Fashion Design Apps for Beginners 3: Using Layers to Sketch Outfits

Are you ready to uplevel your fashion design app skills and play with outfit combinations on your body model croquis? Doctor T shares how to use the advanced layers feature in the Procreate app to design a 3×3 summer capsule wardrobe: 3 tops x 3 bottoms, for a total of 9 different outfits!

In this final installment of this digital sketching series, we will use everything we learned in the tutorials Part 1 and Part 2 to create a mini capsule wardrobe.  I am sure many people are finding it a bit difficult to feel inspired during the stressful time of the Coronavirus pandemic, and I’m afraid I’m a bit the same.  So instead of trying to creatively put together a new collection, I’ve returned to an old idea for a mini capsule wardrobe from 2018 that I never got around to sewing. 

Sewing magazines, Apple Pencil, and iPad Pro with examples of drawings of outfits created using apps for fashion design sketching and MyBodyModel custom fashion croquis.
Let’s see use our digital fashion drawing skills to create a mini capsule wardrobe!

This week we will continue to explore the advanced features of the Procreate app on the iPad Pro and using the Apple Pencil, along with the 3 x 3 multi-croquis page from MyBodyModel.

You can try these digital drawing techniques using any smartphone or tablet and touchscreen-compatible stylus, and any drawing app that offers a “layers” feature. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the 9 different free & paid apps that I reviewed in this blog post. To learn how to use layers in the free drawing app Autodesk Sketchbook, check out the “Digital Paper Dolls: Learn Digital Drawing Basics” on-demand video course at MyBodyModel’s Illustrated Style School.

Step 1: Open your favorite drawing app and import your croquis

We will start this tutorial in the same way we have started the previous two tutorials, by opening our drawing app, starting a new project, and importing our My Body Model croquis.

iPad display of the icons of various apps for fashion design sketching
Open your drawing app – today we are using Procreate.
Procreate interface highlighting the addition symbol used to start a new project
Create a new document.
Interface displaying toolbar used to insert a file or photo of a fashion croquis used in apps for fashion design sketching
Use the Tools to import an image or document of the My Body Model croquis.  
Interface displaying a 3x3 layout MyBodyModel fashion croquis page to be used with apps for fashion design sketching
Because we want to test how our mini capsule items will work together, I’m going to use the 3×3 layout with 9 models per page.

Step 2: Choose your garments

Since I had an existing plan that I wanted to work from, I needed to narrow down my choices a bit for this sketch.  To maximize my mix-n-match potential for the 3×3 croquis layout, I’m choosing 3 tops and 3 bottoms.  I want to have a range of silhouettes, so I’m picking 1 t-shirt, 1 tank blouse, and 1 fun summer blouse; and for the bottoms 1 skirt, 1 wide legged trouser, and 1 skinny pant.

Top Patterns: 

Bottom Patterns:

Step 3: Start sketching!

I really like to pencil sketch the basic line drawing of the garment onto the croquis.  

Interface displaying the Brush Library used to access tools like the HB Pencil used for initial clothing sketches in apps for fashion design sketching
As with every tutorial, I’m going to start with a basic pencil sketch, but this time I’m going to use different colors and layers to make sure each garment can act independently.

This time, since I will need to sketch out 6 different garments, I’m going to have to be strategic about their layout to help me keep track of everything.  

Interface highlighting the top row for drawing tops and the first column for drawing bottoms
Let’s sketch the tops across the first row and the bottoms down the first column.

During this step I’m going to rely on the use of layers, changing brushes, and the eraser tool to make sure everything is laid out how I want before I move on to add coloring and finishing touches to the garments.

Interface displaying the labelling of layers in apps for fashion design sketching
Don’t forget to label your layers!  Since we have so many garments happening in this one image, it’s very helpful to use labels to keep it all straight.
Interface displaying clothing sketches on the top row and first column of the MyBodyModel body template page
Don’t forget that you can also hide layers!  This is really helpful when drawing the top and bottom on the first croquis, where the overlapping lines could be a bit confusing.

If you aren’t sure how to select different brushes, erase, or edit layer properties I highly recommend your refer back to Part 2 of this tutorial series.

By the end of this step you should have a basic sketch for each of your garments in a separate layer and should have a basic idea of how well you like the look of the garment lines on your croquis. 

If you don’t like a particular garment, or might want to test a few different options, don’t be afraid to add more layers!  Basic outline sketches don’t take too long, and it is easy to turn them off or delete them if you decide it isn’t quite working out the way you intended.

Step 4: Let’s make a custom color palette!

In last week’s tutorial, we used the Procreate color wheel to pick colors for our design as we went along.  This week, however, since we are creating so many different garments it can be helpful to create a custom color palette so that you can access the colors you need more easily, especially if you want to create many layers for coloring in each garment.

Interface displayaing the selection of a color from the recent history section of the Color selection tool
On the main color disc page, you can see the color wheel, your recent color history, and a space for a color palette.  On the bottom there are more menu items, once of which is “Palettes.”
Interface displaying the a created custom color palette in the Procreate drawing app
On the Palettes page, you can use the “+” button to create a new palette, name it, then add colors to it from the color wheel or from you recent history by selecting a color and then tapping on a blank space inside the palette.

Step 5: Color and ink your sketches

Now that I have a cohesive color palette to work from, I’m going to proceed by creating even more layers to color and ink my garments.  I’m basically trying to get each garment into a “finished” state before I move on to the mix-n-match step.  This is arguably the most fun step, where you get to have fun and explore your brush options!  Play with different tools, brushes, and opacity settings to create colors and textures that mimic your fabrics.

Interface displaying a clothing ideas drawing with layers to get a textured or printed fabric effect and the eraser tool on one fashion croquis
Use as many layers and tools as you need to create your design. 

Have fun and explore your options!  Don’t forget that you can use the erase tool to clean up edges if you need to use a larger brush size to create an interesting texture or patterned design. 

Also don’t be afraid to explore different “techniques.”  How does the brush behave when you smoothly spread it vs. tapping it on the screen?  Do you like the way colors “bleed” when you use them in the same layer?  Or do you want a more bold effect using different layers?  This is your fun time to explore.  I used dozens of different brushes and tools to create my finished garment designs in order to create different fabric “textures” and “weights.”

Interface displaying the Layers panel with some layers switched off
Don’t forget to show and hide layers as necessary.  I find it helpful to hide the pencil sketch after I’ve inked and while I’m erasing in the “coloring” layer.

Step 6: Grouping Layers

At this point you probably have a lot of layers.  This is ok because we are going to group them to help simplify things!  To group two layers, simply select one layer and drag and drop it onto another layer.

Interface displaying the combination of layers in a group in apps for fashion design sketching
We are going to create a group for each garment.  I only want to group layers that I play to use in my final image, which is the coloring layer and the inking layer.  The pencil sketch does not need to go in this group.

In Procreate we have the ability to rename the groups, just as we can rename layers.

Interface displaying the renaming of groups of layers the same way layers are renamed in apps for fashion design sketching
I’m keeping the group names simple, like “Skirt” or “Wide Pants.”  If you prefer, you could use the pattern numbers or pattern names to keep track of the groups as well.

Next, I’m going to repeat this process for each of the 6 garments.

Interface displaying the repetition of grouping of layers for each drawn clothing sketch
The use of groups has not only simplified the layers menu, but it will also give us some additional useful tools later as well.

Finally, I’m also going to group together the pencil sketch layers, just to simplify the layers menu even more.

Interface displaying the original pencil clothing sketches grouped separately
I can basically turn off the pencil sketch layers at this point, but they are still there if I need to turn them on for reference later.

Step 7: Adding the body form and copying layers

Next, because I want to have a body form on the finished image to show someone wearing the clothes I’ve just sketched, I’m going to trace the MBM croquis.  Though I could trace the body from by hand multiple times, I’m instead going to use the “Copy” feature to replicate the body layers.

Interface displaying the copying a layer for the parts of the fashion croquis body template showing past the clothing sketches
I’m going to trace the part of the body that would “show through” under the tops I’ve sketched.  Then, I’m going to choose the “Copy” option to create multiple versions of this layer.

There are multiple ways to replicate layers, and we will look at another technique later.  For this technique, to paste the body layer we just copied, we have to choose the “Paste” option from the Tool menu.

Interface displaying the pasting of the copied layer in the Actions toolbar
The tool icon has lots of useful options, including “Paste” which can replicate a copied layer.

I repeat this step for all part of the “top” of the body, including the skin coloring, inking, and hair layers.  For each copied layer, I drag and drop to reposition it over a new croquis.

Interface displaying the dragging and cropping of a copied hairstyle element over another fashion croquis
Simply drag and drop your copied layers to reposition them over the other croquis.

Next we do a bit of reorganization and clean-up work.  Make sure to add the body sketches to the appropriate garment grouping, and drag them to the bottom of the list so that the body looks like it is “under” the clothes.  Then, by toggling layers on and off, erase anything that you don’t want to show through your final garment sketch.

Interface displaying the erasure of the skin tone layer under areas where a fashion drawing top is sketched
Have the skin layer be the active layer, but also have the outline of your garment visible – it makes it really easy to see where to erase.

Finally, the process is repeated for the body body croquis.  It isn’t as complicated here because I’m doing 2 trousers, so I only need to add shoes as accessories, and only need to sketch the legs to go with the skirt.

Interface displaying the repetition of layers and coloring for the legs
Repeat the process for the bottom garments.  Make sure to order the layers correctly in the groupings – it will be important before moving on to the next step!

Step 8: Flatten your layers

Right now we have 6 garment groups, with many layers inside each of them.  However, to simplify the remaining steps, we want to be able to treat each garment as a single layer moving forward, so we are going to use a technique to combine all of the layers in a single group.  Select the group by tapping on it, then choose the menu option to “Flatten.”

Interface displaying the Flatten tool to combine all layers of a finished garment group in apps for fashion design sketching
If you Flatten a group it will smash all of the layers together into a single layer.  Make sure you only have things you want in your final image in the group, and make sure they are displaying in the right order!

After you Flatten your group, you can have a single layer of each garment.

Interface displaying the combined result of the Flatten toon in the Procreate drawing app
After the flatten step, you will have a very simplified list of layers.

And this is when we can really see the collection sketch coming together!

Interface displaying the flattened garment groups for all of the clothing sketches on various fashion croquis
Here we can finally see the six garments we have designed on the page in their almost final forms.  

Step 9: Time to mix-n-match

The next step is when the magic of the mix-n-match wardrobe sketch is almost ready to happen!  Currently, we have one copy of each garment, but we will need to create 3 copies of each layer to fill out our 3×3 croquis page.

Interface displaying a highlighted section of layers to make copies of each garment layer
Even though flattening simplified our layers list, we are about to make it much more complicated again by duplicating the garments.

Previously, we used the Copy-Paste technique to replicate layers.  This time, we will try a new technique called “Duplicating.”  To do this, choose a layer from the layers menu, and swipe left to reveal extra menu items, and choose the one that says “Duplicate.”

Interface displaying the method of swiping left and choosing Duplicate to duplicate a layer
Swipe left on a layer name to see options for that layer.  We want to use “Duplicate” to perform a copy-paste function of that layer.

Once we have the duplicate layers, they will appear directly on top of the current layer (you may notice the opacity of your drawing increases when this happens).  To move the duplicates, simply select that layer, and drag and drop to the new position, as we had done previously.  I am moving copies of the bottoms across the page horizontally, and copies of the tops down the page vertically to create the 3×3 grid.

Interface displaying the duplication of a skirt sketch twice and repositioned onto two more croquis
Position the duplicate garments over the other croquis so that they will line up with the tops.  It is helpful to turn off the views of the other garments while repositioning over the body forms.

When we use this process on the tops in the collection, we want to make sure to have the top layers positioned above the bottom layers so that it looks like the bottoms are under the tops, as these garments would be worn in real life.

Interface displaying the repetition of the duplication of tops and repositioning over drawn skirt clothing sketches
Make sure that the layer order is correct so that it looks like the tops are being worn over the bottoms.

Just to keep track of everything, I like to rename the layers one last time so that I know if the layer is in the first, second, or third position (row or column, depending on the garment).  This will be helpful for the next step where we will do one last round of clean up.

Interface displaying the numbering of duplicate layers with the same name to organize in apps for fashion design sketching
Renaming layers might feel tedious, but it is really helpful for keeping organized and not accidentally erasing something you meant to keep.

Step 10: Finishing Touches

Depending on the opacity of the coloring tools you used, you might see the bottoms showing through the tops in a way that would be unrealistic in real life.  We will use the eraser tool one final time to clean up anything that shouldn’t be “showing through” in the final image.

Interface displaying all finished fashion croquis with some elements erased and others remaining for comparison
Notice the difference a last eraser touch up makes.

After we do this last bit of clean up we are almost done!

Interface displaying correctly layered finished layers in apps for fashion design sketching
Everything looks cleaned up and is almost ready to go!

Step 11: Export and share!

Finally, after all that work, we can share our capsule plans!  For my final images I like to turn off the My Body Model Croquis so that only the finished image lines show through.  The tools setting has a lot of options to Share – pick your favorite file format and export your image to be used later!

Interface displaying the exporting of the finished document
Make sure everything is the way you want it, then use the Tool icon and choose the Share menu to export your final image from Procreate.

And then we are done!  Enjoy your final picture, share with tag #mybodymodel on social media, or print and post the inspiration by your sewing machine, on your mood board, or in your sewing journal!

Nine finished fashion drawings created by apps for fashion design sketching
Enjoy your final inspiration image and get to work sewing your dreams into reality!


And that concludes our three-part tutorial journey!  Hopefully you have learned a few things. We covered how to get started using digital sketching, how different apps can provide similar functionality, and how to use some of the more advanced features to create fun wardrobe plans. 

While digital sketching might not ever replace the feel of working with real, tactile drawing and painting tools, you can create similar images with much less time, mess, or expense.  Having infinite canvases and tools is a bonus, as is the ease of sharing your final product.  Plus, being able to keep everything on a single tablet means that sketching can happen almost anytime, without any elaborate setup for paints, paper, or tools, and all of your work is safely stored within the app. 

Being able to pair these sorts of drawing apps with the My Body Model croquis has really allowed me to explore my creative wardrobe building ideas. I hope that with these tutorials you are inspired to digitally sketch out some fun wardrobe plans of your own!

Feeling inspired? Here’s more fashion drawing inspiration and capsule wardrobe ideas.

Click here to learn more about beginner fashion drawing & digital drawing courses at MyBodyModel’s Illustrated Style School.

Did you enjoy this tutorial? Please pin and share!

In Fashion Design Apps for Beginners Part 3: Using Layers to Build Outfits, Doctor T creates a mix & match summer capsule wardrobe on her custom fashion croquis with the iPad Pro sketch app Procreate.

Please let us know in the comments: Have you tried any new-to-you digital drawing techniques as a result of this tutorial series? What tutorial topics do you want to see next?

4 thoughts on “Fashion Design Apps for Beginners 3: Using Layers to Sketch Outfits”

  1. Dear Dr T
    Wow! What an amazing set of tutorials you have produced. I can only imagine the amount of time and effort that took and I can’t tell you how appreciated it is. I am a technophobe but your work here has really inspired me to try these techniques – normally I would be drawing on paper. I love My Body Model doodling and sketching but using digital artwork takes it to a different level.
    Thank you so very much!

  2. This series answered so many questions I had about using Procreate and some I didn’t know enough to ask! Thank you for inspiring me to get back to sketching my sewing/design plans and thank you for validating the way I use the eraser tool (I had thought that was “cheating”)!

  3. Agree with Marni – Wow! What a great series of articles/visuals you have gifted us with – much appreciated! Thank you, thank you! 😊

  4. Can u do a tutorial on the same for Autodesk Sketchbook, I really don’t know how to use layers over there…🙁✌🏻

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