MARKERS or GOUACHE for Fashion Sketching?


Markers for fashion drawing and illustration can be fun, novel, quick, handy.  I was very excited the first time I used art markers and I even have a favorite brand.

Chartpack markers (below left) are really wet with a softish chisel tip. ( DO YOUR RESEARCH- on chemical components of art markers)

design markers for fashion illustration Chartpack

Prismacolor markers (below right) feel a lot dryer to me and feature a dryer chisel tip and  also featuring a fine line tip at the other end.

prismacolor design markers for fashion illustration

Laura Volpintesta, fashion design illustration from live model, markers- gouache or markers for fashiuon sketching?

But artists and designers who love markers….. there are millions of them! So I don’t think MARKERS will mind at all if I take a little bit of time to talk about why I prefer gouache over marker for fashion sketching and design illustrations.

Markers are smelly, dry up at any given time, and produce lots of un-sustainable trash.  You need to carry a hundred colors around but never actually have the color you really need, but if you do?…’s usually dried up!! (that’s my experience).

(the great news is now I can mimic markers any time I want when I illustrate digitally on my iPad)

Markers (and most marker papers) generally have a thin, flat look that is hard to override. I used to avoid marker paper for this reason, but over the years I’ve found that there are times and places where marker paper is just the best choice for a whole host of reasons. Even as a drawing paper when you aren’t using markers! A good quality marker paper is a beautiful addition to your art materials.

Yes, there is a great quickness to being able to grab a wet marker and sketch something out, though, and as I always say: a new medium will always teach you SOMETHING NEW about drawing and design and even about YOURSELF.  It will always appeal to SOME side of you, or not, which you would not know if you didn’t try! So I DO ENCOURAGE YOU WHOLEHEARTEDLY  try fashion sketching with a variety of tools to get the full scope of what you are capable of!

fashion croquis/ fashion illustrations in gouache by Laura Volpintesta

Marker fashion illustration  CAN look a bit warmer if you use them on rich textured, porous papers, but that is exactly what causes them to dry up quickly.  Using MARKER or LAYOUT PAPER (Google to see) will stop the markers from bleeding-through, thus make them last much LONGER, and are generally thin, slightly sheer bright-white papers.  So this is good for a “synthetic” feel or mood, not as great for warm, cozy stuff.

I do love black fine-line and brush tip felt tip markers and roller ball markers though (especially water-proof so I can paint over them without losing my line). I use them often in my fashion sketching.


set of ten gouache tube colors, first quality for fashion illustration. Winsor and NewtwonWinsor &Newton Designer gouache

Gouache has a rich, velvety texture and is made to be used on thicker, rougher papers giving a luxurious quality and texture to the artwork.  The imperfections add to the rich artistic quality of the illustration.  With gouache, you “mix your own markers”… you can always access and work up exactly the color you need.  Soft, porous,fabric-like papers will suck all of the “juice” out of the markers, but are made to work with gouache. (Here is my article about the gouache colors you can’t live without!)

All too often my students who insist on using only fashion markers will produce thin, sheer illustrations (of course sometimes this may be just right, but it’s no fun to be limited to that range) and really approximate colors to match their swatches (I’m not sure why on that one)- meaning that the colors they illustrate with generally are really poor matches to the fabric colors in the swatches.  These are some pet peeves of mine, I think color matching is very important- that your fabric  swatches should match your sketches.

BUT the point is not to bash fashion markers, but to encourage you to give gouache a try.  It’s like using silk or organic handloomed fabric instead of PVC.  Give it a try!  Your art will feel timeless and rich.

The opacity of gouache for fashion sketching  also allows you to change your drawing when you lay the color down, adding to the shapes or silhouettes wherever needed.

When I was a kid, my grandfather Eugene Casey was a cartoonist and industrial designer who had a box of designer markers in his closet and I remember how just the smell of them inspired me!…… but here’s an ode to gouache.

It’s so rich, fabric like, and textural. And after it is fully dry, you can work on top of it with PRISMACOLOR artist pencils to create millions of effects (or use gouache again to add additional pattern or texture to the garment, too).

Laura VOLPINTESTA illustrations with gouache, colored pencil, and waterproof felt pens gouache or markers for fashion sketching?

Laura Volpintesta, fashion design fabric concept board . Gouache or markers for fashion sketching?

Laura Volpintesta gouache illustration concept collection. Gpuache or markers for fashion sketching?

Above, gouache fashion illustrations from SWATCHES TO GOUACHE program.

Please give

gouache fashion illustration a try!

It’s my medium of choice for all of my online and on-campus courses here and at Parsons.  My ABOUT FACES program works from pencil to gouache, and my INTENSIVE COMPLETE fashion boot camp course also uses gouache for all final illustrations and process sketches. I figure if you are going to invest so much in your education, you deserve to use the very best….. you’ll have an entire lifetime to enjoy your experience.

I’ll provide you with some exercises that will get you really comfortable step-by-step with using goauche…mixing colors and getting used to the ratio of pigment to water that you like best, as well as experimenting with different papers and techniques for rendering different fabric textures!!!!

Salut! Tchao! Ciao! See you later!



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