A Brief Guide to Fashion Design and Character Costuming




Intro (0)

Hello, my name is Anayansi, and today I’ll be giving you a brief guide to effective fashion design and character costuming!


As artists, we all run into problems/setbacks when it comes to the character creation process every now and again. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional, effectively designing clothing for your original creations is an incredibly valuable skill to learn and utilize. Fashion design, which will also be referred to as character costuming in this guide, conveys character personality, motives, and may serve to be a helpful storytelling aide when properly taken into consideration. While every individual is different, here are some universal tips that I’ve learned not only from studying and researching but from years of trial and error with my own work.


By the end of this guide, you will have a brief but concise understanding of the importance of proper fashion design and how to utilize color theory to enhance your designs.

Why Effective Costuming Is Important (1)

Fashion has existed in all societies from their inception and grows with each individual. Beliefs, politics, religion, location, and local culture shape who wears what. Therefore, it is important that before you begin designing clothing for characters to wear, to consider the following:


  • Where does the character live, and in what part of the world do they live? Is their world real or fantastical?

  • Are these characters human? How might being non-human affect their style of dress or lack thereof?

  • Does your character use fashion to enhance their physique or hide it? Why might they do this?

  • What politics does the character adhere to? Do politics play a role in how they dress? Why or why not?

  • What is their personality like? How do they let their identity shape how they dress?

  • Might someone of a different culture than them take offense to what they are wearing? How does appropriating different styles affect them and those around your character?

  • What period does your character live in? How could improperly dressing a character in a period piece affect your audience?


When you ask yourself these questions, and similar ones, we can further begin to paint a mental image of the type of character we want to make. For the purpose of this guide, I will be focusing heavily on westernized fashion trends, specifically in the United States. But feel free to still apply some of these tips to your own works and cultural trends where you see fit!



Developing Character Style and Preplanning (2)

Preplanning is important so we know exactly what type of clothes to curate or design for the traits that are specific to our character. But before someone puts on an article of clothing, they must decide why they are wearing it, where will it be worn, and for how long will the clothing be worn? Designing an ensemble for a character can also encompass hair, makeup, and accessories.


But first, we need to decide who we’re making clothing for. Going back to the previous section, what is your character like? Let’s take my original character, Lydia for example:


Lydia is a twenty-something fashionista who loves bright colors and isn’t afraid to use clothing to enhance her figure to her advantage. She is stereotypically feminine and loves subverting expectations where she sees fit, specifically when it comes to fashion norms. She will often accessorize with bold, statement pieces, such as a show-stopping pair of shoes or chunky necklace. Her style is sensual yet classy, and she takes pleasure in mixing the old with the new!

I recently visited the mall to take photos specifically for this tutorial to give real-world examples on how to mix and match garments to create new looks for your character.

A croquis will help in determining how the clothing drapes our character. The croquis can also help us determine manners in which we can render fabric, or allow us to see how specific pieces may look before we make final choices in the design process.

Because Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, I’ve decided to draw Lydia in an outfit that is both cute and flirty, perhaps for a formal evening out or a dinner date. I’ll be focusing on how color can also impact the mood of clothing and how it relates to the character.

Clip Studio Paint Interface: Tools, Assets, and Color Theory (3)

Tools and Assets can be found in the Clip Studio Paint Asset Store and may aid in the creation of your project. Find tools that best suit your workflow and make it easy to achieve the level of detail you are most comfortable with in your art. I will list links to the tools and materials I have used throughout my tutorial for those curious:

Color Theory may seem intimidating at first glance, but the more you experiment and find what colors work in tandem with one another, you will be able to pull off creative dynamics in the clothing you design. Let’s look at the color wheel:

Hue is the actual color we can physically see, and on a basic color wheel, there are twelve hues. All other known colors can be described as derivatives of these twelve hues.


Value (Light & Dark) describes whether a color is muted or bright and can be changed by adding white or black.


Saturation (or Chroma) describes how submissive or dominant color is.



Next, we’ll begin talking about color schemes, which may be useful if you struggle with making a harmonious color palette for your character’s clothing.

There are no hard rules to a “good” color palette, but whatever works in conjunction with your character’s personality, preferences, and the function of the clothing will work wonders.


I sometimes try different color schemes if I’m not finding inspiration in palettes that I’ve drafted up or found, but if you are just starting out and find yourself struggling, try one of the seven commonly sourced color schemes below

1.) Analogous – Two or more colors that are by one another on the color wheel; ie: red-orange, yellow-orange, orange or yellow-green, green, and blue-green


2.) Complementary – Colors are opposite each other on the color wheel; ie: violet and yellow, green and red, red-orange and blue-green, etc.


3.) Split-Complimentary – A primary base with two colors split between its complementary, ie: red, yellow-green, and blue-green


4.) Triadic – Colors are chosen based on even, triangular spacing, on the color wheel, ie: red, yellow, blue or green, violet, orange


5.) Rectangular – Colors are chosen based upon a rectangular formation on the color wheel, ie: blue-violet, red-violet, yellow-orange, yellow-green


6.) Monochromatic – Any single color is chosen and is mixed with white and black to achieve different levels of saturation


7.) Square – All four points are evenly spaced on the color wheel, ie: violet, blue-green, yellow, red-orange


Having an aesthetic in mind for the clothing you’re designing is fine, but if it disrupts the pre-established narrative or personality of your character, you will need to explain to your audience the choices you have made.


(ie, A character who usually wears dull, muted colors begins wearing bright, pastels to get the attention of someone they like.)


Playing with Shape, Form, and Color (4)

I start by drawing Lydia’s croquis. If you struggle with free drawing a croquis, you can use a 3D model from Clip Studio Paint’s 3D Asset library. If there are no assets to your liking in the library, try searching for some that will suit your needs in the Clip Studio Asset Store.

When making variations, I duplicate the croquis and place them evenly apart on the same canvas. For each croquis, a specific element of the outfit will be changed, be it colors, style, or fabric.

Outfits typically contain a top, bottom, and shoes, but make alterations as you need. Because my story centers around characters living in the real world, I’m going for something you might see someone wearing on the street.

Earlier I mentioned how color can be used to impact the overall garment and be used to dictate the mood of a character. Because Lydia is flirty, I decided to use warm, slightly muted colors to further push this narrative. Even though she usually wears brighter colors, using loud and gaudy colors would make her outfit seem childish and rather tacky for the occasion, which is the opposite of the mood I’m going for.


When I have the outfits sketched, I then color them, making sure to use each color only once or twice throughout the outfit. Referring to the color theory segment from earlier, I make sure to keep the color palettes harmonious for each outfit and try not to exceed more than five colors at a time as not to make the outfit appear too busy. Because these outfits are Valentine’s Day themed, so lots of red-based hues and colors with red undertones are used.


And voila! We have three outfits, each one distinct from each other, but still sharing similar elements.

For my purposes, I decided that the middle outfit suited my needs for a romantic, Valentine’s dinner date the most. The poufy coat helps to keep Lydia warm while still being stylish. The black dress is flirty yet still tasteful. Assuming she will be inside for her date, the open-toed heels are an appropriate final touch. She wears a dark-brown beaded necklace, while not a statement piece, is a decent touch considering I don’t want it to fight for attention with the coat. If there needed to be an extra layer for warmth, Lydia could sport dark-colored hosiery with her ensemble.

Applying This to Your Own Art (5)

If you’ve stuck with me until now, you have successfully finished this guide! While there are more details that can be covered for each topic, having a general breadth of knowledge on each subject should be enough inspiration to get out there and have a knack at designing clothing for your characters.

Remember, apply this knowledge to your art where you see fit. Maybe you’re great with designing clothes but need a better grasp at color theory, try mixing and matching color schemes to find palettes that help create a fuller character, or if you’ve been playing it safe, experiment with bold color choices!

And most important of all, have fun! If you enjoyed this tutorial, check out my art, @Optical_Wonder on all social media



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