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Katherine Gerdes | Design Journal and Portfolio

How To #1 “Croquis”

Okay…so let me get this out there, I am NOT a natural born illustrator! Now before you go “Aww…Katy, that’s not true! I love your illustrations…” let me explain. This is not a cry for compliments like when a girl says “I’m fat!” and all they really want is for someone to respond with “you’re not fat! You’re totally skinny…like, yeah…” I merely have this belief that I am a great designer, but I am not an artist! I couldn’t paint a pretty picture to save my life and that same goes for fashion sketching. I can’t just sit at the bus stop and whip out a fantastic illustration (like Robert Best can! Damn that boy can sketch!). I’ve put years into figuring out my “style” and developing a book of croquis (correct term for fashion body) to use and trace over. That’s right…I said trace! I’ll slip the croquis under some paper and re-draw and sketch my ideas. If I don’t do this, you’ll get something that looks like this:

sketchbook

Yes, it gets the point across, but it ain’t pretty!

So, my point to this rambling is that when I was in school and desperately trying to figure out how to fashion sketch, I realized that there isn’t much out there for people to read and learn from! There are some fantastic books out there for fashion sketching (see list at end), but they can be pretty expensive, especially for someone who is still trying to figure out if they want to be a designer.

Not that I’m an expert, but I’ve put together a little “how to” to show my process of creating croquis. If people like it, then I might put together some next week on using markers and possibly some sewing techniques… OR if you’ve got questions about how to do something (preferably that relates to fashion design!), then leave a comment and I’ll see if I can help!

Step 1: Finding Bodies/Poses

magazine tears

The first and easiest thing to do is start collecting magazine tears, runway photos, catalogs, ect that have poses you’d like to use. I have a whole folder devoted to this so if I ever get bored and want a new croquis, then I can dig though and find a pose I like. Some of my favorite places to look: Runway shows (www.firstview.com has tons of photos), Lucky magazine, Vogue, and the Delia’s catalog. Preferable you want a picture with tighter clothing so that you can actually see the shape of the body…but once you get better at drawing the shape of legs and arms, then you can start to use these tears just for a reference to the body position.

Step 2: Draw a Basic Croquis

straight pose

I would suggest starting with a very basic straight croquis. This is the easiest to work out quick sketches on (You can see that Jay uses a basic “standing” croquis in the “where are they now” section on “Road to the Runway”). Once you have that croquis, it’s easier to start sketching complicated poses with that as a basic shape, size, ect.

Step 3: Sketching the Figure

sketches

These are the steps I use while sketching a figure, you might find a better way or want to skip a step, but bottom line, it’s all about sketching, sketching and more sketching until you get it right. When I first started, I think it would take me a few hours to get one pose that I really liked, now I can usually finish them in 20-30 minutes. It’s all about learning the shapes and curves of the body.
1.I start by drawing a grid to keep the proportions and size of my drawing consistent. Start by drawing a vertical line, this is your plumb line (or gravity line). If you take a look, you’ll notice that you can draw a vertical line from the chin to at least one heel on almost every pose when they have an unequal balance on both legs. If they are standing balanced (as in my example), the plumb line will fall in between the feet. After this, I’ll draw a series of horizontal lines based on my straight croquis. These are at the top of head, chin, shoulders, bust, waist, hip, rise, knee and ankle.
2.The next step is to rough out the shape. I like to draw circles at all the joints and connect them with a series of lines for the legs and arms. The torso can usually be made of 2 triangle shapes pointing towards each other.
3.After that, I try to “flesh” out the sketch by tracing the pose underneath and start to round out the body. You might need to make your sketch a bit thinner than your photo in order to make it “fashion-y.” You can test it out and decide.
4.Once you have a pretty good body shape, pose and are happy with it, then I like to take one last piece of paper and sketch a cleaner version (since I do a lot of erasing!).

Step 4: Make a Book

croquis book

Now all you have to do is start sketching all the time and keep a book of all your poses! Then when you need to make some portfolio pages, you can grab the poses you like and put them together and start sketching.

Good books, website, ect…

nice basic croquis to download

Illustrating Fashion: Concept to Creation

9 Heads: A Guide to Drawing Fashion

Comments

Join the discussion.

This is very cool. It makes makes me think of back in 6th grade when I thought I wanted to be a fashion designer (ha! good thing I didn’t follow through on that!) but I couldn’t draw people to save my life. I bought this stupid Crayola fashion plate set and threw out everything except the 3 body stencils. I carried them with me everywhere and even made a little folder for them in the back of my sketchbook.

Cool tutorial.

This was a lifesaver! I (being only 15) am in the basic sewing stages haha, but I love to draw but I could never draw a decent croquis, now that I know what the word is. haha, thanks so much, you’re a lifesaver.

How do you pronounce “croquis?” Is it “croaky?” I love your sketches, Katy. You are tremendously talented. This is a great lesson for young designers. Thanks for sharing.

  • #3 Laura K
    20 July, 22:04

it is pronounced “croaky” kind of like a frog! :)

Glad you guys like it! It’s my first shot at something like this, so feedback is very appreciated!

This rocks. Encore. I’m not a fashion designer, but I love this behind the scenes stuff.

Thanks so much for this, Katy. I’ve been thinking about taking a class in fashion illustration lately, and I think this might have been the kick in the pants that I needed. I’ve been designing knitwear lately, but it’s really hard to get your point across when you can’t draw to save your life. :)

katy—first, just want to say congrats on pr3! i just started exploring your awesome (and incidentally bravo-design-friendly) website, and i’m also friends with diana eng (featured her work in our fashion shows). i really love your modern style, and wish you the best!

plus, this croquis tutorial is awesome. thank you for the tips and refs! you make it look so easy, but i’m sure it gets less scary with lots and lots of practice. i’ll have to try it soon! (tearsheets at the ready…)

btw, i lived for the delia’s catalog back in the day! ha. :)

thanks so much! i’m a big fan of your work and this tut is very helpful and easy to follow. im rootin for you on pr!

  • #8 jen
    21 July, 12:15

Katy,
This is awesome! I’m looking forward to more. I studied patternmaking-flat pattern in college. After watching PR last year, I had wished that I would have learned the draping technique. Do you have any suggestions on books about draping or patternmaking in general?
Good luck on PR3 and I love your website.

  • #9 Lori
    21 July, 12:40

I love these! They remind me of my brief fling with design school. Your tutorial makes me feel like drawing again!

I really like your aesthetic and I look forward to seeing more of your work this season!

  • #10 zuppe
    21 July, 16:27

Congratulations Katy! My mom sent me your write up in the Start Trib! I always knew you’d be big! Your designs are awesome! I wish I had Bravo so I could watch you in action! If you can see my e-mail addy, drop a line if you have time (which you probably never do! :) Your b-day sharing high school friend.

  • #11 Stephanie
    22 July, 18:02

This is great! I wish someone had done this as a resource ages ago. For years I worked as the graphics guy for an outdoorsy clothing line, and the designers would send me croquis so that I could flesh them out in Photoshop (adding color, texture, etc). Their drawings were awful: not illustrative of the details in the clothing, tiny in size, just difficult to understand. These illos are supposed to convey an idea to the suits that make the buying decisions, so they’re really important! I hope lots of young design students without a natural sketching eye see this blog and take it to heart. You can’t overestimate the importance of being able to convey your idea on paper.

I’m SO glad you guys like this and find it helpful (or at the least somewhat inspiring!). I will definitely be posting more in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out.

Eric – I completely understand the need to convery your idea on paper! Working at Target you had to present your ideas to many people with no creative genes! If they didn’t understand, then it didn’t make it in the store.

Lori – The book I use on draping is called The Art of Fashion Draping by Connie Amaden-Crawford. It’s a good book to start with, but draping for me is a hands-on learning experience every time. I’m always learning new techniques and making things up as a I go!

This is such a GREAT post! I went to school with so many people who didn’t take the time to create their own croquis and it makes such a great difference in your sketches, since you can concentrate on sketching the clothes rather than the figure- when I was in school, my line included 4 maternity designs, and I had to create my own croquis for sketches. Your tutorial here is a terrific resource!

I don’t do fashion design, but I am involved in the computer game industry and I thought I’d let you know that your tutorial here could also be of great use to Character Artists for games. They too have to create characters with (sometimes gravity defying) costume/fashion and while it’s not quite as glamorous, I’m sure some out there will find your tutorial very helpful!

Don’t feel bad, most major artists use this technique to ‘cheat’. This is especially true of comic book artists, who are usually on insane deadlines. I read one book that states that most of them focus primarily on facial expressions and keep a pose book for the rest. Instead of tracing from fashion magazines, though, they trace from sports magazines. Seems throwing a baseball and throwing a fireball look a lot alike…

  • #16 Rex
    26 July, 06:57

I love how this is sort of kicking Angela in the face. Really good tutorial too, although I cannot draw for beans!

  • #17 Claudia
    26 July, 21:29

awww! i make my croquis exactly like that. for the past year in a half :] i finally mastered my style. and i’m only 15!
thanks so much for posting this. it lets me know i’m on the right track :]

This is going to make croquis drawing so much easier! Do you have any tips for drawing things like knees and ankles though? I always have trouble with them.

I’m also kind of sad that you were auf’d last night. I’ve been rooting for you!

Thanks for this!! My son is interested in design and has drawn some of his own dresses, but has been using a very poor body model that I drew for him (I don’t draw!). I printed out some of the croquis you linked to and I think that will be MUCH more helpful for him. :)

This was fantastic, so I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for a rendering tutorial next – I’m terrible at portraying fabrics! Loved you on the show, by the way. Didn’t particularly care for the green dress, but I think you would’ve done some great stuff if you stayed longer!

  • #21 Melinda
    27 July, 18:34

Val – I don’t have any great tips for knees and ankles…mine always end up being very round! My suggestion for drawing details like hands, feet, faces, ect… is to NOT get too detailed…you don’t want to focus on getting each finger or toe or ankle perfect, it actually ends up showing your mistakes more. I would suggest mimicking the shapes and you’ll have better results usually!

How cool of you to do this! I can’t sew or design a lick, but I love looking at stuff like this to see how you guys do things. It’s really interesting, so thanks!

  • #23 Robbie
    2 August, 23:28

Oh, this is a great tutorial. I need this so bad, haha! I’m horrible at figure drawing – that’s my weak point in art – so it kind of sucks for someone who’s debating fashion design. Thanks for this ^^;

OMG i am only in grade 7 adn hopin 4 become a fashion designer! i can finally draw now! thnx so mauch…nnot as good as that though!

  • #25 ME
    28 October, 12:01

I’m interested in fashion design and your tutorial has really helped me! The girls in my deisgn tech class are going to be SO envious! Thanks heaps!

  • #26 Catrina
    10 November, 01:59

hey katy,
i love your work and even though i dont technically ‘design’ i love fashion and wish i was able to. im 14, so i guess i still have time to learn =]. this tutorial was soo helpful and im thinking about starting up with fashion design. i would love to know what your experience was like on pr3, if u happen to have time in your assumingly busy schedule to reply. not the kind of stuff you see on the show, but what is was like to have that kind of deadline, or shop at mood, or sketch and present your ideas to such important people in the fashion industry. i love your work.

  • #27 stacey =]
    19 November, 18:21

Somehow in looking for the Crayola fashion plates I got your web site. My grandaughter who is 9 wants to get into fashion designing and I was looking for something she could practice with. My daughter (her aunt) told me about Crayola fashion plates but I haven’t been able to locate any and in fact have never heard of them. Still looking. Any suggestions for a budding fashion designer in the making?

  • #28 valerie
    16 December, 01:16

i love this i am going to a fashion school now and this croquis can really teach young aspiring fashion designers how to sketch one kudos!!

  • #29 Dirdra
    3 March, 19:35

hey katy,dat was SUPERB! its a big help.ur a really gud tutor.wud luv to see more lessons and tips from you:)

  • #30 iasha
    18 April, 05:18

hey katy, im 15 and have just decided that i want to take fashion design in college. is it too late? because i have never sketched a good croquis before. by the way, your page is a HUGE help! thanks a lot. is it possible if you would give some ideas about what media to use? (pencil, paper, etc.) thanks a bunch!

  • #31 bev
    21 April, 02:54

This tutorial was great! I’m 15 and an aspiring fashion designer. I’m really into art and I find that I tend to do the body too realistically. It doesn’t end up looking like a fashion sketch. This helped a ton though! There isn’t much out there for aspiring fashion designers, so keep up the good work! I hope to see more of these!

  • #32 Kelsey
    13 May, 14:22

thank you! omg i needed this so badly….............now i can draw! well sorta….

  • #33 Candace
    6 June, 19:07

First of all, I love your designs!!
I’ve been designing for a few years but I used to just draw the outfit and not the croquis. I draw the whole thing now, but I’m having trouble with the shoulders. I either make them too round or too pointy. Can you give me some tips?

  • #34 Brooke
    7 July, 07:28

Thank you for this. I actually did a google search for “sketch” + “fashion” and ended up here. I am wanting a career in fashion design, and its funny (or sad, however u see it) how little is out there (atleast that I have found!) for beginners….people with NO experience. Sure, schooling is great, but you cant walk into a classroom with NO experience in ANYTHING! I’d like to atleast know how to draw a croquis. So, from Mexico to you Miss Kathy, thank you kindly. Kudos to you.

  • #35 Pamela from Mexico
    27 July, 16:37

Hi,Im sedighe ,these are very good ,help me illustration fashion .thanks

  • #36 sedighe
    25 August, 04:32

Hi, good job on explaining but what would you recommend as the perfect proportions, mine always seem to be off.

  • #37 Alyssa
    30 August, 18:24

It’s hard to say what the perfect proportions are… typically in fashion sketching, 9 heads is the recommended proportion (I believe a typical “normal” person is 7) because it gives the sketch super long legs. I tend to stick to drawing at around 7.5-8 because I’ve found that it’s really hard to translate the proportions of a 9-head “fashion” sketch to real life clothes and I’m usually unhappy with the results. By sketching at a more normal length, I have a better idea of what the clothes will look like on a real life person.

Hope this helps!

This is a great resource. I have a lot of trouble drawing figures for the sheer reason of no real practice but i love designing. I am currently applying to art school for fashion design and am going a bit crazy about portfolio construction and timely sketching ect, any suggestions?
Thanks :)

This really gave me hope! I cannot draw worth a lick, everyone else in my family are talented people that can draw and I’m the black sheep that has so many ideas when it comes to clohes but only have scribbles when it goes onto paper and I have to draw it myself. I’m trying to get in to FIDM, In los angeles California for Product Development and kinda lost all hope but this helped alot the project I have to complete seems alot more realistic then a goal I just set for myself and am trying to fufill. Thank you, and by the way your sketches look fine!

FYI… I’m shutting down comments on this article for a while in order to control the spam that’s happening. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me (available in my resume under the “about” tab up top).

James- Portfolios are really hard to put together! Some people think it’s as easy as adding in your new work each time you create something, but in reality you want your whole portfolio to go together and have a “look.” The biggest thing I ran into was figuring out what size/shape to make it. In school they made us do a 14×17 vertical layout and I soon found out that; A: it was WAY too big and B: I sketched mostly in a horizontal (landscape) layout. I’ve just recently found a great 11×17 horizontal portfolio cover and have re-done my portfolio. Because I started out much larger, I had to do A LOT of work scanning, photoshopping and printing to get my portfolio to the right size.

This the portfolio I got. I LOVE their stuff and they have tons of size/shape options:

www.pinazangaro.com

 

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