3 Great Books for Fashion Illustration

Teaching fashion illustration has become one of my great joys, and I’m always happy to provide my students and other budding artists with info on how to get started. Here, I’m sharing my favorite illustration books for beginners.

All of these live on my bookshelf, and I still refer back to them regularly for tips, tricks and techniques. They’re all available on Amazon and range in price from super affordable to super-investment, so you’ll be able to find one to fit your needs no matter what your budget. Oh, and a disclaimer, because this is a thing now: this list is not sponsored or a paid for by anyone in any way — these are just truly some of my favorite fashion illustration books.

1 | Essential Fashion Illustration by Maite Lafuente

Budget: $

I can’t even remember when I purchased this book — probably when it was first published in 2006, so it’s been on my shelf for almost a decade. This slim, lightweight manual covers all the important basics in learning how to draw a fashion figure, from proportions to poses to the perfect fashion face. There are a myriad of poses to learn from, and it examines different parts of the fashion figure (such as arms, legs and feet) in great detail, helping you to draw them at every angle. The best part: It’s SUPER affordable, and you can usually find it in any major bookstore with an art and design section. (In fact, I’ve never NOT seen it at a Barnes & Noble). Amazon even has copies for as low as a penny, so if you snag one of those, you’ve definitely gotten a great deal.

2 | 9 Heads by Nancy Riegelman

Budget: $$

This is a fashion school bible. Nancy Riegelman has been teaching fashion illustration for literally decades, and her book on the subject is used in college curriculums across the country. And with good reason — this is probably one of the most comprehensive fashion illustration books you’ll find. It starts with the body, then goes into very specific detail about drawing faces, hair, clothing, fabric textures and even facial features according to ethnicity. You’ll also see instructions on how to accurately color (or “render,” as we say in illustration) skintones and fabrics so they look authentic. This is NOT a book that can travel with you — it’s very large and quite heavy, but it’s definitely an key reference book to have on your shelf.

3 | Fashion Illustration for Designers by Kathryn Hagen

Budget: $$$

When I decided to get really serious about fashion illustration — but before I was able to enroll in school — I decided to invest in buying this textbook. Fair warning – it is a pricey book (it’s a textbook, you know!… though you can now find used versions that are not as expensive.) I knew it was a book that’s also used for college curriculums, and I knew it would take me step-by-step through learning illustration, from beginner skills to more advanced techniques.

While this is a great textbook — it’s very easy to read and navigate — it’s not quite as comprehensive, in some places, as 9 Heads. However, there are three key things that make it a great book to have: 1) It has exercises at the end of each chapter to help you build your skills. 2) Newer editions have a chapter on using Photoshop to enhance your drawings. And 3) there’s a bonus DVD! The DVD has great video of the author showing you her rendering techniques in real time. It’s just like sitting next to an instructor while they work. (You can see an example of one of the videos here on YouTube.)

So there they are, three books to help you get started in fashion illustration. I hope these help! Do you already have any of these books — or other fashion illustration texts? What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments.

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