You want to go to school for fashion design, or you love making clothes and you want to launch your own clothing line on Etsy. Either way, you will quickly learn that a pencil and sketchbook no longer cut it when it comes to fashion design. These days, students and professionals use the best clothing design software they can find!
The best clothing design software can create 2D and 3D garment visualizations. Many fashion design tools also feature the ability to create sewing patterns. Design software also provides thousands of color and pattern options to bring the artistry of clothing design to life.
In this article, you will learn what you can do with clothing design software. You will also find an overview of the most popular design programs on the market. Finally, you will discover some tips on how to use design software for yourself!
Do Fashion Designers Use Software?
Both fashion designers and students use computer software to help create clothing designs today. In fact, in today’s digital world, pretty much everyone involved in the clothing industry depends on computerized designs!
These programs save designers a lot of time by implementing measurements and design features for the user. They can also do amazing things like turning a clothing concept into a 2D sewing pattern. Some programs can even print a clothing design out on a 3D printer to provide an authentic 3D visualization!
Plus, digital design concepts allow easy sharing. They guarantee more accurate reproduction of the design on every level, right down to the product manufacturing.
The days of sketching out an artistic concept on a piece of paper are long gone. Students in design school use Adobe Illustrator to learn the basics of digital design. Professional designers have a wide range of CAD options available to them.
So, what is a CAD design program? CAD stands for computer-aided design. It means software or a web-based program that does some of the work for the artist.
CAD programs offer invaluable help for concept design. They often provide options for selecting color schemes and adjusting shapes and measurements as well. On top of that, the fashion world is trending toward 3D printed designs these days.
Three-dimensional designs show authentic visualizations of clothing designs. Many CAD programs allow designers to create a design that can easily be duplicated in a 3D printer!
Many CAD clothing design programs also offer options for translating the clothing concept into a sewing pattern. Even the simplest item of clothing, like a t-shirt, usually has more than one piece of fabric stitched together. Each of those pieces requires its own template or pattern piece.
You can think of sewing patterns like the individual puzzle pieces of a garment. Learning how to turn a design concept into a 2D pattern is also a special science, and computer programs can simplify this process!
Is digital clothing design right for you? If you plan to go to fashion design school, launch your clothing line, or sell your designs, you have to use digital design these days. If you like to design your clothes for fun, you will have to decide for yourself if you want to embrace digital design.
It’s true that you may face a steep learning curb if you have no background in graphic design. That said, you can often find invaluable online tutorials to help you adjust to thinking digitally for your clothing designs.
15 Best Clothing Design Software Options
You can find a wide range of clothing design software options on the market, some with unique features and many with high price tags. Before selecting the best software for your needs, you should find out what the most popular programs offer.
1. Adobe Illustrator
Though not technically a fashion design tool, Adobe Illustrator remains popular in design schools. It gives students a strong introduction to vector graphics software.
This kind of software uses math and geometry to create high-definition illustrations. It doesn’t work in a drag-and-drop or click-and-draw method as some simpler drawing programs do. Some video game designers also use this type of software!
Because so many design students use this program, you can find thousands of helpful tutorials online. This will get you started figuring out how to use this generic program for clothing design.
Plus, you get a great discount as a student! If you’re not a student, AI still costs way less than many specialized fashion programs. You can purchase a monthly subscription for just $20.99.
Browzwear focuses on cutting-edge 3D clothing design. Using 3D design has many benefits, including the ability to test the fit of a design before production. This Singapore-based design company leads the way in design trends.
The company offers several different software packages, including VStitcher and Lotta. Lotta focuses more on the basics of concept design. VStitcher gives you a more comprehensive ability to craft concepts, use true-motion fit, and even draft sewing patterns!
The downside to this awesome software is that it isn’t practical for a single user. You can get a free demo of this software, but you have to request a quote for pricing. Typically, large companies buy this program and select a certain number of users, paying more for every additional user.
3. C-Design Fashion
C-Design Fashion simplifies the lifecycle of your clothing production. It helps you share and disperse the design as part of the product creation process.
This program offers a centralized way to share information about your designs, such as sizing charts. It also allows you to create artistic variations such as color schemes. Plus, it offers easy ways to upload your digital designs from other software such as Adobe Illustrator.
Better yet, this software can work in both a small and large business setting. It offers realistic pricing plans starting as low as $49/month!
4. CLO 3D
CLO 3D provides an intuitive, interactive 3D CAD solution for garment design. It also offers key features like 2D sewing pattern creation. Its main focus lies in the realm of 3D, though, giving you a wide range of options for sizing, color schemes, and styles.
You can perform fancy 3D design tricks like adding folds and layers to a 3D design or making it look like the garment is in motion!
This product does offer a 30-day free trial to give you a chance to determine if it suits your needs. After that, it costs $50/month.
5. Corel Draw
Corel Draw gives you an alternative to Adobe Illustrator. If you just need a strong graphic design tool, you may want to consider this software! It offers a variety of apps and a full software suite. The suite covers everything from vector illustration to collaboration, photo editing, and typography.
Depending on the products you select, this option may cost less than AI. The program also offers advanced design tools you won’t find elsewhere, as well as a community of artistic users to collaborate with!
As you can see, some of these features have more relevance to fashion design than others, but you can select from a variety of pricing models. The illustration software costs $249 a year.
6. Digital Fashion Pro
The cool thing that sets Digital Fashion Pro apart from the crowd is that it teaches you fashion design basics. It offers a starter course and a starter kit for learning fashion design. It even has features designed to help you launch your own clothing business!
And, of course, it includes many design and illustration tools as well. You can use this software to create 2D sketches using many helpful shaping,s typing, and color tools. The program also contains customizable clothing templates and pose-able models to help you zero in on just the right design.
The latest version has three levels available for purchase, from the individual user model at $399 to the advanced industry edition at $824. You do have to purchase the software and wait for it to ship to you before downloading it to your computer.
7. EFI OPTITEX
Optitex offers a wide range of software options, including a 3D design tool that uses Adobe Illustrator. It also provides a sewing pattern drafting program.
Finally, it includes business-related tools such as a fabric manager. This kind of software helps both large and small business owners keep track of everything!
This program has a unique partnership with Adobe Illustrator. It also specializes in sportswear and logo design.
You can request a free demo from the company to see if this software will work for you. However, you have to request a quote before you can find any pricing info on this software!
8. Fusion 360
Fusion 360 has advanced 3D design and modeling capabilities. This program is not tailored specifically to the fashion world, but it does enable you to master incredible 3D tools!
Much of the fashion world focuses on 3D models these days. Because of that, you may prefer to invest in this software and use it to create clothing designs.
Using this software, you can create sketches, direct models, surface models, and freeform models. You can also create simulations and collaboratively share data, among many other features!
You can get a free trial of Fusion 360. To purchase this software, you can choose to pay a monthly fee of $60 or an annual fee of $347.
9. Marvelous Designer
Marvelous Designer provides a range of design tools, but it focuses on fabric simulation. Its other features include 2D design and pattern drafting.
If you want 3D designs that look like characters who just stepped out of a high-quality video game, give this software a try! Your designs will look so real you will feel like you can reach into the computer screen and touch the material’s texture.
The program also includes a range of modeling and animating options. On top of that, you can easily add fancy trim and detailing for the clothing designs!
You can download a 30-day free trial on the website or purchase a license for $490.
10. Pattern Smith
Pattern Smith, unsurprisingly, specializes in design sewing patterns. This 2D CAD drafting program offers advanced tools to help you create digital pattern pieces for any kind of garment.
The design features in this program help you draft, digitize, and edit sewing patterns. The program comes with sewing-specific abilities such as inserting notches, darts, and tucks in a pattern.
The good news is that you can download a free 30-day trial of this cool sewing program. The bad news is that it costs $1,000 per year! Unless you have a wildly successful home business, you may not want to commit to that level of investment as a small business owner.
11. Smart Designer
SmartDesigner is a Korean-based fashion design CAD program that offers 3D and 2D garment sketches. It also offers industry-specific features like draping or creating woven fabric vs knit fabric apparel.
Like most comprehensive design tools, this product also offers tools for making 2D sewing patterns out of your design concepts.
While this innovative program has an up-and-coming appeal, it also looks like it is in the early stages of development. For example, you have to contact the program creator to get info on pricing!
Tailornova provides advanced 3D fashion design tools. It is web-based instead of downloadable software. This enables lots of cloud sharing options and makes some features more accessible from many devices or locations.
This program features concept design, pattern making, and fabric selection tools to help you turn your garment idea into a real product!
Besides its design tools, it focuses on providing custom-fit options so you can create clothing for people of all shapes and sizes.
You can do a dry run with a free trial version or commit to $29/month for the full package!
13. TUKA 3D
TUKA is a pretty big deal in the fashion design world. This company offers three software packages, one focusing on 3D design, one on pattern making, and one textile and print design. Each software has advanced features specifically tailored to garment design.
TUKA also offers business-oriented features focused on product creation and marketing.
TukaCAD especially has a great reputation s a sewing pattern design software! This popular software choice also comes with a huge community of users who share and sell their designs in the TUKA marketplace as an added resource.
You have to purchase this software on a subscription basis, starting as low as $20/month for some features.
Part of C-Design’s fashion brand, Virtuality. Fashion provides apps to help you create fashion designs in a modern, streamlined way. The apps cover everything from 2D pattern design to advanced 3D Hi-Res simulations. Perhaps the most appealing part of this package, though, is the virtual showroom that helps you design your own online store!
That said, this isn’t strictly a concept design tool. It allows you to upload and edit a design using pretty advanced features, but it isn’t meant for design creation.
For pricing on this product, you have to submit a request for a quote through the website.
15. Blue Cherry
Blue Cherry calls itself fashion and apparel software. This lets you know right off the bat that it provides industry-specific features and abilities.
This software focuses on the business side of clothing design. It provides tools to ensure that all levels of clothing production use the design concept in an accurate, cost-efficient manner.
Blue Cherry offers software solutions for cargo delivery, supply chain, inventory, and distribution. It’s the “what next?” many designers face after creating a fabulous clothing design! It markets itself as a comprehensive tool that covers everything from the concept to the consumer.
That said, you may find this software a bit too advanced. Unless you run your own small business, you may find that this software provides a bit more than you need. It also costs anywhere from $59/month to $120/month, depending on what software you purchase.
Best Free Clothing Design Software
While most high-end fashion design programs do cost a lot, you can also find several free options, such as Valentina and Blender. You can also sometimes get a free trial of a paid product, such as Browzwear, though these often have limited functionality compared to the paid version.
On top of this, some companies offer a discount to students. Adobe Illustrator, for example, offers a 60% discount to students!
That said, if you can’t afford to shell out the big bucks, but you want to up your clothing design game, take a look at Valentina and Blender, two open-source, totally free design programs.
Valentina offers free 2D sewing pattern drafting software. Though it focuses on providing pattern drafting tools (which is pretty amazing, since most software for this costs an arm and a leg!), this program also helps you make color selections, choose styling options, and insert various aesthetic features.
Home sewers and small business owners often choose Valentina because it has a high level of industry-specific functionality for pattern drafting. The software does require a bit of a learning curve, but no more so than Adobe Illustrator.
Blender gives you a rare free 3D design tool. It has a lot of application possibilities besides fashion design, but it does equip you with everything you need for creating a garment model, as well as even animating it!
This is a pretty comprehensive program, with options for layering, shading, lighting, textures, and much more. Blender doesn’t focus on 2D sewing pattern drafting, though, so you will need to find another program for that.
Best Clothing Design Software for MAC
While most of the fifteen programs mentioned above are fully compatible with your MAC computer, you can also find several programs such as Etelestia and Dress Assistant designed specifically for MACs.
Honestly, in this day and age, most programs support both MAC and Windows users. Manufacturers don’t want to cut out half of the market by focusing on just one operating system!
Etelestia is a CAD design program with full 2D and 3D concert options. The company also offers design courses, pattern drafting tools, and a special program called “Solutions for Designers.”
These products come in various price ranges, from under $100 to upwards of $1,000. As a fun note, this European company lists all their prices in Euros, so be aware of that if you choose to check out their website!
Technically a “wardrobe organizer,” Dress Assistant allows you to learn about basic pattern and texture combinations. It has a simple interface and limited functionality but could offer a great place to start as you learn about digital fashion design! Plus, this simple tool only costs $29.99.
3D Clothing Design Software
The best-known 3D clothing design software on the market now includes TUKA, CLO 3D, and Browzwear. Most design programs will move towards 3D design function soon if they haven’t already!
This is because the 3D design allows for much greater accuracy. This leads to massively reduced cost when creating garment prototypes and more profit down the line.
Three-dimensional garment design also gives everyone in the lifecycle of garment production a better visualization of the end product and makes it easier to market prototypes to potential buyers.
As if all of that wasn’t enough to convince you 3D is the future of garment design, this method also saves a lot of time. The fashion industry often has to move quickly to seize on new trends. Old-fashioned design methods couldn’t keep up with today’s global clothing market!
How Do I Design My Own Clothing Line?
Launching a clothing line requires the artistry to invent a unique design and the business savvy to turn a profit. You have to make the mental shift from designing clothes to marketing and selling clothes. Essentially, you have to start your own small business!
This holds true whether you plan to sell tie-dyed t-shirts on Etsy or promote your clothes in a brick-and-mortar store in your neighborhood.
The only exception would be if a big brand name wants to pick up your clothing line. In which case, congratulations, but you still need to know a lot about the business side of things!
You may want to consider taking a community college or online course to orient yourself to the ins and outs of small business ownership. That said, you will need to ask yourself several key questions no matter how big or small your clothing line venture.
- Do you need financial capital to get started? Probably, yes. You will likely need to purchase design software as well as materials to create your clothes.
- Do you need copyrights or trademarks for your clothes? Not necessarily, because you have certain rights to any unique design you created. That said, you may want to consult a legal professional on this topic.
- Do you have to sew your own clothes? Nope, you do not! While you can certainly start a business sewing the clothes you design, you can also send your designs to a manufacturer for production.
- How do you learn how to design clothes? Well, you can go to design school if you have the time and money. You can also take advantage of a design program that offers learning tools, such as Digital Fashion Pro, or watch a lot of free YouTube tutorials!
- How do you make your clothing line successful? A lot of elements come into play here! However, one thing to keep in mind is to search for an untapped niche of the market.
As one final tip, consider creating your own business plan. It will force you to answer these questions and many more to fully prepare you to take your clothing designs out into the world!
How to Design Clothes on the Computer
The simplest way to learn how to design clothes on the computer is to purchase one of the design software products mentioned in this article and follow its learning tutorials or “help” section until you understand how it works!
Every design program has its own interface and many have varying levels of functionality. For example, some focus more on 2D sewing patterns, while others give you thousands of tools to create 3D garment concepts. That said, you can follow a few basic steps to guide you through the process of designing clothes on the computer.
- Find a source of inspiration. What theme, time period, or message inspires you to create? Perhaps you love vintage clothing, and you want to design a special brand of polka-dot blouses!
- Narrow down the market before you start sketching. What kind of clothing do you want to focus on, and who do you think will wear it? Once you know the specifics, you can focus all your time designing that item instead of floundering around in vague concepts forever!
- Next, check out the templates in your design program. Can you use or modify an existing template to easily create your design?
- If not, create the design using the vector design or 3D design tools in your program.
- Once you have a basic design, you can often create variations on it, such as using different colors, fabrics, or patterns in the material. You could also add decorative features like buttons or beading.
- If your software allows, you can create varying measurements and a measurement chart for your concept sketch.
Creating a clothing design is only the first step in actually bringing your very own clothing to the market, but it’s a huge step to take! Hopefully, some of the programs described in this article will help you accomplish your design goals.
Clothing design software helps you craft detailed, realistic visualizations of a garment. Some types of software provide 3D designs, while others focus on 2D designs and drafting sewing patterns. This kind of software often comes with a high price tag that matches its advanced functionality.
While you can find a wide range of design software on the market today, several of the most popular options include Adobe Illustrator, Digital Fashion Pro, and TUKA.
Have you tried creating a digital clothing design? What tools or programs did you use? Leave a comment below to let us know!