Fashion Illustration Jobs: Traditional vs Digital

Many fashion illustration jobs require possessing specific digital skills. Join us as we delve into the evolution of the fashion illustration industry. 

garment illustration of three models

A fashion illustrator is anyone who creates detailed, high-quality visual representations for the fashion industry. This style of illustration involves translating fashion ideas into captivating visuals. A fashion illustrator can be seen as very different from artist to artist, depending on a person’s skills and interests. 

Over time the fashion industry has evolved, adapting to new technologies. These digital innovations opened doors to numerous fashion illustrator jobs to build careers like graphics designer, animation artist, fashion designer, textile designer, illustrator, graphic designer, etc. The evolution of the fashion illustration industry has been enormous so far. So to fully understand it, we teamed up with experts from job aggregator Jooble to explore this transition, its advantages, and challenges in this article. 

Traditional Techniques Used in Fashion Illustration Jobs 

Example of traditional art deco era fashion illustration
Example of traditional art deco era fashion illustration

A lot has changed in the fashion illustration industry today. Before fashion illustrators’ massive adoption of technology, many artists depended on traditional techniques to get things done. Some of these traditional techniques include:

  • Pencil and Paper

The art of using pencil and paper by fashion illustrators to translate fashion ideas is as old as the 2nd century AD. It is an art developed in China and is still employed in some aspects of fashion illustration. With a pencil and paper, artists can sketch designs with precise lines and fine details. 

However, using pencil and paper is no longer widespread because it’s time-consuming and requires hours of practice to perfect the skill. Using pencil and paper creates a deep connection between the artwork and the artist, resulting in more expressive illustrations. 

  • Watercolors 

Using watercolors by fashion illustrators is another common traditional technique that is no longer being practiced. It is a painting method that uses water-based pigments to express fashion ideas. Watercolors allow fashion illustrators to portray delicate and vibrating hues for a captivating visual experience. 

From expressive brushstrokes to blending textures and patterns, artists could add personalities to illustrations using watercolors. While mixing colors is still relevant in fashion illustration jobs today, many fashion illustrators no longer use actual water-based paints. 

  • Mixed Media

Another traditional technique used by fashion illustrators was mixed media. Mixed media employs more than one medium or material to describe fashion ideas. For example, collages or assemblages. The materials used in mixed media vary from paint to paper, cloth, wood, etc.

Note that mixed media art differs from multimedia art, which combines visual with non-visual arts like motion graphics, music, drama, dance, etc. The idea of mixed media is still used today, but in a more digital form, where artists add dynamic and playful elements to artwork to convey a narrative, theme, or culture. 

Digital Innovation Used in Fashion Illustration Jobs

digital fashion illusration

Fashion illustration can attract multitudes of viewers by communicating fashion design ideas through many presentable media. As a result, it pushes the fashion industry to seek better ways and new opportunities by employing the assistance of new technologies. Some of these digital innovations include: 

  • Digital Sketching and Drawing Tablets 

Drawing tablets, digitizers, external drawing pads, or whatever you call them, is a digital innovation replacing traditional paper and pencil. It allows fashion illustrators to hand-draw fashion ideas with the convenience of technology. This tool has several flexibilities like digital brushes and effects, undo/redo, templates, etc. With this tool, fashion illustrators can easily complete tasks quickly, more efficiently, and easily. Whether it is creating a polished design or detailed artwork, digital sketching is a technique many fashion illustrators swear by. 

  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Software

Computer-aided design software is another digital innovation that has revolutionized fashion illustration jobs. This software increases the productivity of fashion illustrators by providing them with all the tools needed to create better-quality designs. Its purpose is to streamline and optimize a fashion illustration designer’s workflow. 

With the right CAD software, fashion illustrators can incorporate elements like color variations, patterns, etc. It is a powerful tool that makes design creations more realistic and precise. CAD software outputs electronic files, making printing or other manufacturing operations easy. 

  • 3D Rendering and Virtual Fashion Illustration 

3D rendering means creating a more photorealistic image with a 3D model. Different types of 3D rendering exist, namely solid, wireframe, and surface. A solid 3D render is a realistic representation of an object. A wireframe render is a simplified representation of an object that only shows its outline. While a surface render is a 2D representation of a 3D object. 

The advent of this digital innovation makes it possible for illustrators to create fashion ideas for viewers to see them in detail from different angles. Some fashion industries use this virtual fashion illustration to create custom designs for individual customers. This allows customers to see how a fashion idea will look on them before making a purchase. 

Impact of the Advent of Digital Innovation on Fashion Illustration Jobs

Digital transformation in the fashion industry is essential. But it’s also important to note that digital innovation has positively and negatively impacted fashion illustration jobs. Below is a snippet of that impact:

Advantages of Digital Innovation

  1. Speed and Efficiency: With digital tools, fashion illustrators can create fashion designs faster, making iterations and revisions more efficient.
  2. Experimentation and Versatility: Digital innovations allowed fashion illustrators to explore new styles and techniques using tools like brushes and effects.
  3. Accessibility and Collaboration: Digital files can be shared and easily edited, which fosters collaboration between fashion illustrators and clients across different geographical locations. 

Challenges of Digital Innovation

  1. Loss of Tangibility: Transitioning to digital tools made fashion illustrators lack the tactile experience of traditional techniques, potentially diminishing the emotional connection between artists and artworks. 
  2. Learning Curve: While digital innovation offers immense possibilities, it requires time and effort to master the software and adapt to the digital workflow. 


In conclusion, while aspiring fashion illustrators don’t need to worry about acquiring any specific qualification, qualifications from reputable fashion or art institutions help them distinguish themselves from others. Also, learning more about fashion drawing, sewing, pattern making, and computer design is an added advantage. There are many fashion illustration jobs for specialization. So, pick a niche you feel passionate about, and hone your skills. While at it, learning to diversify can also be beneficial.

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