Fashion illustration is often done to very tight deadlines and the artist can be required to work from life, with very little time in which to detail the figure and his or her surroundings fully.
Here, Abi Daker shows how to balance a fashion composition while working at a snappy pace. You’ll place the figure on a grid of thirds to help you loosen up a bit with the sketching, and learn how to design a background that can be quickly and easily coloured. She also shows you how to colour around a complex hand-drawn shape and how to edit the drawing in preparation for colouring.
The techniques here are especially pertinent to fashion illustration, but they can be used with any subject matter and will help anyone wanting to work on a hand sketch in the digital realm.
Abi worked from a photo taken at London Fashion Week 2011, but she says you can use a catwalk photo of your choice to follow the tutorial.
Time to complete
One full day
Photoshop 7 or above
Using a pencil and ruler, lightly draw a grid to divide an A4 sheet into thirds horizontally and vertically. Sketch in the figure, but don’t feel you must replicate the photo – fashion illustration benefits from a bit of licence. The grid lines should help you decide where to place the key elements.
Now draw the figure and the outfit in more precise detail. Try to emphasise the figure’s movement through the lines and sweep of the clothing.
When you’re happy with your drawing, use a black fineliner pen to do outlines around the body and the dress. Draw in any areas of detail that need to be emphasised.
Also use the fineliner to draw in some of the shapes you sketched in the background earlier. Keep these lines clean and quite simple. You want the background to set off the figure, not detract from it.
Erase your pencil lines from the figure and the background. Redraw any incomplete lines and add more detail to the background as needed. It will be much easier to see what needs doing now that the fuzzy pencil lines are gone. Remember, though, that we want to keep the background simple compared to the figure.
Start to colour in just the figure using your preferred medium. I used graphic pens for the clothes, though watercolour pencils would also have worked well.
Use the same colours as in the original photo and draw in more details of the clothes and fabric patterns.
Watercolour paint is the best medium for skin. Note that colours can often scan in too dark if your scanner’s not calibrated, so you may want to keep your palette light and to remove any excess paint with tissue.
The figure needs to appear soft and organic in contrast to the background, so don’t overpaint the features. Also add some deeper hues to the folds in the fabric of the dress.
Reintroduce some pencil shading on the figure only to bring it out further. Using pencil on the face can make the features look too dark, but pencil shading on the dress may lend the figure greater depth. Also go over the pen lines, making sure they are unbroken and heavy enough to be ‘read’ by the scanner.
Scan in the image at 300dpi at least (I worked at 400dpi, but this could be slow if you’re using an older computer).
Right click on the ‘Background’ layer and duplicate it. This way, if you make any major mistakes, you still have your original scan to return to.
Now prepare the image for colouring. Zoom in to 100%, select the Brush tool (
B) and choose Permanent Marker from the Dry Media Brushes list. Use the Color Picker to sample the background colour of the paper and then use the Brush to correct any smudges.
Select the Lasso Tool (
L) and click around the figure carefully to select it (you may need to rotate the canvas 90 degrees to have the whole figure visible on screen at the maximum zoom). Then go to Select > Inverse so that the background is now selected. This lets us work on it with no fear of affecting the main model.
Pick a colour that stands out against the shades used in the figure (I’ve chosen a vivid red). Select the Paint Bucket tool (
G) with 100% opacity and a Tolerance of 80, and fill in the fineliner strokes so they are no longer black. This gives us clear boundaries for our artwork.
Zoom in and ensure you have gone over all the relevant lines in the background. Correct any gaps using the Brush tool with the size set at 5px or so.
With the figure upright again, select the Paint Bucket tool with a Tolerance of 80 and set the opacity to 50%. Choose a blue or mauve (the eye tends to associate these colours with the background) and fill in a few sections with it.
Continue filling sections around the figure, varying the brightness or colour slightly for each one. This will help the colours you’re applying stay in the background and allow the figure to stand out better.
Once all the background is coloured, zoom in to 100% and correct any uneven or unfinished areas around the figure with the Brush tool. Erase any bits of the drawing you feel need reworking, redrawing the lines to match what you already have.
Finally, we need to revert the red lines of step 12 back to the colour of the fineliner. Do this with the Paint Bucket tool (opacity at 100%) and use the Color Picker to sample the colour of the original lines. Apply this to the red lines and you’re done.
Abi Daker is a British artist and illustrator living in Cyprus. Her work, created using both hand-drawn and digital techniques, is influenced by fashion, cinema, literature, landscapes and old maps. Abi regularly does book illustrations and works for a range of editorial and advertising clients.