Drawing Fashion Flats in Illustrator:
Tips & Tricks

In process of compiling here a collection of Tutorials
on Adobe Illustrator Drawing Tools & Techniques. 
See Below, More to Come.

Digital Flats & Specs 1



In this course we teach three things:

  1. Drawing Basic Flats using Illustrator;
  2. Creating Designer Tech Packs for Basic Bodies using Excel; and
  3. How to Compile a fully detailed Linelist using Adobe Indesign.

Drawing We start with basic bodies and over course of semester build a library of essential details. Teaching will include quick body drawing techniques, short-cuts for adding details, and ways to identify & organize artwork. Will learn: Layer Panel, Appearance Panel, Pathfinder, Offset Path, Zig Zag Effect etc.


Tech Packs We create basic designer tech packs for shirt, skirt & pant, adding details as we go – each to include: Garment Page, Spec Sheet, Cutters Must, Construction Page, Trim Sheet.


Linelist All garments will be added (as developed) to a final Linelist incorporating all skus: garments, colors, sizes & style numbers, for the “season.”


Technical Sourcebook for Designers

by Jaeil Lee and Camille Steen

Great production oriented reference book for tech design (not required).



Basic Ruffle Skirt

Basic Ruffles

How many ruffles to add, how close together they need to be, how narrow is the space in between each ruffle, depends on how big the circle of the skirt is –

Drawing ruffles so that they roll at hem of a full skirt – its illustration depends on “Ancient” Artistic Principle: the VANISHING POINT.


For simple rolls, ruffles coming toward you in front are wider and deeper, ruffles where turn back are narrower and less deep – by a considerable amount!

Step by Step

  1. On bottom of skirt add EVEN number of points – approx. same distance apart. Doesn’t have to be exact, we will be moving them.
  2. With (Change) Anchor Point tool, pull out handles – straight up and straight down – alternately, starting up, then down, then up, then down – keep lengths of handles approx. the same to begin with – DO NOT EXAGGERATE. We still will want the ruffles to look the same length, across hem of skirt. Handles should NEVER be any LONGER than necessary.

In the next two steps we reconfigure position of points and length of TOP handles.

  1. Using White Arrow, move Anchor Points so rolls coming forward are wider – and those with curves going back are MUCH narrower. Receding curves should be MINIMUM 1/4 as wide as those coming forward. Wider objects come forward, smaller objects recede into distance.
  2. Using White Arrow, go in on each anchor point and pull the TOP HANDLE down, so that it is MUCH shorter, top handles should be MINIUMUM 1/4 the size of bottom handles. For the moment keep the bottom handles at original length. Depths are larger coming forward, much narrower going back into distance.
  1. Using the straight Line Drawing tool, draw a line heading up the skirt at each point, alternating heights. Line on left side of wide rolls should angle right, line on right side of wide rolls should angle left. Angles are around +/-20 to 25deg, as the vanishing point softens when it crosses the hips.
  1. Select ONLY the lines (not the skirt) and apply a Tapered Stroke. This can be found in the Stroke panel. It is on the bottom, labeled Profile. For this issue, I tend to use Width Profile #4 – the one with a flat end. Taper should be AT TOP. (If Tapered Stroke gets applied in the wrong direction, there is a toggle to flip it, directly to right of Profile drop down menu.)

Adding Roundess

  1. Vanishing Points tend to flatten out over the hip. Rolls coming forward in middle of front of skirt should appear widest and deepest. As ruffles get closer to side seams, I tend to adjust them slightly, to shorten not only the back handles, but front handles as well – slightly, to make skirt look as though circling round.
  2. Ruffles right on the seam, treat a little differently. Corner points at the seam I usually nudge up 3 arrows (x 1pt), and also might add a point to move the center of the ruffle closer to the side of the skirt – so it looks as if it is rounding to the back.

Adding Shading

  1. Shading should be added from only one direction of light, for a simple skirt. A triangle can be added directly next to vanishing lines using the Rectangle drawing tool for speed. Draw out a narrow rectangle same height as vanishing line, adjust bottom points so rectangle sits up against the skirt hem, delete the left top point. Move the remaining top point directly against the tapered stroke so fits right in. Usually only add 2 or 3 patches of shading on a simple garment. There are two ways to add shading: 5-15% opacity black, or more traditionally – using a pattern for shading lines.
  1. TRANSPARENCY. Select the triangle, fill with pure black, in color picker where indicates number, write in #000000 (otherwise may come out a dark reddish grey). Go to Appearance Panel. Empty out stroke if necessary. Click on opacity, change to 15% or less – use your judgement, every printer is slightly different.
  2. PATTERN. Open up Pattern Library for Basic Line Patterns: Window>Swatch Libraries>Patterns>Basic Graphics>Basic Graphics Lines, add first stripe pattern to Fill, empty color from stroke if necessary. With Selected, open up Object>Transform>Rotate, check PATTERN ONLY (uncheck Transform Objects) – rotate MINUS 45deg. Then open up Object>Transform>Scale, check PATTERN ONLY, and scale by 50%.
  1. BACKS. Move the zipper pull to the other side if on the side, lower length of vanishing lines somewhat, as vanishing points tend to spread out further over the bum. Adjust ruffles so look a bit different. Also, remember – waists on backs generally round up, are higher than fronts – to cover the bum.

Chain Brush

How to Make a Chain Link Pattern Brush


Select Ellipse drawing Tool in Tool Bar. Click once on Artboard to bring up the Made to Measure dialog box. Input width 1.2 in, height .8 in. Can scale brush later.


Add/Increase Stroke on ring to 8 pts. Empty out fill.

Outline Stroke. Select object with Black Arrow, go to Object>Path>Outline Stroke. Outline Stroke changes the stroke of an object to a shape with fill. To use Outline Stroke properly, the object should have only a stroke – with NO fill – be sure and empty fill before applying Outline Stroke.

Mr. Clean. After outlining stroke, apply the Default Style. With object selected, go to the Tool Bar and find underneath or on top of fill & stroke (depending how you have your document set up), a miniature-sized tool with a white fill on top of a black stroke. This is the Default Style short-cut I call Mr. Clean. It applies a white fill and 1 pt black stroke to any object. I call it Mr. Clean because whatever appearances – dashes, brushes, effects, etc – may be on an object initially, Mr Clean will with one click clean it all off and return the object to Default Style. Very Handy!

Metal Color Fill. Fill object with a Metal color. (If you want the metal to “shine” see Add Gradient section at bottom.) You can access Color Libraries from Menu Bar under Window>Swatch Libraries>Metal or by clicking on Options Bar on Swatches Panel to access Open Swatch Library>Metal.


Width of Repeat. Select ring with Black Arrow and holding down ALT, pull off a copy of the ring. Move copy to where want next link to begin. With second copy selected, double click on Black Arrow on tool bar to bring up Move Tool. You will see recorded the last distance moved. Illustrator remembers inside the Move Tool (also available under Object>Transform>Move Tool) the distance of last object just moved. We can use this to our advantage to determine Width of Repeat.


We will be using this measurement later to create the Placement Box for our repeat – what I call the Secret Square. Knowing will be using later, I always round up the width to a measurement that is no more than two digits in, so it is easy to use, and will often record it on layer in layer panel to keep for later.

Rounding Up. After determining basic measurement, in this case .9391, delete the 2nd ring. Reselect first ring with Black Arrow, double click on Black Arrow to bring up Move Tool. Input Horizontal – your rounded up measurement, in this case .94. Input under Vertical – ZERO. Click on COPY. We want to make a copy and move it the exact Width of the Repeat. We want our Vertical to be 0 – directly in line with the original.

Record Measurement. Go to Layer Panel, and on the layer with the artwork, Double Click on Layer Name, this will allow you to edit it. Record the width moved between the two links – in my case .94. This is known as the Width of the Repeat and it will be used later when creating our overlapping Pattern Brush.


Now we need to create an interlocking Chain Link from ring. It requires we cut out an area on the FIRST ring where it overlaps with the second. We can do this fairly simply with the Knife Tool.


Using Knife. Select first ring with Black Arrow. Zoom in on object – so you can cut with precision using Knife Tool. Select Knife Tool in Tool Bar under the Eraser Tool. Using Knife carefully cut out section on first ring on the bottom where second ring crosses it. Knife is a precision tool. For each side of the cut you will need to begin OUTSIDE of object you are cutting and end OUTSIDE of object you are cutting. This means the cut must start above the stroke and end below the stroke of the first ring. See close up.


After cutting, delete second ring, and then delete shape inside first ring that was just cut. This is Motif for First Instance of the Repeat for our final Pattern Brush.


At the outset of making Pattern Brush I always ensure motif is on its own layer. And then create a layer underneath – which I name the Secret Square.

Copy Link. Select the Link. Double Click on the Black Arrow to bring up the Move Tool. Enter into Horizontal the Width of the Repeat (that we recorded before), in this case .94”. Enter 0 into Vertical. Click on COPY.

Send Backward. Also for the brush to interlock correctly we must now place the second ring under the first. With the second ring selected, go to Object>Arrange>Send Backward.


Get Height. Before making the Secret Square Placeholder for the repeat, we will also need the actual height of the motif. Height of Secret Square Placeholder must clear top and bottom. Select the motif. Height can be found in one of two places – on the Control Bar where it says H: for Horizontal or in the Transform Panel, Window>Transform. In my case Height is .925. So will make height of Secret Square 1.1 in – to ensure full height of motif is easily covered.


Select Secret Square Placeholder Layer. Select layer in the Layer Panel that we previously added underneath Motif – I named mine Secret Square. The Layer itself fills in when selected. We are selecting in order to create the Secret Square specifically on this Layer.

Making Secret Square.The Secret Square is actually a Rectangle that has NO fill and NO stroke and is used by Illustrator as Placeholder to determine for overlapping Pattern Brush the true Width of the Repeat. Select Rectangle Tool. Holding down ALT to create from Center Out, click once (do not drag) at center of the two instances of the motif. This will create the Placement Rectangle at midpoint between the two motifs. The Made to Measure box for the Rectangle Tool will open up. Input the Width of your Repeat, in my case .94 in and height plus clearance, in my case 1.1 in. Click OK. 

Make it Secret. With the Secret Square selected go to Tool Bar or Control Bar and empty out both fill and stroke. 


Make Brush. Select the Secret Square and the Artwork for the brush, drag all 3 objects into middle of the Brushes Panel – release when little green dot with plus sign pops up. If Brushes Panel is not open, open under Window>Brushes. When dialog brush pops up choose Pattern Brush.


Change Spacing to 100%. Pattern Brush Options box will open up. Change Spacing to 100% – for most overlapping brushes this is necessary. Click OK.


Apply Brush. Draw a line with the Line drawing Tool, and with line selected click on your new brush in the Brushes Panel to apply it.


Edit/Scale Brush. To scale size of brush, Double Click on Brush itself inside the Brushes Panel to edit it. Enter new scale size. Click OK. Another dialog box will pop up – click on Leave Strokes. Reselect line your Chain Brush is on, reclick on Brush in Brushes Panel to apply new size.


If you want the metallic look of your chain to “shine” you could use a Gradient for the fill, but it requires some extra steps. First open the Gradients>Metals Color Library under Window>Swatch Libraries or Swatches>Open Swatch Libraries.


Expand Gradient. After applying Gradient to fill, with object selected, go to Object>Expand, in dialog box select Fill only (deselect Stroke). Below Expand Gradient To>Specify enter: 15-20. This will break down Gradient inside a Clipping Mask to 15-20 separate objects. Click OK.


Create Brush. As before, copy 2nd instance of motif Width of the Repeat using the Move Tool. Create Secret Square UNDERNEATH inputting width as Width of the Repeat, and a Height that clears both top and bottom. Make the Secret Square INVISIBLE, emptying both Fill & Stroke. Drag Artwork along with Secret Square into Brushes Panel to make the Brush.