Art Materials And Equipment

Professional Fashion Design

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The range of materials and equipment available to illustrators and artists today is vast and can be a little overwhelming at times. Searching for appropriate materials in an art suppliers can feel like being surrounded by irresistible confectionery in a sweetshop. To the creative eye, everything looks tempting and the correct choice of medium is difficult to make.

Finding a medium that suits your own particular method of working and your style is the best way to proceed. You should feel comfortable enough with it to produce work confidently. Consider your personality when selecting your artistic tools. If you are a careful, meticulous perfectionist you may be most at ease with precise art materials such as a pencil or pen. If you have a more energetic, fast-and-furious approach to illustration, you may enjoy the freedom of oil pastels, charcoal or paints. Experimenting frequently with new materials will encourage you to be more innovative in your work. Brand-new pots of ink, sharp, colourful pencils and acrylic tubes just waiting to be squeezed may look inviting but, to a beginner, they also hold an element of anxiety. The next section covers how to use art materials and equipment in fashion illustration, so that you can make your selection with confidence.

The quirky figures in this illustration were created using mixed media, combining hand drawing with photocopied paper cut-outs in a collage.

Papercut Fashion Illustration

The quirky figures in this illustration were created using mixed media, combining hand drawing with photocopied paper cut-outs in a collage.


Paper is the first element to consider when beginning a fashion illustration. There are many types to choose from, available in various colours and thicknesses. All can be used as a surface on which to work or as a material from which to create a collage.

Cartridge paper is one of the most basic, commonly used papers, and is suitable for drawing and dry artwork, ft is not generally recommended for painting or heavily rendered work, as it is made of wood pulp, so that moisture causes it to buckle. It can be made suitable for painting by soaking it with a wet sponge and stretching it over a drawing board. Secure the edges with brown gum tape, then allow the paper to dry thoroughly before beginning your painting.

Layout paper is a fine, semi-opaque paper that allows you to see an image faintly beneath it. Suitable for roughs, marker drawings and colour tests, it is often bleed-resistant so that colours do not run. The translucency of layout paper enables you to trace over it to produce one rough from another. It is also suitable for mounting onto background papers and cards for fashion-presentation purposes.

Unlike smooth cartridge paper, pastel paper has a grain running through it. Soft art materials such as pastel and charcoal pick up the grain, and the artist can exploit this effect in the illustration. This paper is often tinted in tonal ranges upon which black-charcoal illustrations look particularly effective, the background colour adding increased intensity.

Tracing paper and acetate are clear sheets that are also excellent for use on presentation boards. You can photocopy images onto them, then overlay the images—the transparency of the sheets means that the image beneath is not

Pastel Painting With Coloured Papers

obscured completely. Drawing and painting directly on acetate creates a unique effect, with light shining through the image.

Walercolour papers are supplied in many weights and textures. Good-quality vvalcrcolour paper is a must, as cheap, thin paper makes colours look flat and lifeless. With its ability to absorb liquid, watercolour paper can be used with many wet media, such as ink, paints or watersoluble crayons.

Tissue paper, card, coloured backing papers, wrapping paper, wallpaper, sweet wrappers and other packaging can all be used in fashion illustrations. Use your imagination as to how to incorporate them into your work.


T.very artist—even painters, sculptors and printmakers—benefit from being skilled at drawing with a pencil. The pencil is a convenient and expressive means of evolving a composition and of recording visual information quickly for translation into another medium later on. Most works of art begin with a pencil drawing.

Lead pencils arc available either in the form of traditional wood-cased pencils or in a mechanical pop-up style. The advantage of a mechanical pencil is that it is always sharp. You can also select a variety of lead thicknesses for this type of pencil ranging from 0.3 to 0.9. Pencil leads are graphite and they are made in several grades ranging from hard (H) to soft (B—the "B" stands for black). The hardest make fine, pale-grey lines and the softest produce thicker, black lines. The grades are usually designated as follows: 911, 811, 7H, 61-1, 51-1, 31-1, 2H, H, MB, F, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, fiB, 7B, 8B, 9B, MB and F (which stands for fine point) are midway between hard and soft.

Soft pencils are ideal for rapid sketches and expressive line-and-tonc drawings. Tlicy work especially well on textured paper, but take care when using them, because they smudge easily, Hard pencils best suit artists with a confident, clean and accurate •style of drawing. Try experimenting with several grades of pencil to create a rich interaction of line and tonal contrasts in your fashion illustrations. Many illustrators add texture and detail to finished paintings, especially watercolours, using pencil. Graphite sticks are made of compressed and bonded graphite. They glide across the page to produce the boldest and most expressive drawings. You can change the marks they make by using the point, side or the flattened edge of the stick.


A selection of papers. Some are printed, while others have unusual textures.


A selection of papers. Some are printed, while others have unusual textures.


Coloured, transparent papers have been cut intricately and overlaid to create the outfits in this illustration. Using such a technique means that your designs change every time you overlay the cut-out in a different position.

Intricate Pastel Backgrounds

A selection of pencils, ranging from chunky graphites to coloured pencils.


To create the effect of smudged make-up, a combination of lead pencil drawing with soft-pastel colouring is ideal.

A selection of pencils, ranging from chunky graphites to coloured pencils.


To create the effect of smudged make-up, a combination of lead pencil drawing with soft-pastel colouring is ideal.

The watersoluble versions produce beautiful, silvery grey washes. Graphite sticks are especially popular for life drawing and clothed-figure drawing because they allow a fluid technique.

Coloured pencils arc made from a mixture of pigment, clay and filler bound together and soaked in wax before being encased in wood. Coloured pencils are not 50 just a safe drawing medium for children. The fashion illustrator can use them to

® make a varied range of marks, while controlling the finished effect. You can use them

= like a graphite pencil to shade areas, only in colour. You can also blend shades

= together carefully with a paper stump (a tightly rolled, tipped paper), eraser or your

£ fingers. As with all pencil drawing, tonal areas can be built up with hatching (short

£ parallel lines drawn closely together) or crosshatch ing (a fine mesh of criss-crossing

§ lines that builds depth of shade). Coloured pencils are particularly useful in the early stages of developing your abilities, because they allow you to build confidence with a controllable medium.

watersoluble art materials

Watersoluble pencils offer the advantages of coloured pencils, but they have a watersoluble ingredient in the lead. This means that you can apply the colour dry, but create a subtle watercolour effect by loosening the pigment with brushstrokes of water. A controllable medium, watersoluble pencils are useful for bridging the gap between drawing and painting when developing illustration skills. Watersoluble crayons work in the same way as the pencils, but are softer and more malleable. They create bolder marks and denser hatching, making them more of a painter's tool.

The advantage of both watersoluble pencils and crayons is that they are easy to carry with you, allowing you to sketch figures quickly on the street or catwalk. You can develop a picture further with paint when you return to your home or studio, if you so wish.

wax crayons experimenting with the wax-resist technique might seem like revisiting your childhood, but it produces some interesting effects. Drawing with a wax crayon, then overpainting with watercolour is an effective means of creating a textured finish on clothing in a fashion illustration. The wash of colour is repelled by the wax but soaks into the unwaxed paper to leave a unique pattern. Try also the time-honoured technique of colouring a sheet of paper with wax crayons, shading over the top with a black crayon, then scratching out your figure, which will appear in a rainbow of colours.


Made from twigs charred at high temperatures in airtight kilns, charcoal usually comes in the form of sticks of various thicknesses about 10-15cm long. It is fragile, tends to snap easily and can be messy to work with. However, this soft medium is ideally suited to blending and smudging, and creating strong dramatic line.

Charcoal sticks are most commonly used for life drawing, but could just as easily lend themselves to drawing monotone fashion illustrations. A charcoal drawing is full of atmosphere and life, and therefore ideal for fashion illustration. Drawing with charcoal encourages a freedom of creative expression that yoti do not get with a pencil. It is excellent for adding shadows, depth, movement and texture to your fashion illustration, too.

There are also charcoal pencils made from compressed charcoal encased in wood, which are slightly easier to handle, and cleaner to work with, than sticks. The pencils have a harder texture and the tips can be sharpened for more precise line work.


Considered both a drawing and a painting medium, pastels are made from finely ground pigments mixed with chalk and bound together with gum to form a hard stick. They are available in a wide range of colours because, although they can be blended, pastels cannot be mixed to make new colours. An opaque medium, pastels work best on coloured backgrounds that unify the artwork, or on textured surfaces such as a heavy watercolour paper.

Soft pastels are creamy and popular for their vibrant colours. Hard pastels are easier to handle as their consistency makes them less fragile. Pastel pencils provide a greater degree of control, as they do not break and crumble as easily as the crayons. They are good for outlining and crisp, detailed work, and can be used in combination with other types of media. For an illustrator, the dusty, delicate surface of the picture is the disadvantage of using pastels. When you complete the illustration, remove excess dust with a tissue and correct the edges of your work with an eraser. Apply fixative cautiously—if your application is too heavy it will change the colours of the illustration.

Oil pastels are waxy, creating a waterproof resist when applied to paper. Rich in colour, they can be used to create wonderfully evocative illustrations. Applied thickly, they leave a paste-like residue on the surface that adds a unique texture to a fashion illustration. Scratching through a layer of oil pastel is an effective means of creating patterns to represent fabrics.

Watersoluble coloured pencils and a mixture of wax crayons.
Charcoal sticks are available in a variety of thicknesses. It is also possible to buy charcoal in pencil form.
Pastel And India Ink Resist
A selection of pastels.
Claire Smalley Fashion Illustrator


Black Indian Ink has been used here on watercolour paper, and the ink diluted with water to provide different monochromatic shades. Using ink, you can vary your drawing tool for a range of interesting effects.


Black Indian Ink has been used here on watercolour paper, and the ink diluted with water to provide different monochromatic shades. Using ink, you can vary your drawing tool for a range of interesting effects.


Ink can be applied in a variety of ways. We see here a selection of dip pens with different nib-sizes and a bamboo stick, Inks are available in a wide range of colours and can be waterproof.

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