Technical Drawings: The Missing Link between Vision and Reality

Technical Drawings: The Missing Link between Vision and Reality

Fashion Illustrations by René Gruau.

When designers are profiled there are two classic settings in which we usually find them. The first is with sketch pad and ink in hand, translating ephemeral ideas onto paper for the first time. The second classic setting is in the atelier where a designer is doing a fitting of the toile or garment on the model. It would be nice to think that the work of a designer is as romantic as this, that their work can translate so quickly from vision into a tangible garment but in reality there are some very practical middle steps between the sketch pad and the catwalk.

One of these in between stages occurs when a sketch or fashion illustration is translated into a technical sketch, a form of blue print for the pattern and construction of the garment. While a fashion illustration will capture a mood, a sense of proportion, colour and fabrication – the technical sketch helps to translate the garment into something which a whole team of people can begin to work on. If you gave 10 pattern makers a fashion illustration to work from, without any further instructions, you would likely get a whole range of responses, barely even resembling the same garment. And while each pattern maker will create a slightly different pattern from even a technical sketch, it will more than likely be very much the same, aside from small fit and construction variations.

Technical drawings are also often referred to as tech sketches, line drawings, design development sketches (DDS) and even flats. The last name refers to the way that they are drawn – when you are working on a technical drawing it is best to imagine that it is lying flat on a table so that you are viewing all the details from either the front or the back and no detail is left behind. Most companies will have at least a front and back drawing for each garment, and occasionally where needed there may also be a need for zoomed in detailed drawings or side views in order to show how panels travel around the body or how sections of the garment are to be made.

Different companies will use varying levels of garment detail – some will only outline the basic seam lines while others will outline all the topstitching, zooms for type of buttonhole, beautiful linework for gathering etc. In some companies the detail of the sketch will develop as the garment is worked on. As decisions on the type of zipper, or topstitching are made, the drawing may be updated.

Originally these drawings used to be hand drawn but many companies now use Adobe Illustrator to create their line drawings so that they are easy to alter and copy into lookbooks, range plans, specification sheets – basically the whole paper trail that helps make or sell a garment.

Here are a few basic pointers for creating good technical drawings, especially when using Adobe Illustrator:

  • Have a consistent sense of proportion and make sure that the garment you are sketching would actually make sense on the body. For example, how long are your jacket sleeves next to the hem of the jacket? Where are the buttons placed in relation to the lapel and bust point?
  • It may help you to use a template to keep drawings looking like they are part of the same collection. You can do this by adding a template to a lower layer and using low opacity top layers to draw over the top.
  • Use consistent line work throughout. Like illustrations, everyone will have slightly different styles for their tech drawings, but it is best to make aesthetic decisions early in each project about what looks best and carry the decisions through. If you are using 1pt lines then don’t have some drawings with 2pt and some with 3pt – especially when doing dashed topstitching lines as it may look as though you are indicating different stitching techniques.
  • Build your drawings for the end use that you need. If you intend to fill the drawing with coloured or patterned sections, or to have greyed out sections to indicate contrast, then you should build these as complete paths from the beginning.
  • Technical drawings work best when they are very symmetrical, so complete half first and then mirror for the second side. Then you may need to play with the proportions to make it look right.
  • If you are having trouble with the stroke size scaling when you don’t want it to, this can be changed under Illustrator>Preferences>General>Scale Strokes and Effects. Turn this off to make the line work stay the same size.
  • To make button placements and design line work that is evenly spaced, make friends with the alignment tools as they will evenly space out objects.

It must be said that while a good technical drawing makes an excellent tool, it cannot be relied on that everyone will follow it exactly. Often when these drawings are sent to factories to be used in mass production the drawing is only likely to be successful when used in conjunction with a perfect pattern, accurate style sheets describing the construction of the garment, specification sheets describing the finished measurements of the garment and a 100% complete sample garment.

Fashion Illustrations by Rene Gruau from Swing Fashionista»

Technical drawings from TheCuttingClass.

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