4 Ways to Sketch Fashion Flats in Illustrator Tutorial {Sew Heidi}

4 Ways to Sketch Fashion Flats in Illustrator

Technique 1: Sketch Fashion Flats by Copying Path Segments

This first sketching technique will show you how to copy a path segment in Illustrator to to create a fashion flat with seams that line up perfectly.

{Sew Heidi} Fashion Illustration Methods: Copy Line Segment

While this Illustrator fashion sketching method creates very tidy flats with paths that abut perfectly, it’s not my favorite. It lacks flexibility to change curves as shown below. You’ll be left with a gap in your design and need to manipulate both paths or create the armhole seam again. And if you think “I’m not going to be changing my armhole curve”, wait until you use this for style lines that do change such as colorblock panels or princess seams.
{Sew Heidi} Fashion Illustration Methods: Copy Line Segment

Technique 2: Sketch the Outline of Your Fashion Flat and Add Seam or Style Lines

With this Illustrator sketching technique, you’ll create the outline of your design and add style or stitch lines separately. You can see below the sketch is drawn with one single shape for the entire t-shirt and other details as open paths.{Sew Heidi} Fashion Illustration Methods: Drawing Outline & Style Lines

This method works great for simple designs that will be shown in black and white or one solid color only. It’s also a great flat sketching technique to use with Live Paint, but watch out for the error dialog above if your sketch contains any pattern brushes because brushes and Live Paint don’t get along very well. (Come on Adobe, when are you going to give us this feature?!).

Technique 3: Create Separate Shapes in your Fashion Flat Sketches with the Pathfinder

This flat sketching technique in Illustrator is a combination of methods one and two shown above. We’ll start with the outline of the entire garment and then use Pathfinder > Divide to cut the sleeves off.

{Sew Heidi} Drawing Fashion Flats Series: Pathfinder Divide


The end result is the same as the first sketching technique (copy path segments). Note these four requirements to make sure this technique works correctly:

  1. the outline of your flat or tech sketch is drawn as one closed path
  2. the paths used to cut (shown above in green on the armhole) overlap the outline on both ends of the path
  3. the paths used to cut (shown above in green on the armhole) are STROKE ONLY and NO FILL
  4. when using the Divide option, make sure to only have the garment outline and the overlapping paths selected

Like copying path segments, this is also not one of my favorite techniques – while it creates very neat illustrations with paths that perfectly align, if you need to change the style lines later it’s a bit cumbersome as you have 2 paths to manage.

Technique 4: Sketch Fashion Flats Using Object > Arrange

And finally, this last one is my favorite technique to sketch fashion flats in Adobe Illustrator. I think it’s the easiest as well as the most versatile when you need to make adjustments to your styles lines later.
{Sew Heidi} Drawing Fashion Flats in Illustrator: Object > Arrange

Use the stacking order of objects in Illustrator to your advantage and be a little “sloppy” with the arm seams.  No one’s going to see them because they’ll be hidden behind the body.  The bodice must have a fill color (it can be white) for this to work, but it allows for much easier manipulation of style lines later since the seam lines don’t match up perfectly.

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4 Ways to Sketch Fashion Flats in Illustrator

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