Inkscape Tutorial: Fashion Woman

Fashion_thumbThere are a few ways to approach line art illustrations. This Inkscape tutorial is a walkthrough of creating a fashion illustration based on a photograph.

It is a bit more advanced tutorial, and some knowledge of the Inkscape interface is assumed. If you are new to vector drawing with Inkscape you may want to read this article first: Line Art Basics

Use of  stock photos

Stock photos are great for reference and they help those of us that are not so skilled in drawing human figures. For the purpose of this tutorial I selected a stock photograph that was suitable as a whole, but often you may find that you need to combine parts of several pictures to create a good illustration. The principles are the same tho.

Select pictures that show upper body or a full body, preferably depicting some action. For the tutorial I made use of this picture from  The site requires registration, but then you have access to a wealth of free stock photos. Please read the licenses before use.

Layers in Inkscape

I organise my work in layers. In general, my coloured line art illustrations have a minimum of 3 layers: background, colour, lineart. But more layers may be added, depending on complexity of the work. For this illustration I ended up with the following layer structure:

  • outlines
  • details (eyes, eyebrows, lips, ear, hair band)
  • shading
  • skin_clothing
  • hair
  • background
  • (and the default layer 1 which held the imported picture and was deleted upon completion)

Don't worry about those too much yet, I will tell you when to create them.

Click on any of the images below to see a larger example.

The Fashion Illustration

The face outline

Open up Inkscape and import your picture (File > Import) on the default layer (Layer 1). Lock the layer by clicking on the little padlock next to the layer name in the status bar. This way you cannot accidentaly select it whilst working on other things.

Open the layer manager (Shift + Ctrl + L). Click on the + symbol to create a new layer. Name it "skin_clothing" and create it above the current layer.

Use the bezier tool vsd_inkscape_beziertool and draw a path following the outline of the face. Use the node tool vsd_inkscape_nodetool to adjust the path after drawing.

Fill the shape with a skin tone (left click with the mouse on a colour in the colour palette).



Hide the layer "skin_clothing" by clicking on the <eye symbol> so we can continue our work. Create a new layer: "details".

Use the bezier tool again to outline lips, ears, eyebrows and nose. Create a simple V-shape for the eyelashes and an ellipse for the eye itself. I did not bother to draw eyelashes for the left eye as I will copy them from the right eye and show them behind the "skin_clothing" layer later. Keep the shapes simple. Less is more.

Give the shapes a simple fill and show the "skin_clothing" layer by clickin on the <closed eye symbol>  to check your work.


Let's complete the work on the eye. Use the bezier tool to create a boomerang shape that follows the outline of the eye, and follow the iris on the inside.

Remove the stroke (hold down shift and click on the X in the colour palette with the left mouse button) and apply a radial gradient in any colour you like. Use the Page Down key to move the shape behind the eyelashes and the iris.

Draw a simple triangle shape with the bezier tool to show the white of the eye, give it a fill and move it behind the eyelashes and the iris (Page Down key).

I decided to deform the ellips for the iris a bit. Use "Object to Path" from the Path menu, and use the Node tool to move the left node a bit inwards.

Draw a simple shape with the bezier tool to fill the area in the mouth and give it a white fill. That should look pretty cool already. 



Create a new layer just on top of the "skin_clothing" and call it "shading". Shading in Inkscape is easiest done on its own layer, so it is easy to adjust the transparency without affecting the other shapes. Hide the other layers whenever they interfere with your work, show them again to check the results.

Use the bezier tool to draw a few shapes for the shading. In this kind of illustrations I keep it quite simple, just near the eye, back of the neck and below the chin. Use the stock photo for reference, but as you can see I left the shading near the nose out completely. I set the shading layer to about 30% opacity.

The shading can be easily made to fit by using path operations as discussed in the Basics section.


Arms and Clothing

I could show step by step to do the arms in a similar way, but I reckon you can work that part out on your own. Use the 2 existing layers, "skin_clothing" and "shading".

There are some "open paths" here, the line strokes that mark the fingers and the bend of the arm. These will move to the outline layer later.


Work on the skin_clothing layer and make a path along the outline of the clothing. You can follow the lines exactly, or give your own twist to it. In this type of illustration I do not care about folds and creases in the clothing. It is all kinda clean. Add some shading on the "shading" layer.


Check your results! Pretty cool aye? 


So far we did not bother about the hair, and from now on it is all freestyle decorating. I decided to make my fashion model a brunette. The hair is drawn on its own layer, below the "skin_clothing". I think that a hair band will look great, so I draw a hair outline closely following the shape of the head. In the mean time I try to decide a basic colour scheme for the outfit.


Perhaps some curls will spice up the design. I use the bezier curve tool, with Shape set to "Triangle In". I draw some funky paths. As the shapes are very thin, I change the width of the applied effect in the Path Effect Editor. I set the width to 5.

Select all curls and use "Object to Path" in the Path menu. This applies the path effect permanently and allows further manipulation without side effects. Add the hair outline to the selection (hold down shift and select the hair). Then choose "Union" in the Path menu.


Draw an ellipse and copy that a few times to make the outline of the hair a bit more organic. Select the elipses and union them with the hair.


Hair band

Switch to the "details" layer". Draw the shapes for the hairband with the bezier tool. Apply a fill to your likings.


Clothing and Patterns

Apply pattern fills to give the clothes a vintage look. When you use semi-transparent patterns, duplicate the clothing shape before applying the pattern fill. The solid filled shape will then show in the background. I have applied the pattern fill "wavy" here, that comes with Inkscape, and I did duplicate the clothing shapes.


Note: export of patterns to eps format was not supported before Inkscape release 0.47. And even with this version the results are sometimes unexpected. If you must deliver your illustration in eps format, you may want to consider use of regular fills / strokes only. If non-vector objects are allowed in the resulting file then rasterizing of the patterned object is also an option. I have redrawn the clothing style in the eps file that is available for download to ensure it contains vector objects only.

Emphasize outlines

The easiest way to create stronger outlines is to duplicate the object you want outlined and just show the stroke, as explained in the basics section.

Create a top layer and name it "outlines". Choose the shapes for which you want to emphasize the outline, be selective it is not needed everywhere. For each of these shapes:

  1. Duplicate (Ctrl+D)
  2. Move the duplicate through all layers (shift + page up) to the top layer where it can be displayed.
  3. Remove the fill and set the strok to a desired weight. I typically do not outline with black for this type of illustrations, but use a colour that emphasizes the shape. I used a dark brown for the outlines of the skin.

Create a background for your figure. I used 2 simple rectangles in different colours, some lines and some cute flower shapes. You can create flowers like this very easily with create cloned tiles. My flower design tutorial shows exactly how. The image on the right shows the reworked illustration which does not contain any pattern fills.


That's all folks! I hope you liked this tutorial, feedback is appreciated.



Please do not claim this design as your own. Read our TOU.



-1 # Guest 2010-02-08 05:37
Thank you :-) After five hours of tiny works with curves I have very nice picture of my girlfriend. But I dont know how to make some pattern to her dress - she has red gown
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+2 # syllie 2010-02-08 08:04
Hi Dalikos,

It is great to see that you progressed from the beginner tutorials to this intermediate one! If you keep up practicing, it will go faster too.

It is VERY easy to make patterns in Inkscape, but there are a few negatives there too. First let me show you how it should work:

As you can see there is a small gap between the 2 patterns, which may or may not be a problem. This artifact can spoil a design tho. Tho there are some ways to improve it, it goes a bit too far to address that in this comment. Let me show you how I solve it in drawings like this:

Another way is to create your pattern manually (use cloned tiles) and make it large enough to cover your complete shape (dress). Unlink the clones, and clip them using a duplicate of the shape (dress) as clipping path. This is similar to last step of the cartoon fish tutorial.

There are some drawbacks to both methods, and I advise you to try this tutorial in the Inkscape Guide, as it explains the current problems:

More info on how to create and edit patterns in this chapter:

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-1 # Celeste 2011-01-24 17:31
I'm used to drwaing by hand. Al this seems very difficult to learn. Is all this necessary to become a fashion designer or can it still be done by hand?
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-1 # syllie 2011-01-26 06:07
Hi Celeste,

There is a big difference between drawing by hand and using a vector program like Inkscape so I can understand the difficulties you are experiencing.

This tutorial reads "Fashion Woman" for title, but it has little to do with the drawing and design techniques that are used for fashion designs.

Most artists create their work "by hand" to start with, and only use a vector program to clean up their design, ink the lines and colour the drawing. Working with hand drawn sketches is also the method of choice in fashion design, as ideas spring to mind by observing the surroundings, and what better way to catch those ideas in your sketch book?

This Inkscape tutorial is basically an "follow the lines" tutorial that may be used to clean up such a hand drawing, but that is in my opinion not where the skills are. The ability to create something from scratch, to start with a blank piece of paper and work that into a design or artistic drawing is what counts. Learning to work with a "tool" such as Inkscape is just a next step.

Also, this tutorial is targeting intermediate Inkscape users. If this was your first tutorial, you may be better off trying the Kokeshi Doll or the Cartoon Fish tutorial as they are intended for absolute Inkscape beginners.

Some links for your information:
  • Have a browse to altho it nowadays carries a lot of advertising, it still is an awesome and online free fashion design course
  • If Inkscape (or vector drawing) is not your thing, you may be more comfortable with an "natural drawing" program. There are several free programs around, MyPaint and Pixia are good examples for that (Google is your friend). Also programs like TwistedBrush (free version with limitations) and Artrage (no longer a free version, but dirt cheap) may suited.

I hope this feedback provides some pointers.

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+2 # Blanco111 2012-06-25 15:07
I learned a lot from this tutorial, and I liked the way my image came out. I need to get better with the Bezier Curve. Here's mine. Thanks for making these tutorials available.
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