5 drawing mistakes that are ruining your fashion illustrations & how to fix them

I am well aware that this headline is clickbaity and I am sorry about that. However, I truly believe this is very useful content that can make learning easier and faster for so many people so I will do whatever it takes to reach them. It is frustrating and sad when I see people really put themselves into their work only to ruin their efforts with a few easily avoidable mistakes

First, let me just tell you I am very well aware of how hard drawing figures is for beginners. I have been writing a post on it for weeks now and it’s hard to explain even when you know what you’re doing. 

So I feel you! I get it babes! That said, if you’ve already done all that awesome work, wouldn’t you just love for your figures to look straight-up awesome if you can?

So here they are in no order of importance.

1. Black outline

You know the one I am talking about. That uniform black outline on a colored fully rendered drawing framing a figure on a white background. Eek! 

Why does this happen?

When an artist wants to force a contrast or differentiation between two shapes or a background. There is another reason which might be hard to hear for some, but this happens a lot with young or insecure artists.

How to fix it?

There are a lot of solutions to this, but I will offer you 2 simplest options here. If you feel there is not enough differentiation between two shapes you can 

a. Increase the color saturation or value of the shape

b. Use an outline that is a darker shade of the color you are using underneath eg. you have sking color so you add a slightbrown outline in some places. When you do this the viewer’s eyes will interpret it as a shadow

2. Drawing lines where there are no lines

I most often see this on cheeks, abs (all the time), nose, and lips.

Why does this happen?

What happens is you would like to say something but you lack words: you see there is something happening but you don’t know how to show it on paper. You know there is a bone in the nose and you see a shadow. So you draw a line from the eyebrows to the nostrils to tell us what you are seeing. You can tell it’s not how you want it but you don’t know how to say it any other way.

How to fix it?

There are two fixes to this. 

a. Find someone who does it well and analyze it. Try to find a way to really understand it. Don’t just copy it! Delve into what it is and why it is. Then copy the line style until you get it. Once you do, move past it. Make little changes to it until you make it your own.

b. Accept that in your style at your size you can’t show that shape and that it’s ok. You don’t have to show everything and the viewer will actually appreciate that fact about your images.

3. No face in an otherwise fully rendered illustration

You know the one: there are shadows, there are folds on clothes, there are details, hands, and feet, even embroidery, but the face is blank. Now of course there are many illustrations that don’t have details of the face drawn and they can look magnificent, but if you take a closer look at what good, well-known illustrators whom do this do you will find that the entire figure is very simple, and quick so when there is no face it’s just a logical continuation of the style. It’s part of the expression and style of the illustration. But when you fully render a drawing and leave the face blank, you are sending mixed messages. 

Why does it happen?

My strong suspicion is that in most cases it is because the artist doesn’t know how to draw the face at the same level of realism that they do for the rest of the figures. In other cases, it’s mostly because the artist is trying to imitate a style they like without having a real understanding of why something is.

How to fix it?

There is no quick fix to this. Take a month (or 3) and learn to draw the face. Find at least a way to give suggestions of facial features. It’s something you need and obviously enjoy, so just learn the face. If you like drawing it will be the best spent month of your career

These Proko videos are well-explained and easy to follow. But there is a bunch out there. Youtube truly is a university. If you are in a position to pay I had good experiences with the New Academy.

4. No opinion

What do I mean? You create a drawing based on the reference and you don’t make a single intervention of your own apart from maybe changing the skirt or hair color. You basically make a (slightly worse) copy of the photo.

Why does it happen?

I see it mostly with certain aesthetics which I think are a little prone to uniform, in box thinking. They can also be afraid to change anything as that certain aesthetic is quite safe (you can see a lot of these on Pinterest). Another thing I think happens, is that an artist finally has enough skill to draw certain images and it excites them so much they forget to do an artistic intervention. 

How to fix it?

This one can be a bit harder to fix. For one, I think you should indulge in it a bit. I get it! You’ve been struggling with drawing for a long time and now you can actually draw close to what you like. So enjoy copying photos a bit. It’s fine.

At the same time remember that you are not here to copy photos. If someone wants a photo they can get a photo. And with AI now they can get a perfect digital render too. You are here to create something that the camera can’t. You have something to say so say it! By allowing yourself to say it you will be the first one to listen to yourself and soon others will follow.

5. No sharp angles on joints

Oh, I dislike this one the most! There are elbows and joints, just a curved undefined area.

Why does it happen?

My best guess is because artists feel unsure, they become indecisive and figures start looking like bad paper cutouts: flat and weightless.

How to fix it:

Do this and your drawing will improve by 40% instantly! Remember in illustration it’s better to exaggerate than to be indecisive. If there is a bone close to the skin make it super obvious. An elbow is always better knife sharp than rounded. Knees too! Joints on fingers definitely. We need to know there is something hard within that body, so if you have a place to show it, use it.


These are all true and changing these 5 points will 100% change your drawing for the better BUT to every one of these rules I can show you 100 examples of where doing it does work and is a great artistic choice. The difference between your drawing and those that do work is that they use those elements intentionally and they are very well aware of their effects.

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