Welcome to part 1 of our Introduction to Fashion Illustration series. Our goal at the end of this tutorial is to be able to help you clearly and accurately express your ideas in visual form. You will have a clear understanding of how basic geometric shapes can be used to draw the human figure. We will also explain how and why we draw the fashion figure using the nine heads measuring system. These basic steps are the building blocks needed to develop a finished fashion croquis.
Lesson 1 - Drawing The Fashion Figure using the 9 Heads System
Prep Your Work Space:
Understanding Body Proportion for Fashion Illustration:
Using the 9 heads technique to elongate the body for fashion sketching:
The traditional way of fashion sketching has always been to stretch and lengthen the body. It exaggerates the human form in an attempt to illustrate clothing as it would appear on an actual runway model. Runway models are known to be very tall and statuesque. These proportions are translated on paper by measuring the height of the body using the head as one unit of measurement. To begin, measure each line about 1 ¼” wide. Lightly sketch in 9 sections down the page. It’s a good idea to start by drawing one head on top of another and so on until you’ve reached nine heads in total. This would give you the standard fashion illustration proportions. With current trends in fashion, we are beginning to see a much broader representation of all body types. These more relatable body types can also be translated into fashion illustration as well. It’s all about developing your personal style.
Identifying and understanding the plumb line:
In sketching, the plumbline is a vertical line that will run down the center of the body. Use this line to identify balance and symmetry for both the left and right sides of the body. Lightly sketch it in down the center of your page before starting your sketch. You can trace over, or erase the plumbline later. The plumbline will also be useful later when you begin to pose your croquis. Any movement or shifting of weight will need to be balanced and the plumbline will be a great guiding point.
Using Basic Shapes to Build the Human Form:
Identifying shapes within the body:
We all remember learning our basic shapes in grade school right? Circle, oval, triangle, rectangle, etc., will all come in handy as you begin to understand how to develop your fashion croquis. We’ll use 3-dimensional shapes as well to give our figure depth. Each part of the body can be represented by a basic shape to help you visualize the human form. This step is done before adding any muscle or flesh. Let’s start with the head and work our way down. A great tip would be to trace over a forward standing fashion model photo. Using a swimsuit photo would work really well in order to clearly see the shapes within the body.
First, we’ll use two circles to give us the shape of the head. Place a larger circle on top to represent the larger part of the head and the smaller circle on the bottom for the chin and jaw. Connect both circles by enclosing them in a somewhat “egg-shaped” oval. Moving down, let’s use a simple cylinder for the neck. Place a small sphere between the bottom of the chin and the top of the neck. These small “ball-joints” will be used to represent movement where the body bends.
Now, to properly place your shoulders, let’s measure the width to equal 3 heads across. Imagine, or lightly sketch 2 additional heads of the same size on each side of your figures head (you can erase these later). Place a small sphere to hold the place for each shoulder. Draw in a wedged-shaped triangle at each side of the neck.
Now for the torso, we will draw in a trapezoid shape. The top half being the wider end to represent the shoulder width, and narrowing as you move down to indicate the waistline. Let’s finish the torso by sketching in the arms. Draw in cylinder shapes for the upper and lower arm and connect them using a sphere for the elbows. Use two triangles in the shape of a diamond for the hands.
Leave a small space below the torso at the waist and sketch in the pelvis and hip using another trapezoid shape. This time, your shape will be narrower at the top for the waist, and larger at the bottom for the hip.
For the top of the leg, we are going to draw two large cylinders. The tops should be thicker to represent the thighs. The legs will get narrow towards the bottom to represent the knee. Make sure the knees are closer together and not parallel to the hip. Long slender cylinders will be used for the lower leg. The top should be wider to indicate the calf muscles and more tapered towards the bottom. This time make sure the ankles are closer together and not parallel to the calves. Use spheres to indicate the ankle and cone shapes for the feet.
Join us next time as we discuss how to flesh out your croquis before we begin to add clothing. Let me know in the comments which types of fabrics you’d like to learn how to render in future tutorials!