Beginners guide to Coloring fashion sketches

Does coloring your fashion sketches tend to go wrong? If you see that there is something wrong with the illustration, but you’re unsure what it is and how to fix it, this coloring tutorial will provide you with a dummy-proof coloring technique that you can apply every time and get awesome results. You will learn how to color your fashion design sketches like a pro. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Base colors

Start with a pencil drawing or use the illustration from this tutorial. [download here]. After you have your sketch, fill it in with solid colors. My favorite tool for this step is Copic markers because they provide nice and smooth coverage, but you can use any media that you like. Colored pencils, markers or paint – it is up to you. Just make sure everything is fully covered and there are no gaps.


Step 2: Add highlights

Unlike other coloring tutorials, that put the shadows before the highlights, I think it is easier for beginners to start with the light. Choose colored pencils in shades slightly lighter than the base.

Finding the correct placement of the light is easy. Just highlight the center of all shapes that you see. Imagine that you’re drawing thick centerlines. How thick exactly you may ask? Each highlight is proportionate to its shape and takes less than 1/3 of its width. See the girl with the pants. The highlight of the pants is thicker than where only the bare leg is visible.


Notice also that the centerline breaks when the leg and arm are bent.

I want you to take a look at the centerline of the jacket sleeve. 90% of the centerlines will be vertical, but some shapes are horizontal and so will be their Centerline. In this drawing the wider horizontally shapes are the belt, the bags, the headband and the rolled-up part of the jacket sleeve.

Notice that the centerline of the left girl’s face is curved. Just like the highlights in the center of each hair strand are following the direction of the shape. Make sure you always follow the shapes!

Step 3: Some Blink-blink

This step gives a lot of life to the drawing and if you’re out of time, you can easily leave it just like this. I like to use a white gel pen, but feel free to replace it with white paint or a colored pencil if you don’t own one.

Draw thin white lines in the center of some of the highlights. They are short, irregular and limited in number.

These lines will NOT be thick; apparent in each and every highlight; from end to end of each shape; the same length and thickness everywhere; perfectly straight.

These are artistic touches here and there. Don’t overdo it!

Feel free to add these shiny white lines to the skin, clothes and hair.


Build up the white blinky lines very slowly. Plan each one and check the drawing before you put the next one. Less is more!

Step 4: Draw the Shadows

Now the question is where to draw the shadows in your fashion drawing. I will give you the easiest answer you will ever get – just follow the outlines. Shade the edges.

Refer to your initial pencil drawing and shade each shape around the edges. Focus on the sides, not the top and bottom parts of each shape. See for example the arms and legs – the shading is only on the sides. Also, check out the boots – all the shading is on the side, none on the top edge.

Never shade the hemline of skirts and pants!


The shadows will also be proportionate to the size of the shape they belong to. Bring your attention to the girl in pants again. The pants shadow is way thicker than the one of the leg

Step 5: Add Drop Shadow

All coloring tutorials talk about drop shadow – the deepest shadow in the drawing. But where do we put it? The answer is again very simple.
All you need to do is to mark all the places where something is overlapped.

The head overlaps the neck. The neck receives a drop shadow.
The sweater overlaps the pants. The pants receive a drop shadow.
The dress overlaps the legs. The legs receive a drop shadow.

Choose colors that are darker than those you used in the previous step. Gently darken around the edge each shape that is overlapped by another one.


Step 6:  Some Color Variation

This step is optional. It adds up life to your fashion illustration and makes it look more interesting.

Choose a soft pastel in a shade similar to the original base color, but slightly more blue, yellow or pink. The essence of this step is to use a color that is different in hue, not simply lighter or darker!

Good places to apply color variation:

  • Hair roots and ends
  • Cheeks,
  • Elbows, knees
  • Fingertips and toes
  • The bottom part of each clothing piece

Step 7: Final Touches

The last step is to change the color of the outlines. You can read more about the importance of outlines here. Usually black is too harsh and heavy. If you use sharpies in a color that is deeper than the shadows, you will get more refined and elegant results.

Add Glow to the illustration

Now you know how to color your fashion illustrations. It’s a very simple coloring technique that I use every day and I promise you that the results will be awesome no matter how basic or complicated the design is. Try it out and let me know what you think!

CC-BY-NC 4.0. Share and re-use for non-commercial purposes only.
Always give attribution and a link to I Draw Fashion.


  1. Awesome, you teach really well thank you sooo much for easier our life without expecting money šŸ’œšŸ’œ

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