Fashion Flats

The ability to draw technical flats is an essential skill for every fashion designer. Flats are used to brainstorm a variety of design options in the early stages of the design process. They are the preferred approach when designers need to quickly brainstorm 50 or more ideas that will be later shrunk to the best 10 included in the final collection. A much more refined version of the same flats is used in factories to get the clothes manufactured. In addition, well-drawn designs flats (aka CADs)  make a beautiful presentation for your clients and investors. Here are the most important things you should know about flats:

 Fashion sketches vs. Flats

It is a common misunderstanding that flats will save you from the challenge of drawing the fashion figure. Unfortunately, model drawings and technical flats are not interchangeable. They serve very different purposes!

  • The main goal of a fashion sketch with a model wearing the clothes is to show the mood, the proportions, the fabric movement & to suggest a styling. It is your chance to make a little black dress look like 1 million dollars apiece. Fashion sketches can sometimes tell beautiful lies to help you sell your ideas.
  • While flats can only tell the truth. Plain and simple flats serve to show the important details that remain hidden in the artistic drawing. Such could be a hidden zipper, the color of the underlining or stitches.
fashion sketches vs fashion design flats

Hand-drawn or Digital?

While many fashion designers and illustrators still prefer to draw their model illustrations by hand flats are usually drawn digitally. The industry standard is to present flats with perfect symmetry, clean lines  and true to life proportions. Digital drawing programs such as Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Manga Studio, and Photoshop make this task fun and easy. If you want to draw technical flats by hand there are some strict rules you need to follow. Check out the “How to draw fashion flats” tutorial for details.

 How to brainstorm endless design ideas

Fashion flats give you the chance to expand your creativity by letting you focus most of all on the actual design. By drawing a basic top flat and trying out different collar types and sleeves you can design something that you might never think of before. Flats let you become a better designer ( don’t confuse a good designer with a person who draws well!) Here is an example of a very basic pants design. 5 different designs were created by simply playing with the pockets. Imagine what you could create by changing the belt, the legs length, adding loops, cutouts, zippers, stitches…..

flats- detail variations of pants

Many styles of drawing Flats

design FLATS variations of techniques

Flats serve the purpose to clearly show the design elements therefore you need to keep the drawing relatively simple.  The classic approach is to use just black ink lines. Yet you can add shadows for extra realism or even show the fabric in some cases. You can draw realistic folds or keep it very minimal. Flats allow you less artistic creativity compared to model sketches but you can still have a unique personal style in drawing them. 

Using design flats to present your ideas

In this illustration I’ve used flats to show different color options. It is common to show fabric swatches next to flats or Pantone # of the color.


In the below illustration I have drawn the front and the back view of the dress adding a fabric swatch “Design notes” field. Design notes include sleeve length, buttons size, etc. & can be either included like this or as arrows + some text.

Design 10

I hope this post helped you understand design flats better/ – how and why should we use them. Stay tuned for the next tutorial where I will share important tips for drawing nice technical flats.

If you wish to see your design ideas professionally illustrated you are welcome to contact me for commissions here.


  1. I am working on a book and might need some fashion flats to illustrate how to cut the patterns.

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