If you are just starting out with fashion illustration, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start when it comes to buying art supplies. You will probably find many suggestions and lists of products to buy online, but honestly all you need at the beginning are a piece of paper and a pencil. The first thing you will do on your journey to becoming a fashion illustrator is practice drawing fashion figures and that means discovering movement, body positions, shapes and shades. For this purpose you don't need anything fancy or expensive, you can use a regular HB pencil or a mechanical pen if you prefer and a piece of copy or print paper. The only thing I would recommend to buy extra at the beginning is tracing paper as this will make your life easier and you will progress much faster with your croquis development.
Beginner Art Kit for Fashion Illustration
After you have been practicing sketching with a regular pencil and paper and you know for sure you want to start illustrating and become a fashion illustrator then you can start by building your first art kit.
1. Paper and Sketchbooks
Figure drawing practice and your basic croquis can be drawn on any kind of paper or format. When you start sketching clothes and working on details a bit more, it is good to work on a larger format like A3.
Types of paper useful in the beginning:
- Semi-transparent Paper or Tracing paper - perfect for tracing and sketching until you are satisfied with the final work. You can try different brands to see which one works best for you. My two favorites are: Pacon Artist 1st (lightweight and smooth, you can use markers on it) and Canson Tracing paper (smooth, transparent and you can use pencil, ink and markers).
- All-purpose paper or sketchpad - Don't waste your money on buying different papers for each media you will use because in the beginning that is really not necessary. Aim for all purpose papers so that you can experiment, use mixed media and try different techniques without fear. My favorite is Canson Mix Media Paper and I usually use it as a sketchbook for developing design ideas and also for illustrations featuring different media.
- Sketchbook - There are so many types to choose from in this area - you can buy a basic pocket one that you can carry around and sketch on the go or one with cute design and layout that will boost your creative juices. Here you can do quick sketches of ideas that come to you during the day or use it as a general design ideas book. I use Fashionary sketchbooks which have some useful information as well as croquis templates and I find it perfect for quick sketching when you want to focus on the clothes instead of developing your croquis and poses. My sketchbook is usually just for illustrating runway looks that I like and usually I will use only colored pencils here and markers for some details or textures.
2. Drawing and Coloring Media
As I already mentioned, you really don't need a lot in the beginning when you are trying to figure out what works best for you and which media you prefer, but it is nice to have enough so you can experiment and decide.
Drawing and sketching media:
- Graphite Pencils- These are the basic tool of every artist and you literally have to spend a few cents to buy an HB pencil that will give you a medium strength line or an H pencil if you like hard lines (fore technical drawings).
- Fine liners- It is very useful to have black fine liners in several sizes for finishing your work or finalizing a sketch. My personal choice are Prismacolor Fine liners in 05 and 005, and I also like Artist's Loft pack of five fine liners that will be useful for everything. There are more pricey ones like Copic fine liners or some pigment liners but it is not necessary to spend money on that while you are still learning and experimenting.
When you are buying a coloring media, usually it is great to figure out what would you prefer to try first and then buy a small set with skin, hair tones and basic colors. When you master one media, you will be able to enrich that media adding other techniques as well throughout your projects.
- Markers - These seem to be the most commonly used among fashion illustrators and designers as they are quick to use and give an acceptable representation of fabric and color.If you decide to illustrate with markers, start by purchasing a set for skin tones, then add a few for blonde and brown hair, light grey for shading and afterwards just build up your supply based on the projects you will be working on. The brand I use are Copic markers and I love them because of their wonderful brush tip as well as the range of colors available and their great blending ability.
- Colored Pencils - My personal favorite but these are a very slow media to work with, especially when you have large areas to color. They are fairly easy to start with because you can build color as you go so it is harder to mess up and you can erase and fix things easily. If you use soft core pencils like Prismacolor Premiere then you have the ability to blend with ease and create all kinds of textures and fabrics. In combination with hard led pencils like Prismacolor Verithin your possibilities are endless as you can do even more gorgeous textures and add details to your work quickly. The only thing I find to be challenging is illustrating sheer fabrics so I usually combine them with markers for that purpose. But be careful not to use markers over soft pencils as they will clog your marker tip and you won't be able to use it anymore.
- Watercolors - You can use watercolor pencils in the beginning as they are easier to use than watercolors because you are more in control and less likely to mess up your work. With watercolor pencils you just color the area as you would with colored pencils and then just go over it with a wet brush for a watercolor effect. If you are using regular watercolors, then you need brushes in different sizes as well and a mixing palette.
You will need something to store your artwork and usually it is preferable to use A3 portfolios that can be zipped to protect your artwork and making a design presentation. If you are serious about your artwork, it is smart to invest into a quality portfolio that will last you a long time.
A quality portfolio will:
- keep your work in order
- protect your drawings from being damaged and keep them clean
- will be a practical and professional solution for showing your work to your teachers or clients
There are many other things you could add to your illustration kit but it is better to keep it simple in the beginning and then add things as you go. You don't want to spend all your money right away before you event start drawing or try different media and then decide it isn't for you and just be left with a bunch of art supplies you will never use. Practice and patience are virtues that every artist should have in order to be the best at what he/she does, so try not to rush things and the results will be closer with each step:)
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