How to Draw a Shirt for a Paper Doll

shirt-tutorialI think I’m grossly unqualified to be writing this post.

I don’t have any formal art training after high-school. In fact, I think of myself as an avid doodler more than I think of myself as an artist, but I’ve had a few requests for thoughts on drawing clothes for paper dolls, so I am going to try to offer a tiny tutorial on how I draw.

I encourage people to draw their own clothing for the paper dolls. That is how I learned to draw by drawing for my own paper dolls and those my mother drew for me. I think the best way to learn is to do it over and over again. I have some of my old paper dolls from high school… perhaps I shall post them for people to see my early works.

If you want to learn how I draw a t-shirt, the post continues below. I don’t normally do that, but this ended up LONG, mostly due to the photos. Speaking of the photos, I am really bad at them… so, please forgive the remarkably poor iPhone pics.

Getting Started

Before you start, you really need a pencil, a piece of paper that either you can see through or you have a light source behind (a window or a light box both work well) and a copy of whatever paper doll you want to dress.

Normally, I draw in pencil and than ink the pencil lines, because you can erase pencil. Mostly, because I knew pencil wouldn’t show up very well in photos, I am using pen for this. Don’t use pen at home, because when you mess up, it’s a lot harder to correct, as I will demonstrate around Step 5.

Also, reference material is of great help. So, find a good picture of a t-shirt and let’s get started. (I didn’t use one when I drew this, because I’ve drawn a lot of t-shirts in my life.)

Step 1: Template

The first thing you need is a template. I keep copies of the all the serial paper dolls on the blog. This is Marisole, of course, with the hairstyle I first drew for her. I have added to her body dashed lines which show her waist and the center of her chest, for lining up things. It’s not really important for a t-shirt, but it’s useful for other types of garments like jackets or corsets.

Step 2: The Neckline

I always start with the neckline. I draw it first as a point of reference for the rest of the garment. Bare in mind that the neckline of a garment is going to be shortened on one-side due to Marisole’s 3/4 pose.

Step 3: Chest

Next, I usually draw the lines of her chest in. I want to make sure the breasts are positioned properly on the garment, since it will effect other major pieces of the clothing. Also, when drawing historical garments, the shape of the bosom, often altered by corsets and such, is a major factor in getting the right silhouette. Bare in mind how the body is altered by undergarments when drawing.

Step 4: Shoulders

Then I add in the shoulders by tracing along the template’s shoulders and then coming away from the arm a bit for the sleeves. This is a fairly loose t-shirt, for the sleeves are not too tight.

Step 5: Sleeves

So, here we are finishing the sleeves by curving the bottoms of them. Remember that people are round. Also I really hate the way the right sleeve turned out, I probably should have not bothered with it. Since I did this in pen, I can’t erase my work…. So, I shall just live with my right-sleeve mess.

Step 6: Side One

So, now I draw one side of the garment. Remember that a t-shirt is a fairly loose piece of clothing, so give the paper doll some room to breath.

Step 7: Other Side and Bottom…

Next I add the other side and then add the bottom. The bottoms of shirts are usually curved down, just like sleeves, because people are, as mentioned before, round. I should have done this in two steps, but I forgot to take a photo before I did the bottom of the shirt.

Remember what I said about grossly unqualified to be trying to write a drawing tutorial? Yeah, I wasn’t joking…

Two other things before I sign off for the day.

1) Clothing is rarely skin tight, so leave a little space between the lines of the garment and the lines of the paper doll. This allows for errors in cutting as well.

2) You’ll need to add tabs which I usually do with photo-shop rather than when I am drawing the clothes. This has to do with how I color my dolls and has nothing to do with what I think is the most logical way to go about doing things.

So, I want to know if people found this useful? Because I can also show how I draw pants and skirts and other things, but before I go back to practicing my iPhone photo skills, I’d like to know if people want more of these. They’re not hard, but they are a bit different from what I’m used to doing. Share in the comments what you think. I shall respond when I return from my current travels about Alabama.

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  1. i really liked your drawing toutorial i wonder if you could do one for how you draw your paper dolls or something.Your paper dolls are all so cute!

  2. Rachel, I have a lot of trouble with drawing eyes. I can kind of fudge on lips and nose, but eyes come out looking angry or crazy or something. Lol. Any advice?

    1. Drawing both eyes at the same time (that is, switching between the two as you draw them) makes it a lot easier to get them on the same level and keeps them looking a little more similar. Also, I often draw a grid on the face- so I am drawing them level.

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