How to Watercolor Paint a Fashion Illustration

13 Jun

trans pants

I’ve heard people say that watercolor is scary. Well, let me tell you- when I first started sketching and painting, I couldn’t even get a stick figure right! Watercolor was my saving grace when I was first learning. It is so easy to manipulate and play with that you can just have fun and get really creative!

I love it so much better than markers because I can get the textures of fabrics to look more accurate. Also because my style is more lightweight than markers allow you to be. Watercolor allows you control over the contrast much more than marker.

Here’s what I used:

  • First of all, get a sketchbook or sketching paper that is meant for watercolor. Mine is not, HA! But it is all I have right now, so I went with it. If the paper is not meant for watercolor paint, the paper will flake and tear if you use too much water.
  • Next, I used a regular old #2 pencil to do the sketch.
  • Then I used a small, round Connoisseur brush. They are not the best, but they work ok.
  • The paint I use is technically called gouache. It’s a Reeves Gouache Color set. Buy one and the 18 colors that are included will last you a good while. I’ve had mine going for 3 years now! You can also mix to create your own!


  • Palatte paper. If you don’t have that, or can’t get to an art store, freezer paper from the grocery store works fine too. Use the glossy side. Don’t throw it away when you’re done! More than likely, you will not use all the paint you put on your palate. Let it dry and keep it. Just dab water on it the next time you want to use it again! This is why my paint has lasted me so long!


  • Color pencils. Prismacolor is what I used here. They are smooth and work well. I use both the Art Stix woodless set and the regular pencil shaped ones. The Art Stix come square shaped. This is good for making thicker lines and making cool effects.


  • Lastly, Photoshop. To clean up your sketch for your portfolio, look book, website, etc., use Photoshop to get rid of the paper background and clean up minor mistakes.

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 6.48.01 AM

As for technique, I really don’t want sway you. Art is truly the expression of the artist. My style is different than yours will be. The one tip I can give is that sketching and painting are all about shadows. So if you’re looking for a place to start, get the brush wet, dab it in a small amount of paint, and start with the areas that you would expect to see shadows. Then use the water to smooth the paint out from there. The video should sum up the way I personally go about it.

Most of all, the key is practicing, learning from mistakes and learning from others. Try different styles to see where you feel most comfortable. I am still in this stage, even after painting for 4 years now! In fashion illustration, just like any other genre, understanding the emotion you are aiming to convey will start you off with a great foundation. This will be what your audience relates to subconsciously, and makes them say, “I love that!” even if they don’t know why.

Happy painting!



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