How to Become a Fashion Illustrator

If you have a passion for fashion and drawing, being a fashion illustrator can be your dream job and you’re already one step ahead because they are two of the most important skills to have as a fashion illustrator. 

As easy as it may sound, fashion illustration is actually a quite competitive and challenging career because there are some must-have skills and steps to follow.

In this article, you’ll learn the essential skills/role of a fashion illustrator, and the important steps to becoming one.

What is a Fashion Illustrator

A fashion illustrator is a professional artist who draws or creates digital versions of fashion design concepts such as clothing, accessories, and other fashion-related products. Basically, a fashion illustrator converts fashion design ideas into visuals. 

A fashion illustrator’s responsibilities include:

  • Create illustrations using traditional drawing techniques or digital drawing tools like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape.
  • Study the latest fashion trends to keep up with the styles. 
  • Communicate and work closely with fashion designers and industry professionals to accurately create visual presentations of fashion design ideas.
  • Create fashion design presentations/catalogs. Some fashion illustrators might need to present design concepts. 

Is a fashion illustrator the same as a fashion designer? 

No, a fashion illustrator and a fashion designer aren’t the same. So what’s the difference between a fashion designer and a fashion illustrator?

A fashion designer is responsible for designing the product, such as clothing, accessories, patterns, materials, etc. 

On the other hand, a fashion illustrator creates visual representations of fashion designs and concepts created by a fashion designer through hand drawing or digital media.

5 Essential Skills to Have as a Fashion Illustrator

Becoming a fashion illustrator requires certain skills, and it can be more challenging than a normal digital illustrator because you do need to have better drawing skills. See what other skills you should have as a fashion illustrator.

1. Drawing skill

Unlike a graphic designer, if you want to become a fashion illustrator or any other type of illustrator, you should know how to draw and use different media to draw. 

As a fashion illustrator, knowing different drawing techniques and being able to draw details are very important. For example, you need to be able to show the difference between materials or fabric textures through your drawing. 

2. Creativity

There’s a debate about whether you must be a creative person to become an illustrator. Some people think it’s not necessary to be creative because you can trace, or imitate. But in my opinion, creativity is absolutely necessary as a fashion illustrator. 

A fashion illustrator needs to conceptualize designs and think outside of the box in order to bring ideas to life. Plus, it’s important to develop your own style.

3. Understanding of fashion trend

Even though you might not be the decision maker of the fashion trend or style, you still need to have a basic knowledge and sense of the fashion industry. For example, what are the trendy colors to use, what can be improvised to make the visual presentation stand out, etc.

4. Communication skills

As a fashion illustrator, whether you work freelance or in a fashion company, you need to understand your clients or communicate with the team you’re working with in order to create illustrations that express the design concepts.  

5. Software skills

Although you can use traditional drawing to show your talent, it’s necessary to know how to digitalize your hand drawing

Knowing creative software like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop is an industry standard for many companies. Plus, in most cases, you’ll need to create a digital presentation of your artwork.

4 Steps to Become a Fashion Illustrator

You do need to put a lot of effort into this career, and here are the steps to help you better prepare yourself for it. 

Step 1: Start with a fashion illustration course

It’s highly recommended to take a fashion design/illustration course because it will better guide you to the professional world. Even though you could get really good at drawing on your own, having a systematic education is still necessary. 

Step 2: Develop your creativity

Once you have enrolled in a fashion illustration or fashion design course, you should take advantage of the given tasks and practice a lot. For example, try to create different versions of the same task, and you will see your creative process during your practice.

Step 3: Build your portfolio

As a creative professional, your portfolio is everything. It’s important to have both physical and digital versions of your illustrations to showcase your professional skills. 

In your portfolio, you should highlight your best artworks that show your technical skills, creativity, and attention to detail. It would be a plus if you can show versatility in your portfolio as well because this shows your ability to adapt to different types of tasks. However, your style should be consistent.

Step 4: Network with industry professionals

Building connection is one of the best ways to get you a job in this industry because not only you can advertise yourself, but you also get the chance of being hired. 

Besides that attending networking events, and getting professional feedback from industry professionals would be a great help. 


Still interested in this career? Here are more questions related to the fashion illustrator career. 

How much do fashion illustrators make?

The income of a fashion illustrator depends on many factors such as experience, company, position, etc. According to research, the average salary of a fashion illustrator can range from $60,000 to $86,000 per year.

Can I become a fashion illustrator without a degree?

You could become a fashion illustrator without a degree, but it’s highly recommended that you get a degree in fashion illustration or fashion design in order to get a higher job position.

How long does it take to learn fashion illustration?

It could take you as little as one month to as much as four years (BA degree) to learn fashion illustration depending on how deep you want to get into the industry. 

What is the average age to become a fashion designer?

There isn’t an age requirement for a fashion designer or illustration, but the average age of a fashion designer is 35 years old according to Labour Market Insights.

Where do fashion illustrators work?

Many fashion illustrators work as freelancers. If not, they usually work for fashion design studios, fashion design schools as professors, fashion brand companies, e-commerce, and publishing/magazine companies. 

Final Thoughts

Becoming a fashion illustrator requires creativity, hard work, and technical skills. Developing the essential skills and following the steps from this article should help you get started in the field. 

Let me know if you have any questions or have more tips to share on how to become a fashion illustrator.

About June Escalada
Graduated from Creative Advertising major, worked more than eight years as a graphic designer focusing in branding and Illustration. Yes, Adobe Illustrator is my best friend and I’m passionate about art and design.

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