A body drawing template lets sewists “try on” clothes without sewing a stitch.
Could there be a bigger saver of time — and heartbreak?
Fortunately, making a clothes model template, customized for one’s unique body, is easier than you might think.
All it takes is some digital photos, a free web app, and keen tracing skills.
Keep reading to discover why it’s worth your while to create personalized body outline sketches and how you can make your own digital or paper body drawing template.
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Why You Should Make a Body Drawing Template
Fashion designers and fashion illustrators have been using croquis — sketched body silhouettes (croqui means sketch en Francais 🥐) — since pretty much forever.
Croquis are a way to play with garment ideas, and it’s time for you to get in on the action with a personalized body outline.
The benefits of a customized clothes model template for home sewists include:
1.) The ability to try out garments and styles before you cut into fabric and get in front of your sewing machine.
2.) The opportunity to see — all at once! — an entire wardrobe of coordinating garments without sewing them (if you’re into planning multiple projects at once, i.e., capsule wardrobe).
3.) Allowing you to see garments on your own body shape vs. a nine-heads-tall fashion sketch, which is a lovely type of human body but not a particularly realistic body (unless you’re a Hadid sister).
4.) Giving you a first pass as sussing out future sewing pattern adjustments, particularly proportional adjustments of length and width.
5.) Creating a visual reference for personal body measurements (e.g, labeling the croqui with arm length, back width, hip circumference, etc.).
6.) Filling a (digital or analog) sewing planner or journal with realistic images of finished garments to help shape a stitching strategy.
7.) Providing a needed boost to sewjo when you want to nurture your sewing practice in a low-risk and low-effort way.
8.) The ability to pretend, for a hot minute, that you’re a fashion designer competing on “Project Runway” or preparing for Fashion Week. (Live your fantasy!)
Want some ideas about how you might play around with a personalized body outline sketch? Check out the IG for MyBodyModel for a major a-ha moment.
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Instructions for How to Make a Personalized Fashion Croqui for Sewing
We can’t waste anymore time! Here’s what you need:
- Phone or digital camera
- Photographer or tripod (or other secure location for your camera)
- Google account (Get a free Google account.)
- Writing/drawing implements
Here are the step-by-step instructions for creating a customized body outline:
Strip down to your undies or put on a swimsuit. To capture the outline of your body, we gotta see LOTS of body.
(For the sake of modesty, I took photos in my bra and panties and then drew over them in Illustrator.)
Whatever you’re wearing on the bosom should provide support and desired shaping; it shouldn’t be flattening (unless that’s the look you want in clothes).
You’re looking for a full body shot, from the top of the head to the toes. Set up the phone/camera to shoot from about the center of your body to make sure there’s little to no distortion (e.g., your legs don’t look too long or too short).
Keep the arms slightly away from the body. Your feet should be parallel and under the hips. Keep the chin parallel to the floor.
The pose to keep in mind is “paper doll.” We’re making a you-shaped paper doll.
Take front and back pics.
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Open Google Slides
Next we open Google Slides, free web-based slideshow software (think: PowerPoint). Click here to sign in to Slides.
For our application, Slides works best on a laptop or desktop computer. You’ll have better control over page setup and photo editing vs. a mobile device.
Start a new, blank presentation.
Set Up Your Slide
Click the “Untitled presentation” field and rename the presentation “My Personalized Body Drawing Template” (or something else you’ll remember).
Delete all text from the slide, or go to Layout > Blank.
Next go to File > Page Setup > Custom.
Change page setup to 8 x 10 inches (20.32 x 25.4 cm). Slides 8-by-10 inches will safely print on standard (U.S.) printer paper and A4 printer paper.
Move Your Photos to the Computer
Slides lets you insert photos from the following sources:
- Upload from computer: Pull a photo from your computer (not stored on the web).
- Search the web: Perform a Google Image search.
- (Google) Drive: Google’s web-based storage. You can share (upload) photos to Drive.
- (Google) Photos: If you have an Android phone, there’s a good chance (some/all of) your pics are stored in web-based Google Photos.
- By URL: Each photo on the internet has a web address. Usually you can right click to find the URL (address).
- Camera: This is the camera on the computer.
If you’re shooting on a digital camera, you’ll probably need a cable to get the photos from the camera to the PC.
If you’re shooting on a smartphone, I suggest you share (upload) the photos to Google Drive.
If you use Dropbox, iCloud, or another web-based storage, you can upload to your preferred storage and then download to your computer.
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Go to Insert > Image, or click the Insert image icon on the toolbar.
Choose your favorite front-facing pic and drop it in.
It’s OK if the photo is big; big is good for our needs.
Add another blank slide by clicking the drop-down arrow next to “+” in the toolbar (if you hover the mouse, the arrow will read “New slide with layout”).
Choose your favorite back-facing pic and add it to Slide No. 2.
Click on the front-facing photo.
On the toolbar, click “Format options,” or go to Format > Format options.
Click Recolor, and choose Grayscale.
The titles of the different filters appear in the dropdown menu after they’re chosen; you can’t hover to see the filter names, unfortunately.
We’re turning the photo black and white to avoid using color ink and to make the photo easier to trace because of darker tones.
Click Adjustments. You may want to increase the brightness and contrast to make the edges of your body sharper so it’s easier to trace.
Repeat adjustments for the back-facing photo.
Print the Slides
Print off the photos by going to File > Print, clicking the printer icon in the toolbar, or clicking Control/Command + P.
Trace Your Body
Trace your front and back body outlines on blank printer paper.
The goal here is to capture the shape of your body — distribution of body volume, proportions, etc.
Add as much detail as you please. I suggest tracing body “landmarks,” such as the navel, tattoos, and scars. Those landmarks that you know so well will help you better understand (approximately) where garments would fall on your body.
For example, I included my belly button and the tattoo on my left hip.
Take a Photo of the Body Outline
So, you’ve made yourself a fashion croqui, and now we’re going to make it REALLY useful.
Take a photo of the front and back body drawings. Keep the camera parallel to the floor (to avoid distortion), and fill the frame as much as possible.
Add the Drawings to Slides
Go back to the Google Slides file. Add two more blank slides.
Insert the front drawing on Slide 3 and the back drawing on Slide 4.
Click the front drawing. Click the crop icon in the toolbar (it looks like two interlocking right angles). Crop the body outline as tight as possible.
Repeat cropping for back drawing.
Rotate and Resize the Drawings
Rotate the front and back drawings 90 degrees clockwise.
To do this, click on each image. Locate the image “handle” — a short line with a circle on the end.
Mouse over the circle until your cursor looks like a crosshairs/plus sign. Hold down your left mouse button as you drag the image clockwise 90 degrees (down and to the right).
After both images are rotated, resize them to be 8 inches (as tall as the short side of the slide).
Click on each image. The image will have eight small squares on its perimeter.
Mouse over any of the corner squares until the cursor turns into a diagonal double-headed arrow. Hold down the left mouse button and drag in (toward the middle of the image) to scale it down proportionally.
Adjust the Croqui Images
Click the front image, and open the Format options menu.
Click Recolor, and change to grayscale.
Click Adjustments, and slide the transparency to be greater than 50 percent. (You might even want to push it toward 75 percent or higher.)
You want the outline of the body drawing template to be dark enough to see but light enough to not be a distraction when you draw sewing patterns over the template.
Repeat recolor and transparency changes on the back image.
Make Body Drawing Template Sheets
We’re approaching the big finish!
Copy (Control/Command + C) and paste (Control/Command + V) the body drawing outlines on the slides to create worksheets.
You might want to put a few fronts on one sheet and a few backs on another. Or, you might want each sheet to have one front and one back.
Customize your body drawing template sheet to best meet your sewing practice needs.
Put to the Croquis to Use
📃 If you’re a paper person:
Print off one copy of each croqui worksheet to see if you like how the outlines look. Make adjustments as necessary using the Format options menu to lighten or darken.
You can print a bunch of clothes model template sheets, or you can print them from Google Slides as needed.
💻 If you’re a digital person:
Download the worksheets (File > Download) as image files (PNG or JPG). You *should* be able to bring the image files into a digital drawing program and get to work.
TBH I’m not super familiar with sketching apps, but I’d be shocked if you couldn’t place an image on a layer or the like. My guess is those of you using such programs will know just what to do.
👗👖👕 All that’s left is for you to “try on” sewing patterns and make decisions about whether you think they’d work for you. 👕👖👗
Gentle Warning About Privacy
If you’re taking photos with an internet-connected camera, you *might* want to delete the images when you’re finished, especially if you’d be particularly upset if these pics were accidently made public.
It would be easy to hit the wrong button and wind up on the web in your unmentionables. Food for thought.
Final Thoughts About Clothes Model Templates
Yes, this process is a *little* convoluted (photos and tracing and more photos), but it’s worth your while because:
1.) It uses free (Google) software and stuff you already have in your house.
2.) If you hurry, you probably could have decent croquis drawn up in less than half an hour.
3.) A body outline gives you a no-risk way to test different styles without sewing a stitch or spending a dime.
Over to you, sweet sewists: What’s your take on croquis? What do you find most appealing about them? Have you made a personalized body model before? Please leave a comment. Thanks for reading.