ndebele inspired laura volpintesta gouache fashion design illustration
Gaouche and Sharpie fashion illustrratino, original design and illustration by Laura Volpintesta, 1995

Today, a fashion illustration tour.

fashion sketch croquis layout presenation by Laura Volpintesta with Tayasui Sketches app croquis

Especially in fashion, but in all model drawing, we focus on…. the model.

Of course!

But, lot of the time this can turn into a figure just “floating” in the center of a white page. Once in a while this can work. It works. But, as we journey deeperr, let’s go get richer and more complex.

What about the background of your fashion illustration?

In most cases, I’ll give more attention to the model than to anything else in the picture. That’s my style, with the fashion illustration layout. The model and, well, THE CLOTHES!

BUT there are exceptions, and also just developing your own awareness of fashion illustration layout options will help you make YOUR decisions and style choices.

1. Fashion Illustration Layout: HORIZON LINE

There’s always a horizon line, even indoors. If she’s outdoors like this model, it’s easy to see that horizon line. The horizon line is usually INTERRUPTED by the model, so there is a sense of layering where the model interrupts the horizon, and this creates a great dynamic !  It also creates physical space where the model is in front, and the background…. is behind her.

fashion illustration layout - Fashion Illustration by Laura Volpintesta
digital fashion sketch by Laura Volpintesta

2. Fashion Illustration Layout: Vertical lines

Especially in interiors but also outdoors, you’ll notice columns, staircases, or perhaps corners where walls connect, or even trees and things that add to the background.

You can include them very simply, vaguely, or with more detail. BUt look for them, and see how they interact with your model.

This example includes a vertical in the background, as well as many horizontals in the steps she’s sitting on.

Model Drawing and Composition- Fashion Illustration by Laura Volpintesta
Digital Fashion Illustration by Laura Volpintesta

3. Fashion Illustration Layout: Architecture or landscape

Makrer Fashion ILlustration by Laura Voilpintesta
Marker Fashion Drawing from weekly Zoom live sketch sessions with Laura Volpintesta


This marker sketch has perspective, vertical and diagonal lines which place the model in space with a strong sense of movement. Diagonal lines always add dynamic and movement to a sketch.

4. Fashion Illustration Layout: No contrast

Another options is to draw everything you see with EQUAL EMPHASIS (example, below). Here the model was wearing a fine printed top and a bold printed bottom, standing in front of a mural in a city.

I decided to play up all of the colors and patterns for a purposeful sensory “overload” … because I love that!

Model Drawing and Composition- Fashion Illustration by Laura Volpintesta
Digital Fashion ILllustration using Adobe Fresco by Laura Volpintesta

Some interrupted shapes in the background and some strong black lines helped bring the model drawing forward of her background which was flat and had horizon or vertical architecture lines!

5.Fashion Illustration Layout: Shadows

markers for fashion illustration. Presentation and Layout. Laura Volpintesta. Polka Dots in fashion!
Marker Fashion Sketch from weekly live zoom sessions, by Laura Volpintesta


This marker illustration uses both shadow to anchor the model and add depth. In addition, as a large circle frames the layout.

6. Fashion Illustration Layout: Interaction and Relationship

In this example, below I have two figures on the page.

I love when they overlap slightly, but in this sketch I played with the negative shapes BETWEEN the figures and their social interaction instead of overlapping each other.

To create layers of space, I put them IN FRONT of the black-line page-frame I drew in. This kind of framing works so well for Fashion illustration layout!

Check out my Fashion Illustration and Fashion Design Courses in the Menu Header or here.

Adding fabric swatches to this page also adds more depth:


    • the fabric swatches are in front of the fashion sketches, the sketches are in front of the frame. 3 layers or more, right there!

Model Drawing and Composition- Fashion Illustration by Laura Volpintesta
Gouache fashion illustrations, front and back views with fabric swarches, circa 1995, Laura Volpintesta

(Not to mention the layers of clothing they are wearing. More ways to create space on the page… notice each model has a foot in the front of the page, and another foot in the back…..]

Also, If I do a fashion sketch of a single model, I’ll add the flats to the same page and let them underlap the main figure a bit. Lots of fun to work this way!

Fashion design croquis for tween , page layout on the ipad by Laura Volpintesta
ipad fashion croquis design sketching by Laura Volpitnesta using Tayasui Sketches app on ipad pro.

7. Vertical and horizontal

This is a fun example because the model is in the corner and you get both the horizon lines and the corner vertical where walls meet at once.

This also creates some perspective. I did test swatches of my art supplies in the background as I worked, using Procreate app, in a livestream class. Access it here.

Model Drawing and Composition- Fashion Illustration by Laura Volpintesta
Digital fashion illustration of African Print dress using apps for fashion illustration

8.Fashion Illustration Layout: Cropping

In reality, we are always cropping. Every picture you saw today was cropped.

IN cropping we are making decisions about where the image begins and ends.This is such an exciting decision to make when creating fashion illustration layout!

Model Drawing and Composition- Fashion Illustration by Laura Volpintesta
Digital Fashion ILlustration using Adobe Fresco, by Laura Volpintesta

And, while sometimes we make that decision before sketching, drawing, painting or photographing it can also be an awesome way to interact with your work after you are done. Sometimes cropping is THE magic touch that absolutely brings the piece to life.I used Adobe Draw app (now called Adobe Fresco) to create the illustration above, She’s cropped (all of the other figure drawings and model drawings here were full figures in the middle of the page boundaries.

So, in  this image, the page is like a window, and the model is “behind ” those boundaries. In another way of thinking about it, she is “larger than life“, exploding off of the page. Certainly, she becomes the most important thing in our vision!

The designer’s name in the side is BARELY overlapped by the figure, (see the letter “U”) putting her in FRONT of the name Nakimuli.

9. Layout is Composition… is CONTEXT :

Layout, the map of your page, s really such a major part of what drawing IS. It’s the CONTEXT you put your subject in.

I mean emotionally as well as “design-wise”.

10. ANCHORING the model with a shape or colored ground

fashion sketch layouts laura volpintesta
Fashion Illustration from Zoom Sketch Session, Model Drawing by Laura Volpintesta
This figure uses a simple background shape fashion illustration layout to anchor her in space and it’s deep color creates a depth for the model to “pop out” from in space as well!

Water soluble oil pastels, fashion illustration by Laura Volpintesta from live sketch session
wide lapel African Print jacket, illustration by Laura Volpintesta live session quick poses.

This shaped in the background locks the figure into a ground rather than just floating in the white space of a page.

Today we scratched the surface with just a few starters to get you thinking more about composition in model drawing, art, and figure drawing, but there will be much more to come.

WHAT WILL YOU DO with your new discoveries??

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And check out my other articles, courses and resources on model drawing, figure drawing, fashion illustration, gouache, ipad illustration, and fashion design….

My courses can be done as self-studies, or combined with a coaching package 4-8 weeks to support your journey. Contact me at info@fashionillustrationtribe.com or via instagram for more info!

What are YOU working on these days? Let me know!



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