Manufacturing clothing doesn’t have to be hard. All you need is precise communication with factories and suppliers. Which is why tech packs are essential in product development.
Tech packs are blueprints for your garments, containing all the instructions and materials required to create a garment.
But, do you need tech pack software to create a tech pack? What benefits does it offer? And what are the best free alternatives?
My quick answer (based on 10+ years of experience working as a fashion designer and successful fashion freelancer) is that tech pack software can be a great asset, but you don’t always need it.
The right tech pack software can help with product development and manufacturing. But sometimes it’s unnecessary. It’s important to ask yourself WHY you’re looking for the software in the first place…
Here’s the thing with tech packs…fancy software aside, you still need to *understand* how tech packs work and how to make one. Just like fancy paint supplies won’t make you a great painter, tech pack software won’t make you a great, well, tech pack-er (industry role is usually technical designer)!
Still need to learn the basics? Get started with my free step-by-step tech pack guide here.
In this article, I’ll cover the pros and cons of tech pack software, compare popular options in the fashion industry, and when you should (or shouldn’t) use it. Let’s get to it.
First, let’s cover the basics. The purpose of a detailed tech pack is to provide precise instructions for your manufacturers to produce garments accurately and efficiently. It includes information on materials, measurements, construction methods, colorways, and other details needed for production.
Tech packs help ensure consistency in quality, reduce errors during manufacturing, and hold factories accountable. (You definitely don’t want fingers pointing back at you when a factory effs up!)
In fashion design lingo, “tech pack” is short for “technical package.” Without a tech pack, you’re basically telling someone to bake a cake without the recipe. You need to know the right amount of ingredients, how to bake it, or even what decorations to use! The same is true for a factory that is making your clothing designs. You need to tell them the types of fabric, stitching, construction techniques, fit, and more. This is what your tech pack is for!
There are a few ways to make tech packs, and one way is with software.
Tech pack software makes the process of creating professional, factory-ready tech packs easier.
It also allows you to create libraries of fabrics, trims, POMs, and more. As you build out new tech packs, you can recycle these components over and over (which is super handy!).
Built-in tools make tracking changes and collaboration between designers, product developers, and the factory much easier.
So yes, tech pack software can be a very powerful tool! There’s no doubt it can make the production process easier.
Not only can you create tech packs, but it also helps manage production.
With tech pack software, you can:
Software for tech packs can be a great asset. But you really need to consider if it makes sense given your specific circumstances.
There are lots of benefits to using tech pack software and can really help your workflow.
Using software can be a game-changer for fashion designers, but there are also challenges.
After working 10+ years in the fashion industry, I’ve formed some opinions. My thoughts on it are that it depends!
The challenge with tech pack software is that there are many available in the market. All these various companies are racing to win the market. It’s a race I’ve witnessed for almost 2 decades, and there isn’t a clear winner. With multiple options for everyone to choose from, it makes everything tricky!
So, let’s talk about whether you should or shouldn’t use tech pack software.
For larger more established brands, using software makes sense. These brands can afford the software subscription fees, and it’s efficient to cross-train team members. Since they’re continually designing and manufacturing, they’ll have components that they’ll use all the time — various fabrics, trims and POMs will be used across many styles.
There are many reasons why it doesn’t make sense for fashion freelancers to use tech pack software. Here are some:
See how Eleni is killing it as a freelancer by making only tech packs! For Eleni, using Excel or Google Sheets is the better option.
When you’re just starting your brand, you’re likely only producing a few styles. It might not make a lot of sense to invest time or money into a software. Here’s why:
Choosing the right software package is important since there are several hands involved. First, let’s get one of the most common questions I hear out of the way…
Do NOT use Adobe Illustrator for tech packs!
Illustrator is a great tool for drawing fashion flats and designing. As a fashion designer, you’ll use it to create fashion flats and technical sketches for your tech packs. But you should not be creating tech packs themselves in Adobe Illustrator.
A professional tech pack includes a lot of text, specifications, and math (for things like graded specs). Illustrator is not meant for math and text. Illustrator also has a steep learning curve, and not everyone has the software. That means it’s hard for other team members or clients to edit or update it.
So, let’s look at different software options and their features. Here are some of the top software choices in the fashion industry with a comparison of their features and prices.
|TechPacker||Backbone||Supply Compass||Centric Software|
|Description||A powerful tool for fashion brands and manufacturers to collaborate through every step in product development.||A product development platform that empowers brands to make products smarter, faster, and at scale.||Software that does all the hard work, so you can focus on the big ideas, sharpen accuracy and drop innovative collections—quicker and more sustainably.||Everyone from sales to designers to product teams, planners, suppliers and buyers are always on the same page, regardless of location, time zone, language or role.|
|Features||Transfer data from Excel. |
Add callouts to technical sketches.
Develop comprehensive tech packs including Measurement Specs, Grading Sheets, Bill of Materials, Costing Sheets, Fit Sheets, etc.Build reusable component libraries.
Communicate in real time.
Track product development stages and get status updates.
|Dynamic reusable libraries.|
Manage colorways, including custom palettes and Pantone.
Add callouts and dynamically populate your Bill of Materials (BOM) and record Points of Measure (POMs).
Build flexible tech packs including images and files.
Use reporting tools for line sheets.
| Create component libraries. |
Develop digital tech packs and share with manufacturers.
Collaborate directly with manufacturers throughout sample-making.
Manage orders and range plans.
Create and design mood boards.
Track product development stages and set milestones.
Manage purchase orders.
|Merchandise and range planning.|
Technical documentation for multiple styles.
Easy to manage materials library.
Supply chain visibility.
Calendars to manage deadlines.
Set quality levels and evaluation points for suppliers.
|Pricing||Starts at $45/month/user||Starts at $99/month/user||Starts at $350/month/user||Contact for pricing|
|Best for||Brands on a budget who don’t need fancy features||Brands that are scaling with growing needs||Brands who need multi-channel communication||Brands with large range plans|
Starting out in fashion or on a tight budget? Good news! Free spreadsheet software (like Google Sheets or Numbers) or paid software you may already have (like Microsoft Excel) is a great way to create comprehensive and professional tech packs.
They’re great if you’re working as a freelancer with a lot of different brands (that may only be doing a couple styles), or if you’re starting your own clothing line and don’t want to invest in or learn new software.
While spreadsheets are great, they lack advanced features and automation options some software may provide. While it’s easy to integrate flat sketches or technical drawings created in Adobe Illustrator into spreadsheets, there are no fancy built-in tools like you’ll find in most of the software.
The best option is to start with a template. From there, you can fill in the details for your designs. You can follow my free step-by-step guide here.
Overall, tech pack software can be an essential tool for anyone working in the fashion industry. It allows you to create comprehensive and professional tech packs that include all necessary technical drawings and specifications, streamlining the product development process and ensuring quality control.
While there can be challenges with using tech pack software, such as a learning curve or potential compatibility issues with multiple manufacturers, the benefits can outweigh many drawbacks.