top of page
  • Writer's pictureMikelle Drew

Will 3D Fashion Sketches replace Flat Sketches?

Updated: Jun 3, 2023

Will 3d fashion design software replace illustrator for fashion design?
Will 3d fashion design software replace Illustrator?

Jump to a video version of this blog.

We’ve been talking a lot about 3d clothing design and 3d fashion design software, but the question is, “Will 3d sketches replace what I’m doing in Illustrator?”

There’s been a lot of discussion about 3D fashion design software. I've even done some YouTube videos about it as well as some Browzwear and Clo3D video tutorials on YouTube, but for all of us who normally use Illustrator for our fashion sketching, you might be wondering, “Is 3D fashion design software like Clo3d or Browzwear going to replace flat sketching in Illustrator?”

Good question, and my answer is “That depends”.

I think it’ll come down to your business model and what your goals are. It’ll also come down to whether you are working in corporate, you have your own brand, or you’re a fashion freelancer.

Working in Corporate

So if you’re a student or a designer planning to work for an established brand, there are a few things you’ll need to consider:

  1. timing,

  2. company size, and

  3. company initiatives and vision.


3D fashion design is still pretty new in the industry. People are beginning to adopt it, but fashion is notoriously slow to adopt new technology. There may be some acceleration because of COVID, but there’s still going to be a bit of a lag with most companies.

So, if you are getting into the fashion industry NOW at the time of this posting, you’d still want to be sure you’re well versed in using Illustrator. For any design job you’re looking for, you’ll still see people looking for that skill.

Young female pointing to technology hologram.
Always be looking toward the future of fashion.

I always recommend that designers look ahead and keep up with what’s happening in the industry, but if you are looking for work right now, you still need to know Illustrator.

I would suggest, however, that you learn to use 3D fashion design software. It’s definitely coming. I mean, it’s here . . . , and you want to be able to learn it while you can leisurely do it rather than when you are forced and under pressure to learn.

The other thing you want to be aware of is that many companies are training their tech design departments to work in 3D, not apparel design teams, at least not at first. So many times, the apparel designers are still handing off a flat sketch and/or tech pack to the tech department, then, the tech department is making a pattern in the 3D fashion design software; then, the apparel design team is coming back into the picture to aesthetically approve the first 3D fit sample. So the apparel design team is still initially working in Illustrator to sketch their designs.

Company Size

This is a bit harder to predict, but overall, larger companies tend to have the resources to implement newer technologies. So if you’re looking to work for a larger company like a PVH or H&M, more than likely, they’ll be adapting 3D design sooner rather than later. A friend who currently works for H&M said that they’ve already started asking assistant designer interviewees if they know how to use Clo3d.

African American woman sharing her presentation on her computer with her co-workers.
Larger companies have the resources to upgrade their design teams.

A smaller company is generally more nimble in making the decision to move to a different method of design. However, an investment in 3D fashion design software requires not only an investment in the software but also an upgrade in hardware (meaning better computers, preferably desktop computers), training, possibly freelance talent that can help with upcoming deadlines and projects while the full time designers are learning the software, and there are other things you may need to consider like hard drive and server space. 3D files are significantly larger than Illustrator or Photoshop files, so you may need an upgrade there as well.

So even though the decision to move to 3d format may be quicker and easier with a smaller company, the expense may be too great. Hence, if you are or plan to work for a smaller company, the likelihood of you needing to learn 3D fashion design software right now is lower. More than likely, you’ll be working in Illustrator.

Company Initiatives

This comes down to what the company’s brand mission is and where it stands as far as technology. There’s also a huge sustainability initiative behind using 3d fashion technology, and so if that’s part of the company’s philosophy (and even your own vision for the future of fashion), 3d fashion design software is definitely something you want to explore.

Also if the company is based in technology, needs to be “first” or lead the industry, or really wants to make sure they’re always working most efficiently, 3d is definitely something you need to learn and stay current with.

Fashion Startup or brand

If you’re a fashion startup or brand, whether you learn Illustrator or 3D fashion design software (or hire someone to do your fashion sketching) really depends on your business model and your budget.

If you are planning to do all the designing yourself (whether you are doing that initially to save money or that’s part of your business model), 3d can be a great option for you. You can design your product, have your first pattern, virtually fit the garment, even have a virtual fashion show. And both Browzwear and Clo3d will allow you to generate a tech pack so if you need to send it to a factory for costing or production, you’ll be able to easily do that. And there are freelancers who can do this work for you.

Young woman writing is a notebook, sitting in front of a computer with clothing rack behind her and ring light and phone in front of her.
If your fashion brand consists of a team of 1, 3d fashion design software might be great option.

If you’re on a more limited budget (both time and money), you may want to consider using Illustrator instead. If you have to learn it yourself, the learning curve for Illustrator is much lower. And there’s a very large pool of freelancers you can hire to sketch or create tech packs for you if you don’t have the time to learn the program yourself (though the pool of 3d fashion designers is also growing).

Young female using a drawing tablet and external hard drive working on a computer.
Consider learning Illustrator if you have limited resources for your fashion brand.

The software is less expensive and it will usually work on an existing computer. And if you need to work on the go, you can use Illustrator on your tablet. Currently, neither Clo3d nor Browzwear will work on a tablet.

Interestingly enough, if you want to hire someone or a company that offers 3d fashion design services, they will probably ask you for a tech pack or a sketch to do the work, so you’ll still have to perform the workflow I mentioned earlier which is using Illustrator to create your sketch, create a tech pack and then hand that off to the freelancer or company creating the 3d illustration for you.

Design workflow for fashion designers working with external companies or a freelancer to do their 3d fashion design sketches.
Workflow for designers working with companies or a freelancer to do their 3d fashion sketches.

Now, if you’re a fashion freelancer, and you’re really making this your business and supporting yourself doing this type of work, you need to know Illustrator, and I strongly recommend that you learn at least one of the major 3d fashion design software programs as well (Clo3d, Browzwear, or Optitex).

The demand for 3d fashion designers is growing, and you want to make sure that your skills stay relevant so that you can also stay in demand. 3d sketches won’t replace Illustrator sketches . . . yet, but it’s definitely growing in significance so you want to make sure you stay ready.

If you're ready to upskill in 3D fashion design software and start learning Clo3D, sign up now for my CLO3D for the Fashion Designer: Beginner online courses.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page