Everything You Need to Know about How to Sketch a Shirt

If you want to be able to sketch people on a regular basis, it is obvious that you will need to know how to sketch a shirt. Shirts come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. The type of shirt you sketch will depend on what your subject is wearing.

Although each type of shirt may have its own challenges when it comes to sketching it, there are a few common characteristics that all shirts have. Knowing what to look for will make things easier as you sketch shirts of your own.

So if you want to see how to sketch a shirt, keep reading! I will reveal everything you need to know.

Become Familiar with What Shirts Look Like

When you are at work, running errands, or just out people-watching, get in the habit of glancing at different shirts and the vast variety of styles that exist. You can also achieve this by looking at pictures online or simply taking a look in your own closet.

If you are the type of person to sketch in public, take your sketchpad along with you and make quick sketches of shirts you see. Better yet, sketch people you know who are willing to model their shirts for you. This will get you used to seeing and accounting for commonalities in different styles.

I am in no way suggesting you have to become a fashion expert. I most certainly am not one. But like anything else, the more exposure you have to something, the easier it becomes for you.

It can also be helpful to study sketches of shirts done by other artists. The image below contains two sketches I did of two different shirts: a casual, long-sleeve shirt with a v-neck and an open denim shirt. Even though these shirts are two totally different styles, they both still have some obvious things in common with each other and with most other kinds of shirts you will sketch: sketches of shirts

  • Shirts have a neckline. These are examples of two very different necklines, a v-neck and an actual collar. You will have to study collars too. A dress shirt, for instance, would not have the same collar as the denim shirt above.
  • Shirts run from the length of the neckline to the lower area of the torso. They can be form-fitting, loose, or capable of being buttoned and unbuttoned.
  • Shirts have sleeves. Sleeves can be short. As we see in our example, sleeves can also be long and they can be rolled up to appear shorter. Many long sleeves have a cuff at the end.
  • Shirts have folds in specific places when they are being worn. Look especially where the fabric sits around the armpits and where the arms bend. Sketch the proper folds in the proper places of the shirt.
  • Shirts have seams where the fabric is sewn together. Note in the examples above the seams from the neck to the shoulders, along the side of the torso, near the cuffs of the sleeves, and along the bottom of the shirts.

A few other characteristics that shirts may or may not have include a logo or image, one or more pockets, and a tag. Of course, if you are sketching a shirt being worn by a person, you will most likely not see the tag.

In the following sections below, I will walk you through tutorials for sketching two more shirts. You will see how to sketch a t shirt and how to make a polo shirt sketch. As I was creating these tutorials, I did not use reference photographs. Instead, I took a couple of old shirts from my closet and hung them on my wall. I used stick pins to prop the sleeves up so they would not droop.

This is a great exercise in sketching from life. I encourage you to try as well! If you struggle with getting the shapes and proportional spacing right when using this method, I wrote a handy little guide you can download to tell you more about the process.

How to Sketch a T Shirt

In order to sketch a t shirt, begin by sketching the main part of the shirt that clothes the torso. Use a semi-circle for the neckline with a crescent shape to represent the back of the t shirt, then branch out toward where the shoulders would be. Sketch another curved line around each pit of the arm. This line will be the seam of the sleeve. To make it look more realistic, sketch the bottom part of the t shirt with a wiggly line. Follow up by sketching vertical lines that indicate dangling folds from the chest area to the bottom.

sketch t shirt 01 torso and folds

Now you should have something that resembles a muscle shirt. In order to change it into a t shirt, sketch a short sleeve on each side. Sketch a couple of folds going from the bottom end toward the seam. Leave a slight opening for each sleeve.

sketch t shirt 02 sleeves and folds

Now it is time to sketch in those final little details that will complete your t shirt. Sketch additional seams around the neckline, at the end of each sleeve, and at the bottom of the t shirt. Since this is a still life sketch of a shirt on a hanger, the tag is visible and should be included. Finally, if your t shirt has a logo, sketch whatever you see. Or, simply leave it blank!

sketch t shirt 03 seams and logo

How to Make a Polo Shirt Sketch

Polo shirts come in many styles. There are several variations for how the collars are shaped. Below is a tutorial for one of those styles, but you can apply the same concepts to any polo shirt sketch.

Begin sketching a triangular shape for the opening of the collar. Each side flap that bends downward is made by sketching a rectangular shape along with a smaller triangle. Then sketch the lower area of the collar that can be buttoned.

polo shirt sketch 01 collar

Sketch the torso part of the polo shirt in a similar fashion to how you sketched the t shirt. Leave curved lines for later placement of the sleeves. The bottom part of the shirt is a short flap running the length of the front and a longer flap in the back.

polo shirt sketch 02 torso

Sketch short sleeves. Make the top part of each sleeve longer than the bottom. Sketch the edges of each sleeve angled inward toward the body.

polo shirt sketch 03 sleeves

Finish up your polo shirt sketch with final details. Sketch seams on the inside back of the collar, along the top of each shoulder, along the sleeves, and along the bottom of the shirt. Sketch any tags or emblems your polo shirt has. Don’t forget any extra buttons or button holes. Last but not least, do not forget to sketch folds in the fabric.

polo shirt sketch 04 folds and seams

When You Sketch Your Shirts

There you have it. Hopefully this post answered any questions you may have had about how to sketch a shirt. As you practice sketching shirts, remember a few important things. First, remember to recognize the similarities and differences that exist in shirts and apply that knowledge to your sketches. Second, sketch the parts of a shirt in any order that feels right for you. The tutorials you saw here were just examples for the sequence. Third, it is very important to sketch realistic folds to make your shirt sketches appear as they do in life.

Finally, remember to check for proportional spacing on your shirt. Some examples for where to check would be between the neckline and the sleeve, the length of shirt, and the width of the shirt. My downloadable guide called “One Simple Trick for Better Proportions When Sketching from Life” can help you size the parts of your sketch just right while sketching the people and the shirts you observe around you.

Have fun sketching your shirts!

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