Abby Wright has always loved creating true-to-life representations of people, and this, along with a love of pattern and texture, has led her into a blossoming career as a fashion illustrator.
Abby was recently asked to produce a set of illustrations for a Company magazine feature on Autumn/Winter high-street trends. Each illustration was to represent either a general trend or something specific from a designer’s collection. She produced eight in total, ranging from mid-body images to full-length illustrations.
Here Abby shows you how one of these illustrations was created, taking you through how the finer, defining details were executed as well as how she created the background. She worked with numerous reference photographs, especially to help create a strong face – which she says is a key feature that draws attention to an image. Abby worked in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet.
Time to complete
I began with a basic line drawing that enabled me to establish the overall feel of the illustration. What I had to bear in mind was that the image was meant to be a recognisable depiction of a scarf from the Henry Holland Autumn/Winter collection (
houseofholland.co.uk). I therefore chose a composition that put the scarf centre stage.
The next step is to finalise the line work, especially in the face and eyes, to bring more strength, emphasis and definition to the drawing. This is one of my favourite stages of the process as it brings life to the model. It is a little time-consuming but the results can be really exciting, so it is definitely worth taking care over.
I always bring in elements for the background early on. This is partly because it allows me to gauge more clearly how the final illustration will look. Here I used three textures layered at different opacities. More importantly, when I bring in colour I can see how the tones will work with the textures within the image as a whole.
Next I start to add colour. With the scarf, which I had to keep as close to the original as possible, I coloured it all dark grey to begin with, then added in the other colours on separate layers; this makes it quicker and easier to fix any mistakes. I like the colours to contrast against the soft, neutral background.
To give the illustrations authenticity, I like the clothes to actually look like clothes, rather than some abstract representation of them. I find textures are the best way to achieve this. For the scarf, I brought in a scan of wool at a low opacity and added a layer mask. I try various textures and opacities to get something that feels right.
Having coloured the clothes, I move on to colouring in key facial elements such as the lips, eyes and cheeks. To me, the eyes are the most important feature, and adding in the whites of the eyes is a simple but significant step to making them stand out. I like how picking out key features creates a distinct look, and I do it in all my illustrations.
Once the colouring is complete, it is the ideal time to add in the very fine details, such as highlights in the clothes and face, shadows between the layers of the scarf and details in the jumper and buttons. Small though such details are, they impart definition and realism to the clothes because they give the illustration a specific light source.
Once all these stages are done, I like to play around with the placing of the model and compositional elements, just to see if a different crop or placement would work better. With this piece, I decided on a more intimate crop. I find that sometimes seeing less of the image makes it more visually interesting.
Throughout the final year of her recently completed degree in illustration, Abby Wright specialised in fashion and portrait illustration, areas that allowed her to explore her love of intricate line work.
Her illustrations combine hand-drawn lines with colour, texture and careful use of positive and negative space. Abby says she draws inspiration not only from fellow illustrators and from fashion but also from the outdoors, people, texture and colour. She believes shadows and highlights bring an illustration to life.