Fashion Illustrators the world over use Adobe Illustrator for creating vector artwork for professional fashion and accessory production. The main applications are in creating patterns for garment design and for producing repeat prints in textiles manufacturing.
The program is used at all stages, from creating the initial conceptual artwork to producing the finished pattern line art which is then exported to CAD software. In addition Illustrator is used to construct mood boards or story boards complete with colour-ways. The program's versatility extends to the creation of flyers, posters and even multi-page brochures.
These processes involve working with Illustrator's various drawing tools, as well as modifying existing drawings, and importing photographs and sketches for tracing over. Repeat prints can be created from scratch, or using existing fabric swatches. Colour libraries like Pantone swatches are often used, and can be loaded into Illustrator's own interface. Text and dimensions may be added to the fashion images, as well as company logos and ornate borders. Artwork is finally out-putted for print media or web.
The first step in the whole process is sourcing of images, either from photographs or concept sketches. We then create a new Illustrator document specifying various art boards- these are basically multiple pages, but can be of various sizes within the one document. We then import our sourced images into the Illustrator file using the Place and Template functions. Using the latter option creates a locked, semi-transparent layer which shows our source image, together with a blank drawing layer on top. The locked layer may be unlocked in order to scale or move or rotate the image, then locked again.
The drawing layer having been made active we would then use a variety of tools to draw the garment, for example. It is common practice to create a vertical non-printing guide dragged from the vertical left-hand ruler using the Selection tool, to half the garment - in this way we simply draw half the garment and reflect it to create the other half. One popular method is to use the Pen tool and simply click around the subject creating a very blocky version of the garment. We can then switch to the Anchor Point tool in order to add softness or plasticity to each corner point.
Alternatively, we can use the Pencil tool - this has been improved a lot in the last few versions of Illustrator. Double-click on the Pencil tool to reveal the tool's options. Move the Smoothness slider all the way to the right, to give the smoothest possible interpretation of your line - this will iron out any shaky irregularities in the lines drawn.
Having drawn half of the garment we then select it with the Selection tool, and double-click on the Reflect tool - this will open up the dialog box for this tool. Tick Preview to see the result, and choose the Vertical reflection option. If happy with the result we then hit the Copy button. The two halves of the garment can then be realigned and the top and bottom anchor points joined together. In this way we have a complete object which can later be filled with a Fill colour or a repeat print.
The various garment details are then created in a similar manner, before adding text and colour-ways, and finally exporting the Illustrator file as a PDF to send to a client.
Tom Gillan has been training Indesign to corporate clients in Sydney for seven years. You can learn more about Adobe Illustrator Courses at Design Workshop Sydney.