technical sketch

What is a Technical Sketch in Fashion Design?

Technical sketch, technical drawing, flat sketch, fashion flats, CADs – if you’ve dabbled into the world of fashion design, these terms are likely familiar. 

In the fashion industry, technical sketches are must-have visual guides that prompt the process of bringing creative design concepts to life.

Whether you’re a budding freelance fashion designer, working in a fashion job, or just wanting to polish up on your technical sketching skills, this article will guide you through all things tech sketch related – from its definition and purpose to the process behind creating them.

Let’s begin!

Why am I qualified to write about this stuff? In my 15 years of experience in the fashion industry, I’ve journeyed from being an in-house designer, starting my own brand (yep!), to growing my freelance career to $100,000+. Now, with all the knowledge I’ve learned along the way, I want to help fashion designers (and PDs, TDs, etc.) like you make it in the industry.

Table Of Contents:

What is a Technical Sketch in Fashion Design?

Usually seen in a tech pack, a technical sketch in fashion design is a detailed illustration of a product, like garments and accessories. 

Technical drawings act as a practical guide, showcasing how a garment looks, including its silhouette, construction details, colors, and accessories.

Technical designers are usually the ones in charge of creating them but depending on the structure of specific fashion brands, it’s not unusual to see creative fashion designers also illustrating tech flats.

Why is a Technical Sketch Important in the Apparel Industry?

Flat sketches are essential tools that go beyond just helping designers, pattern makers, and manufacturers collaborate effectively.

Here’s why they’re so important:

  • Clarity and precision: Technical sketches are the key to ensuring everyone involved in the production process is on the same page. They provide a crystal-clear representation of a garment’s design, down to the last stitch and seam.
  • Save time and money: Detailed technical drawings save both time and money by reducing errors during production. Manufacturers can simply follow the sketch to ensure the garment or accessory matches the designer’s vision – cutting down on repetitive and costly revisions.
  • Efficient communication: Technical sketches serve as a universal language in the fashion world. With all the necessary information at hand, the design team, sample-makers, and manufacturers can work more efficiently. This means fewer back-and-forths – saving everyone time (and sanity!). 
  • Process documentation: If you’ve ever worked in product development, I’m sure you know well enough how many iterations and revisions it takes to get the perfect sample. Technical drawings serve as a record of these changes, making it easier to revisit any developments along the way.
  • Legal protection: In some cases, technical sketches can provide legal protection for original designs and intellectual property rights. Behind every iconic fashion brand’s signature style lies a patent, and tucked within that patent, you’ll surely find detailed technical drawings depicting the design in detail.

Now, just having a technical sketch doesn’t guarantee you all the benefits above.

The truth is – in a lot of cases, a poorly drawn technical sketch can do you more harm than good. (Just like how sample-makers misinterpreted my fold lines into topstitching when I was just starting out. 🙃 And I’ve since learned a lot from then, but more on that later!)

So, it’s really important to learn how to make effective and industry level technical sketches.

7 Key Elements of a Technical Sketch

These are the key elements that you should include in a technical sketch:

  1. Stitching Details: Stitch lines, seams, and the types of stitches used. For example, illustrating flatlock stitches for stretchy activewear seams.
  2. Construction Details: How the various garment pieces are assembled and put together. For instance, showing the sequence of attaching a collar to a blouse.
  3. Silhouette: Desired fit, drape, or style of the garment. This can include details on how the fabric should flow or gather, for example, imagine how you would illustrate drapey silk palazzo pants vs tailored wool jeans. 
  4. Different Views: Front, back, side view, etc. – include all views necessary to show the details of the design and help the manufacturers understand easily.
  5. Fabric Information: Types of fabric or materials to be used for different parts of the garment. For example, illustrating silk for the main body and lace for the sleeves. 
  6. Notions and Accessories: Illustrations of details like belt buttons, zippers, trims and how they are placed in the garment.
  7. Color Details: Visual representations of colorways and color blocking, clearly showing the material colors or patterns. For example, showing contrasting colors for sleeves and body in a sports tracksuit.
Key elements of a technical sketch

Where are Technical Sketches Used in the Fashion Industry?

While technical sketches are usually made to be put in a tech pack, their use goes way beyond this.

Here’s a list of how technical drawings can be used in the fashion industry:

Design Development 

Fashion designers create technical drawings to visualize and communicate their clothing designs to other team members, manufacturers, or clients.

For example, these can be put in line sheets for presentations, as a visual guide in tech packs for manufacturers, or in a presentation deck for potential clients.

Sample-making and Manufacturing

Technical sketches serve as a common visual language that helps designers, pattern makers, sample makers, and manufacturers understand and execute the design ideas accurately during apparel production

Fashion Books and Publications

Your sewing or pattern making books make use of technical drawings to illustrate design ideas and provide insights into garment design and construction. Case in point – you can go check out Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing – one of my fave books in garment construction and sewing.

Marketing and Collaterals

Beyond apparel production and educational use, flat sketches are also used to promote or explain the product itself, such as in collaterals like hang tags or clothing labels. The drawings act as a visual representation of the design, offering customers a clear idea of what they are purchasing along with other nifty functions.

How to Create Technical Flat Sketches in Adobe Illustrator

As a self-taught fashion designer with a graphic design background, I learned that many fashion designers – including technical designers, use a lot of time-consuming and inefficient methods when creating technical drawings.

The thing is – spending 2 hours on a single technical sketch is just NOT practical. 

And I know there’s a learning curve to it, that even with my background, I had to learn the nooks and crannies of Adobe Illustrator (which is hands down still the best technical drawing software IMHO).

And if you’re in need of some inspiration, just try to guess how much time I spent on the flat drawing on the left vs the newer one on the right.

It took me a WHOLE HOUR to finish the one on the left, while the new one only took me 30 minutes. Yep, that’s right! That’s all it should take!

To be perfectly honest with you, it took looots of polishing to get to where I’m at now in tech illustration. And if you’re 2009 me who’s interested in simplifying your process and making your technical drawings look more profesh, or still telling yourself you can’t draw even if your life depended on it (trust me, YOU CAN) – I’ve got the perfect guide for you. 

In my Guide on How to Create Technical Flat Sketches in Adobe Illustrator, I break it down and share practical tips I’ve learned along the way.

Now, I want to share it with designers like you to make sure you’re getting your work done in waaay less time but with waaay more accuracy.

And if you’re looking to dive deeper in the process, you can explore my Ultimate Guide on Adobe Illustrator for Fashion Design, where I cover everything you should know to create fashion flats (with no sweat!).

And no matter your background, whether you’re just starting in fashion design or a seasoned pro, there’s surely something for you in there! 


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