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Illustrator Basics for Fashion Design

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Illustrator is a vector based program that allows you to create all types of different graphics. In this guide I will be talking about the basic knowledge needed to get started in Illustrator as a Fashion Designer. Specifically, I will be referencing the basics associated with drawing technical flats.

Illustrator is set up as a large area creative space (grey) with artboards (white). Think of the grey space as your desk and your artboard as your sheet of paper. You can use any part to draw, jot down ideas, or collect inspiration. Only items within the bounds of your artboard will print or be saved as a PDF. However, if you save/send your file as an AI, those items outside of your artboard will still remain.

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When you first open Illustrator you will be prompted with this window to start a new document. From this window you can title your document, choose the height and width of your artboard, your unit of measurement (inches, pixels, millimeters, etc.), artboard orientation, number of artboards, bleed settings, and more. Choose your settings and click “Create”. If you want to change your settings you can always go to File > Document Setup to change your preferences.

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You can save your preferences for how your document is set up by saving it as an Illustrator Template. You can make other changes to your document as well such as adding additional artboards or changing their size, adding a grid, adding rulers, changing the snap-to point, and so much more! Illustrator has so many options when it comes to customizing your workspace. You can learn in-depth about each of these tools and customizations in my guide: Introduction to Technical Flats.



By default, you will have your tools on the left side of your workspace and your window options on the right side of your workspace. All of the tools that are available should be preset to show on the lefthand side, however the windows preset to show on the right only show a few options. To add additional windows to the right of your workspace, go to the top bar and select Window > {insert window preference}. Play around until you have found which windows you need most often.

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As a designer, I like to always have Brushes, Swatches, Stroke, Type, Artboards, Layers, and Pathfinder immediately available in my righthand bar. To insert a new window into your workspace, simply click and drag the window to the bar on the right.



Unlike some of the programs you are used to (anyone remember Paint?!), you will not be using the Paintbrush to draw your technical flats. Instead, meet your new best friend, the Pen Tool! While the Paintbrush and Shape tools have their uses, as a Fashion Designer, you will be mainly focusing on using the Pen Tool. The Pen Tool creates paths and anchor points which can be manipulated to any shape.

After you have drawn a path with your Pen you can manipulate it using the Select Tool or the Direct Select Tool. The Select Tool will move your entire shape, while the Direct Select Tool allows you to manipulate one path or one anchor point from the shape. To learn more about how the Pen Tool works you can purchase my guide: Intro to Technical Flats. This guide walks you through all you need to know about each of the tools and how to use them to create technical flats as a fashion designer.


Now that you’ve mastered the basics, you’re ready to learn how to draw technical flats! My free guide, Introduction to Technical Flats, is the perfect resource to get started drawing your own technical flats. All you need is a basic understanding of Illustrator (which you have now that you’ve read this!) to get started.

Read the 10 Part Series: Introduction to Technical Flats

Natalie SmithITTFComment