How to Spec a Garment in Illustrator Tutorial by {Sew Heidi}

How to Spec a Garment in Illustrator

After working with too many companies that I felt did it wrong, I created a very organized and efficient way to spec my fashion flats in Illustrator that I’ve used for many years now.  For me, it’s proven to be the best method – perhaps it will work for you as is, or you can adjust to fit your needs.

NOTE: This method works best if you use Adobe Illustrator + Excel (or some other software) to compile your tech packs (as opposed compiling the entire tech pack in AI).

Before you get started, get the free template to use for your own designs.


Working with the Layers panel (Window > Layer), we’ll keep everything in one AI file.  I start with the flat SKETCH as the bottom most layer.
{Sew Heidi} Fashion Tech Flats in Illustrator

The next layer I add is for CALLOUTS.  Depending on how you do your tech sketch, the information on this layer may be different for you.  I typically put any construction, stitching and basic trim details here.
{Sew Heidi} Fashion Tech Flats in Illustrator

At this point in time, I’m ready to transfer the sketch to Excel.  With the appropriate layers visible and unlocked, I select all (Select > All – cmd/ctrl + A), jump over to Excel and choose Edit > Paste Special and choose Picture.  This doesn’t always paste the most hi res image, so if you’re wanting a better result, the quickest way is to take a screenshot and place that into Excel (on a Mac, cmd+shift+4 allows you to crop an area you want to screenshot (hold the control to automatically copy the screenshot to your clipboard, and then just pasted directly in Excel with cmd+V) or if you’re on a PC, use the Snipping Tool) and then in Excel, Insert > Photo > Picture From File… (I set up a custom shortcut for this using these instructions).  I find this method of “screenshooting” MUCH quicker than saving as a JPG/PNG from AI.

The next layer, MEASUREMENTS, may or may not be necessary depending on your garment, but if necessary, this is where I put it.  I simply turn off the CALLOUTS layer and add MEASUREMENTS.
{Sew Heidi} Fashion Tech Flats in Illustrator

I follow the same process for getting this information into my Excel tech pack.  You could add more layers for a fabric map or other details you need to callout.  The benefit to setting your file up like this, with one SKETCH layer and all of your details on separate layers is that if a detail on your garment changes, you just have to change illustration to change.  I’ve seen many designers set up each of their sketches – callout, measurement, fabric map, etc – in individual AI files which I find very hard to manage.  This way, everything is in one place!

The last layer I create, which does require separate sketches, is COLORWAYS.  If something in the garment details changes after all of this is done (as we know it always does), I typically update the black and white garment from the SKETCH layer and create new colored garments on the COLORWAYS layer.  Depending on how complex the edit is, it may be easier to update all sketches individually rather than recreating the colorways.
{Sew Heidi} Fashion Tech Flats in Illustrator

I love keeping all of my artwork in one single Illustrator file for ease and organization.  Depending on how you create your tech packs, this exact method may not work for you, but you should be able to take bits and pieces and customize for your workflow.


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