Technical (Fashion) Design With Adobe Illustrator

You’re currently reading Chapter 7, Part 6 of The Ultimate Guide to Adobe Illustrator for Fashion Design

Not every “designer” in fashion works on the creative and conceptual side of the process.

Technical designers (AKA TDs) work with the hard numbers and important details that go into turning those creative designs into real garments.

Technical design is a super in-demand service to offer as a freelancer, and these skills also open up more traditional fashion jobs.

As a technical designer, you’ll use Illustrator for things like:

  • Turning color fashion flats into black and white tech sketches
  • Creating full scale (life size) mockups with measurements
  • Adding text callouts to spec the garment for a tech pack

A lot of the other tutorials in this guide will be helpful for you TD’s too. (Specifically the stuff on drawing since you’ll need to edit flats and create detail sketches to communicate with factories.)

And depending on  your freelance niche or the size of the brand you work for, you may do both creative design and TD.

So depending on what kind of work you do, you may find the next few tutorials helpful (or not). No hard feelings if you skip right past these.

How to Change a Color Fashion Flat Drawing to Black and White (in a few clicks)

Please. Please. Please. DO NOT manually change color fashion flats to black and white…one piece at a time. I’ve seen TOO many of you do this.

If your design is complex and has a lot of different shapes (zippers, buttons, etc.), repeating pattern fills, or brushes (zippers, coverstitching, etc.)? This is INSANELY TEDIOUS.

Even if your design is somewhat simple (like the legging example in the next video)? You still shouldn’t waste time by MANUALLY changing it to black and white.

Here’s a tutorial on how (in a few clicks) you can quickly take a color sketch and make it black and white in Illustrator:

How to Mockup and Spec Full Scale Measurements for Your Fashion Designs in Illustrator

You know what I like most about this tutorial? It includes some real life fun (AKA me being a nerd on screen)!

But no, really, you can step away from your screen for a minute and use your body (or a fit model or a friend’s body) to look at measurements in real life.

After you’ve done that (because there’s nothing like seeing something on an actual body), I’ll show you how to mockup your design (or artwork) in full scale and add measurements in Illustrator.

Here’s exactly how you do all of this:

How to Create Tech Sketches with Text Callouts in Illustrator (for tech packs)

At the beginning of this guide, I told you why it’s a TERRIBLE idea to create tech packs in Illustrator. #pleasedontdoit #usemicrosoftexcel

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t PIECES and PARTS of your tech pack that you can create in Illustrator and then bring into Excel.

And yes, I’ll show you the best way to do that next.

(Don’t know how to create a tech pack? Or find your tech packs take FOREVER? I’ve got you! Check out my free guide. If you want more, my comprehensive course on tech packs, Design to Development, is available inside Freelance Accelerator.)

First, you need to CREATE the tech sketches.

I like to do this right in Illustrator, and I’ll show you the most efficient (and organized) way to do it in ONE Illustrator file.

Why the emphasis on ONE?

Because I knew a designer who would make MULTIPLE AI files for each design.

One file for the tech sketch.

One file for the colorways.

One file for the fabric map.

One file for the measurement specs.

And so on.


Because if ANYTHING on the sketch had to be updated? You had like a KAJILLION files to edit.

Which is why you should do it in ONE file.

And in this video tutorial, I’ll show you not only HOW to do that, but WHY it’s the best way:

How to Put Illustrator Sketches in Excel (for tech packs)

This may seem like a really RANDOM thing to make a tutorial on…so let me tell you why I did it.

For years, I fought with two problems when it came to getting Illustrator and Excel to “play nice with each other”.

  1. I could save my AI sketches as JPGs and place them in Excel. BUT it was a lot of steps. And if I made one TINY change to my sketch? I had to do the steps ALL OVER again. It was a PITA.
  2. I also fought A LOT with getting the sketches clear enough and not all blurry (on screen or when printed) so the factory (and I!) could read them…while not creating an Excel file that was GINORMOUS.

And then one brilliant day, I figured out THE SOLUTION.

The BEST solution.

The EASIEST solution.

The MAGICAL solution.

I NEVER looked back.

Here’s a tutorial that shows you the quickest way to drop your AI tech sketches (or any other artwork) into Excel with sufficient resolution and a not too big file size. Yes, it’s the HOLY GRAIL you never thought existed.

Eat it up right here →

Go to Chapter 7, Part 7 Fashion Brushes