How To Create a Custom Fashion Portrait – My Process!

how to create custom fashion illustrationI have always loved to paint and draw portraits of all kinds, and one of my favourite tasks is turning a photograph into a fashion illustration – so much fun! I thought I’d share a little of my process. I also have a shiny new Etsy shop, so if you think your bedroom or blog could do with a  little extra chic, or you’d like to treat a fashionable friend to something special, why not check it out?

First, a lovely photo of my tools of the trade: gouache!

Gouache paints and palette

Such gorgeous colours, right? I also use a medium-sized round brush from Windsor & Newton, plus a teeny weeny miniatures brush from ProArte for the smallest details and outlines.

First off, here’s my reference photo in all its glory! The beautiful Merissa is wearing a cute navy playsuit with little white stars and bell sleeves, plus that awesome crescent moon bag and white heels. Love it.

Merissa fashion illustration reference photo

I used the photo on the left as a reference to sketch her pose, plus a star background and name banner.

custom fashion illustration pencil sketch

I’m working in A4, so the sketch is around 6.5″ tall. When I’m happy with it I use a Faber Castell artists pen to go over the outlines. The outlines are going to be painted over, but still visible under the first layer, so I can use it as a reference as I work. I didn’t outline the star or name at this point – I’ll do them using my miniatures brush later.

fashion illustration in process - ink outline

Once I’ve inked the figure I paint in a flat base layer colour for each part of the picture. It looks kinda crappy at this stage! I also paint the star yellow before adding any outlines.

fashion illustration in progress with gouache paint

Once all the ugly, flat layers have been painted in, I make a darker shade of each colour and add depth to her clothes and skin, using the photo for reference. Then I add highlights with a lighter shade of each colour, and then add the tiniest details and outlines with acrylic ink.

fashion illustration process detail

custom fashion illustration painting process

Finally I added outlines to the star, and inked in the banner with her name. Here I’ve scanned in the final image and tweaked the brightness & contrast and levels in Photoshop to make it look a little cleaner for online use.

finished fashion portrait in gouache and ink

Here’s the original artwork, finished, framed and ready to go!

finished framed fashion portraitDone!

I hope you found this interesting / helpful – maybe I’ll do some more technical tutorial-y process posts in the future; I know this one was fairly light. I definitely want to figure out how to film my process with a stop-motion app; it’s always so interesting to see other artists’process in action!

Anyway – if you’d like you very own illustrated portrait (or one of a friend), please pay my shop a visit. I love working on this kind of thing, so if you have any special requests, please ask away!

– Rachel





Painted Fashion Portraits

I’ve been doing a lot of digital work lately, but decided to break my paints out this week and do some quick painted fashion illustrations using gouache and black ink. I started using gouache after having trouble getting hold of watercolours in Vietnam, and actually prefer it to watercolour or acrylic. It gives a nice, flat, bold colour which is easy to build up layers of additional colour on.

I created these ladies after doing some live sketching of some hipster ladies in a London cafe. I took the drawings home and painted them. I think they’re pretty cool.

Fashion illustration portrait paint

fashion illustration painted portrait

London fashion illustration custom portrait

London fashion illustration custom painted portrait

What do you think? Anything I really need to work on? I’d love to do more portraits – I’m trying to set up an Etsy shop to make it a possibility!

Throwback Thursday – Illustrated Mural in Cambodian Fashion Boutique!

While I was living in Cambodia, I had the good fortune to be offered some properly awesome illustration jobs – mostly painting murals for schools, businesses, etc. Really fun, and something I’d love to do more of here. (So if you’re looking for a mural artist in the London-ish area, e-mail me! )

Artillery, (on Street 240 1/2 in Phnom Penh) is a cafe with a mini fashion boutique upstairs, which focuses on ethical trading, sustainability and supporting local makers. They invited me to pretty much freestyle something on their wall after I attended a few of their Drink & Draw events.

I sketched out onto the wall in pencil, using some references from my sketchbook, and then went over it with black acrylic paint and marker pens, added touches of colour with watered-down acrylic paint.
Mural in Artillery Boutique, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

mural in fashion boutique, phnom penh

Mural painted in a fashion boutique in Phnom Penh

Detail of mural

Unfortunately the mural was destroyed by flooding after a couple of years. But it’s still something I’m happy to have worked on, most definitely! I miss the cool, artistic spirit of Cambodia, particularly Phnom Penh, where businesses value having a unique vibe and aren’t afraid to experiment a little. As wonderful as London is in many ways, it is often too expensive and the creative world feels a little elitist in comparison to other places I’ve lived/worked in. Ah well! At least I can walk a mile without dying from the heat here!

– Rachel xx

Back from the Alpujarras!

Hi all! I’m still alive – promise!

If the blog has looked a little empty lately it’s been because I’ve been on holiday in Spain; 10 days at Cortijo Opazo in the Alpujarra mountains.

Basically my average view each day looked something like this:

The mountain view just above Bubion and Pampaneira

The villages were also incredibly pretty. Every building is painted white in the traditional Moorish style, and there were flowers everywhere.

Flower house in Pitres, Spain

Passgeway in Pitres, Sierra Nevada, Spain


La Meta Discoteca in Pitres, Spain

Our villa at Cortijo Opazo

My feet selfie with some succulents

I did a little sketching, but nothing amazing, since I bought the wrong pens with me and there are zero art shops up there! D’oh!

Hopefully next time I’ll be updating with some more artwork – I’m focusing on getting an Etsy store up & running, so lots to prepare!

– Rachel xx


Illustrated Blogger Portraits – BodyPosiPanda!

Recently I’ve felt inspired to draw portraits of a few of my favourite fashion & lifestyle bloggers. There are so many lovely, inspiring ladies out there – with important things to say as well as beautiful images to share.

The first is Megan Jayne Crabbe aka BodyPosiPanda. Megan describes herself as a “body positive, feminist, ED warrior” – her writing and pictures are always confident and refreshing in a world that primarily encourages women to feel unlovely and inadequate because of how they look. I also wanted to draw her frankly awesome pink hair and infectious smile. If you fancy reading something uplifting without too many meaningless ‘life, laugh, love’-style platitudes, check out her blog.

Fashion Illustration Portrait of Blogger BodyPosiPanda
In other news, if you are reading this, that means I am currently on holiday here in Spain! 10 days in the Alpujarra mountains… ohhh yesss. I’ll be sure to show off with some (hopefully) jealousy-inducing photos!

– Rachel xx

Throwback Thursday – PinUps!

Back in 2011 I drew around 100  illustrated pin-up figures & turned them into repeating patterns, which I used as a print on posters and textiles.
I suspect they don’t translate that well on-screen, but I still quite like them! So many little ladies and gents to choose from. Who’s your favourite?

Sexy Illustrated Pin-Up Ladies


Illustrated Pin-Up Men

– Rachel xx

Custom Fashion Illustration – Vanessa!

Fashion Illustration; Blogger Vanessa Zaree

This week I’ve been working on a custom fashion illustration of Vanessa Zaree of Wardrobe Under Construction.
She sent me a photograph to work from, which I used as my reference to draw up some line-art with my Faber Castell artist pens, before I scanned it in, cleaned it up nicely, & applied colour with Photoshop. Here’s a little process montage:
fashion blogger custom illustration processWhat do you think?

– Rachel xx

Throwback Thursday : Portraits!

Following on from last Thursday’s post about Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration, here are a few portraits I did at the launch party (coloured digitally after the fact). Here are a few of my faves…

Susie Bubble live fashion portraitLovely fashion blogger Susie Bubble.

Neil Bennett live portrait

Neil Bennett of Digital Arts Magazine.

Amelia Gregory live fashion illustration
Amelia Gregory, the brains behind Amelia’s Magazine, owner of a truly fabulous cape!

Rachel de Ste Croix sketching Susie Bubble by Jenny Robbins

And finally, I thought I’d share this neat little sketch of me sketching Susie Bubble, drawn by Jenny Robbins – also featured in the book – check out her work!

How to be a Girl : Vintage Comics

Vintage comics for girls - Misty, 1988 annual

Fig. 1 – Misty Annual 1988!

Being the art nerd that I am, I kind of love comics. But not Superman, Batman or anything in which everyone wears spandex and beats up a bunch of other people who also really, really like spandex. Nor the Beano or the Dandy. I don’t even particularly enjoy any manga series (I know. Sorry.)

I think that traditional girls’ comics are unappreciated; they don’t quite enjoy the cult status that their more ‘boysy’ counterparts get, despite having art & stories every bit as amazing. Even Stan Lee worked as a writer for American romance comics in the 60s and 70s. Girls’ comics offer a fascinating insight into attitudes of their time, and the stories are endlessly entertaining in both good and … not so good ways. Besides, I wrote my dissertation on them, which was totally a good idea you guys.

That said, please observe Fig. 1 (above), my copy of the supernatural genre comic ‘Misty‘ Annual 1988 looking fetching on a purple velvet blanket, because of course.  I’m not claiming this as a work of genius, but it is entertaining in its daftness, and plays into many of the major tropes of the genre (tragic orphan heroine, evil mistress, dashing stranger, fateful accidents, history repeating…) Sadly the title page is missing, but I thought I’d share a few of my favourite moments from the story.

To bring you up to speed: Emilie is a Tragic Victorian Orphan who has landed herself in a job as a maid at North-Cliffe Manor. But she keeps noticing a shadowy figure watching her from the shadows. And the the kids of the house are spoilt rotten…
Misty Comic Annual 1988

Yeah, Master Arnold is kind of a dick.


Apparently former street urchin Emilie is a bird identification expert. OK then. Luckily this mysterious yet dashing chap with well-coiffed hair and tight trousers is on hand to help her out!

Misty Comic Annual 1988 page 3

Watching young girls at night from a secret hiding place with your animal companion is totally not weird, just in case you thought it might be.

Misty Comic Annual Illustrations 4

Of course, it’s an otter, Emilie. Duh.

What will happen next to our nice-but-dim heroine? Is her creepy/handsome fella just possibly a sensitive aristocrat in disguise? What adventures will befall Raki the Otter?

Do any of you enjoy girls’ comics? What are your personal faves? Interested in reading more?

If you’re interested in American romance comics you should check out Sequential Crush.

– Rachel xx

Throwback Thursday! Fashion Illustration

Amelia's Compendium of Fashion Illustration - Rachel de Ste CroixIiiit’s Throwback Thursday time! *Cue: trumpeters play, babies sing, etc.*
In 2010 my artwork was featured in the amazing Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration. I was partnered up with the amazing ethical fashion brand From Somewhere, and the book features my fashion illustration for them as well as Lu Flux and a few other editorial fashion bits & bobs. Working on the book was awesome, but I don’t want to write loads about it right now – just share a few ‘Throwback Thursday’ highlights with you guys!

Et voila… From Somewhere:

Amelia's Compendium of Fashion Illustration - From Somewhere

Amelia's Compendium of Fashion Illustration - From Somewhere

Amelia's Compendium of Fashion Illustration - From Somewhere