How to use Outlines

Why do we need the outlines?

 Without outlines vs With outlines

Fashion illustrations need outlines because without them drawings often look somehow undefined and unfinished. Outlines help the drawing stand out. They will add structure to your sketch and keep the viewer ‘s attention.

How to begin?

Smudged vs Not smudged

One of the worst things that can ever happen to your illustration is to have it perfectly sketched and at the moment you begin to color it the pencil laid below smudges. Ordinary pencils smudge (if you use markers) or are visible in not in a very pleasant way (if you use aquarelle). That’s why I recommend you to trace the fashion sketch using a tone that even if it smudges it will still look all right like light brown shades- you still can see the sketch while you render it, but after you’re finished there is no ugly, non-erasable grey lines below.

First to color or first to outline the sketch?

First things first

Generally speaking, it depends on the case and the media you prefer to use.
I use markers and more frequently it’s easier to lay down the fill color then to outline the shapes, compared to trying not to cross the boundaries you have set.
Except for the times you want to be really, really precise with small details, for instance, I recommend you to color the shape and to outline it later.

What color should the outline be?

Outline colour

Look around you- is anything outlined in black? Black outlines should be applied only to dark grey or black objects.
For any other case use a color that is few shades darker than your fill color. Take a piece of the same paper you use for the illustration and try on different options before applying the outline to your original image.

I miss the right color?

Grey outlines

Use the old trick with the greys. A light grey and dark grey pens are “must-have” for the cases you lack proper outline color. The first goes perfectly with white, light blue and green, pink and yellow. The second one can save you when you miss purple, dark blue and green, brown shades.
Use those wisely and always try the results on a separate piece of paper before applying the color on your illustration.

What to use when outlining white?

outline of white

The best solution that I’ve come to is to use a light grey pen. It seems more natural on the paper and you don’t lose the white’s lightness as it happens when you outline it with black.


  1. I can never find the right color, so I use normal pencil. Is this advisable? I make my pencil lines dark and refined, so the colors stand out. I have already started (not exactly sketches, more like special drawings in a special notebook) drawing. Do you think I should still draw in dark outline if I like it? Thank you for your consideration!

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