How To: Draw A Retro Fashion Illustration

by Cass Art Student Ambassador

We asked Cass Art Ambassador, Lucy Kembey, for her spin on fashion illustration. As a Costume Design student, Lucy often draws influence from past eras, stories and characters, and channels this into her own design style. In this tutorial she shows us how to draw a classic pin-up girl, styled in a playful 1950's Snow White ensemble...


Chameleon Colour Tones Set (pastel shades)

Mixed-media paper (or any surface appropriate for alcohol-based markers)

Graphite pencil

Black fineliner

Watercolour pencils


Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pens (I used Gold, Sanguine and Light Flesh)

Coloured ballpoint pens (Red and green)

Coloured fineliners (Red and blue)

If it's your first time working with Chameleon pens it's a good idea to begin by creating a test sheet and experiment with mark-making, blending and gradients. The pens are cleverly designed, and have two different nibs- the brush and the bullet tip- allowing for a range of line-thickness and strokes. You can use the pens as they are, and I found them to be really nice drawing tools- they blend well together and aren't patchy when colouring in large areas. In order to create a blended effect you can also make use of the mixing chamber, which will infuse the pen tip with toning medium, and create a tonal gradient from light to dark when you draw I found that the lighter colours were most effective for this technique, and achieved the widest tonal range on my drawing. I discovered that darker colours can take quite a long time to infuse fully with the toner- so if you are keen to use these pens to their full potential, make sure you allow time for this. You can also intensify colour easily by layering shades and mixing with other mediums.

Find out more about how to use Chameleon Pens here

Now onto the real thing...

1. Start by sketching your illustration in pencil. This drawing style is quite stylised, so don't be afraid to emphasise or simplify the features. Pin-up girls are typically shown with exaggerated hourglass figures, so I have highlighted my figure's tiny waistline with a knotted bow. Take your time at this stage, and feel free to erase lines and alter details as you go- once you've traced your sketch in pen it will be much harder to correct.

2. Go over your outline in pen. Once you're happy with your sketch you can trace your drawing in black fineliner. Take this opportunity to add extra details, such as eyelashes, creases in clothing and reflections on the hair. I used a range of nib sizes to create a variety of marks fitting to each detail.

3. Begin to colour your figure. Use the Chameleon pens to fill in areas which require a varied tonal quality. I used the shade, Warm Sunset to fill in the shorts, and made use of the colour-change effect to highlight the fabric's texture and create light and shadow. The flesh was coloured using a mixture of Chameleon Pens, in colours Fawn and Bisque, and Faber Castell Pitt Pens, in Sanguine and Light Flesh. I also added subtle makeup to my pin-up girl's face- a hint of the Bubble Gum Chameleon Pen for blush, and red ballpoint pen and Pitt Pen to plump her lips.

4. Sketch the background image. A patterned background really adds to the overall effect of the finished piece. Giving nods to my drawing's tattoo-inspired style I chose to sketch out some stylised roses, and a folded text ribbon.

5. Begin to colour the background. After outlining your background pattern with black fineliner, use Chameleon Pens to fill some of the larger coloured areas. The rose petals in my drawing were filled with a matt layer of the colour, Bubble Gum, and then layered using the same shade to create areas of intense tone. The colour, Bisque, was used to create a zig-zag pattern in the centre of the petals, and Fawn added darker areas to suggest shadow on the petals.

6. Add more colour with watercolour pencil. Using watercolour pencil alongside the Chameleon pens will help to add a different texture to your drawing. I coloured my figure's top with a vibrant blue shade and added water to smooth out the surface. The red details were added with ballpoint pen, which is a good tool to use alongside wet mediums as it doesn't run when it comes into contact with water.

7. Fill in smaller details with coloured fineliner. Flashes of bright colour can make fun twists and add dimension to your drawing. The white highlights in my figure's hair were filled in with light blue fineliner, and I coloured her shoes with a vibrant shade of red, which ties in with the patterns on her blouse.

8. Complete the background and add finishing touches. The leaves and 1950s banner in the background of my drawing were coloured with watercolour pencils, and water was added with a soft brush to blend the surface. I layered colour towards the outside of the leaves to create shadow, and highlighted the leaves' veins with a darker green ballpoint pen.

Once the surface of your drawing has fully dried take the opportunity to check over your final design, and add small details and hints of colour where needed in fineliner or biro- once you're happy with this your pin-up girl is ready to be pinned-up on your wall!

Feeling Inspired?

Shop for Chameleon Pens and drawing materials online at Cass Art.

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