gaouche fashion illustration technique laura volpintesta
First I almost ALWAYS sketch out lightly my image…. like a road map for where I’ll be laying down my gouache
gaouche fashion illustration technique laura volpintesta
If I”m not exploring freestyle my own design concepts, i’ll be illustrating a design that inspires me, from a photo.

 Illustrating fashion designs in gouache:

Do YOU GET NERVOUS approaching the blank page?

That’s normal.

I thought I’d share a few photos step by step of myself illustrating fashion design from a photo/model/dress/design/fabric  that I just loved by KachiDesigns, (who I discovered through AfricaFashionWeek (AFW) and follow on Instagram).

My remedy for “blank page freeze-up” is pretty simple: make a gentle, light mess on it.  It takes away that cold, sterile feeling.

First I sketch out really loosely and build up the figure on the page, adding the garment secondly.

I’m not too nervous about “imperfect ” lines showing later when I’m illustrating fashion because most of those lines disappear under the opacity of gouache (the type of watercolor I use in my online fashion design courses.  They are my “thinking” lines, and they inform every step I take to build the illustration.

I clipped my Bristol Vellum (the kind of paper I used) to a 1/4 ” thick board so that I would have a portable, angled surface to work on.  This will do wonders for your body’s comfort. If you work in a small place you can have lots of drawing boards with different illustrations drying while you work on others and working this way saves your back!

And as I always say:

 If you’re uncomfortable when you’re working, its likely that your models won’t look to comfy, either!

gaouche fashion illustration technique laura volpintesta
Each line actually becomes the boundaries that will be filled with flat tone of gouache to begin. Rendering and shading happen on top of this to complete my fashion illustration

Mix the base colors for garment and skin, hair, and fill each flat shape with a flat color.  Make sure that one shape dries before you color an adjacent shape, because otherwise they will feather and bleed into each other.

I ALWAYS do the skin first when illustrating fashion designs. Then garments, then hair. That’s just my routine.

gaouche fashion illustration technique laura volpintesta
Here you can see before the finish that each shape of color in my fashion illustration has its base tone in gouache as well as a shadowe tone applied to it

Add a pinch of black to each base color to create your shadow color.

Look for chunks/ shapes of shadow to create 3d form.  I even added the shadow on the page as an element of composition here, as well as the orange blocks just for fun.

What I didn’t do here was tape down all four edges of my page, which means the illustration curled up a bit after it dried. Don’t do that, okay?

gaouche fashion illustration technique laura volpintesta
After the base tone dries, I apply the colors of a pattern or print using either gouache or colored pencils, depending on the texture and feeling of the fabric and print style

Block out any other major colors or patterns with an artist-grade colored pencil after all that is dry.

Remember a bendy-lamp can speed up drying. Go get a healthy drink or snack.


gaouche fashion illustration technique laura volpintesta
It really helps to see a step by step, becuase when you see a finished piece it’s far too distracting to decode what the fashion illustration process was!

I got the ikat effect and strips/stripes with paint.

Laura Volpintesta

gouache fashion illustration african ikat fabric, illustrated by Laura Volpinetsta
Dress, gouache fashion llustration, dress by Kachi Designs, Africa Fashion Week Caftan Kaftan, by Laura Volpintesta

Bring in colored pencil for definition and crisp edges, small details.

Colored pencil is also great for color -correcting any color that dried and ended up …um…”wrong”.


We do a lot of this in my online courses.  But I usually teach through video there. We go REALLY DEEP in the foundations if illustrating fashion and have a wonderful time finding our unique beauty to redefine and shine through design!!!!!!!!

Subscribe to stay tuned in, and share!

Do you like the dress???? LOOOOOVE the dress by @Kachidesigns  (on instragram) from Africa Fashion Week ( #afw @afw @adiree #illustrationtribe)

Follow me on instagram for more, but most importantly subscribe right here and please SHARE with your community if you think they would enjoy this article!

Love always,

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