concepts can be used on any garment that is made of cloth to create a realistic figure drawing.

How to Draw Fashions

Rachel Burt has designed for Guess? Jeans in Los Angeles, Atelier des Modistes in San Francisco and is currently launching her own line.

First Steps to Fashion Artist


Rachel Burt fashion sketch #1.

Rachel Burt fashion sketch #1.

Alina Bradford: What kind of classes did you take to become a fashion sketch artist?

Rachel Burt: My first fashion class was at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia. I took a number of Saturday classes for high school students there, and then after 11th grade, I went to Rhode Island School of Design’s pre-college summer course and focused on Apparel Design. After taking all of those courses, I realized that fashion was what I wanted to major in, so I enrolled as an apparel major at Rhode Island School of Design as well, and graduated in 2004.

Many of the foundation courses at RISD influenced my work in fashion design. To become a fashion sketch artist, figure-drawing classes are extremely important because you learn how to render the human body accurately. After studying how the

Rachel Burt fashion sketch #2.

Rachel Burt fashion sketch #2.

human body moves and stands, it’s easier to realistically develop the highly stylized qualities of the elongated croquis (fashion figure).
While at RISD, we continuously had to create fashion boards and worked on creating and perfecting our figures. It takes time, but eventually you realize what works best for you as an artist, and you develop your own style.

AB: What are the first steps to “getting your foot in the door” as a fashion sketch artist?

Rachel Burt fashion sketch howto 3

Rachel Burt fashion sketch #3.

Rachel Burt fashion sketch howto 4

Rachel Burt fashion sketch #4.

RB: Developing your own unique style is the most important aspect as a sketch artist because people will then recognize your signature work when they see it. The famous artist Ruben Toledo, who does Nordstrom’s campaigns, is a good example of this.
It is also important is to have your work seen – on a website or magazine. When you have your work on display, people who like your style will contact you and it will also help you meet other professionals in the industry.

Tools of the Trade


Sketch by Rachel Burt.

Sketch by Rachel Burt.

AB: What artist tools do you use on a regular basis and would recommend for other aspiring sketch artists (pens, pencils, paper, etc.)?

RB: I start with any mechanical pencil first and then I always outline the figures using Micron pens, sizes varying from 03 to 005. Prismacolor markers are the only kind I use, and I highly recommend using the colorless blender and the cool grays to blend the colors together nicely.

I prefer to work on smooth Bristol paper, but I’ve also tried plain marker paper, which is slightly translucent and is made especially for markers.

Many fashion sketch artists use watercolor and color pencils instead of markers, but I’ve found that the Prismacolor markers achieve more detailed sketches. Every medium gives different effects, but it’s up to the artist to experiment until they find one they like best.

I also work with a light box so that once I’ve established figures to represent a collection it is easier to go back and make sure they are accurate.

Another important design tool is your basic Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator programs. Scanning your images and retouching them always makes a cleaner product, and some artists work primarily on the computer now.

The Creative Process


Swatch study by Rachel Burt.

Swatch study by Rachel Burt.

AB: What creative processes do you use for staying inspired and for keeping your work fresh?

RB: I started a clipping library a few years ago with images that I thought were beautiful and inspiring. I also keep several sketchbooks and turn to them when I am searching for new ideas to explore and refine. The best thing I’ve learned is to have a corkboard hanging above my desk with the mood photos I’ve chosen. This way I continuously look at them and stay in the same mood while designing.

I get really inspired by interesting patterns and textiles, so most of my design sketches include interesting fabrics and patterns that I find.

AB: How is sketching fashion different from other types of sketching?

RB: Fashion sketching is specifically rendering clothes that someone can wear. You also have to continuously think – how will the person get in and out of this outfit? Do I want buttons or snaps? How does chiffon drape down the body differently than leather or wool? There are a lot of aspects that effect the sketch in a practical way. When you learn how different fabrics move and drape, and the practicality of the garment being worn, your sketches become more precise.
Expressing Pattern, Texture and Sheen

AB: How do you express pattern, texture and sheen in a fashion sketch?

RB: Expressing patterns, texture and sheen in a sketch is the most difficult. It takes practice. I always do a few practice sketches of the pattern or textures to get the color shades correct on a separate piece of paper first. 
It also helps to write which markers and pencils you use so you can repeat what you’ve done. When dealing with a pattern it’s also important to get the scale right because you’re obviously sketching it on a figure that is a lot smaller than the actual swatch. Using a white color pencil helps convey sheen, and I’ve even experimented with the Milky pens to create sparkles and shine.
To see more of Rachel’s artwork visit her site.

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