Checklist of things you need to be a designer

The essential tools and things you need to be a designer that includes sketch book, Adobe Suite, sewing machine, DSLR Camera.

Never really wrote a list of all the things I use as a designer. It’s a lot. That’s not including fabric and accessories. But if it’s a passion, it’s an investment for your future. There are designers that sew, some that don’t sew, and designers that sew and are proficient in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. If you don’t sew, you can disregard anything on my list regarding sewing. But everything else is applicable.

The first thing I would purchase, learn, and practice using would be the Adobe Creative Suite that include programs like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, & many more. I use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop more frequently than the other programs.



The Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop programs are used daily on the job. These computer programs helped me create drawings like these below.




It’s a good idea to have a sketch book. My friend Kelly who’s a designer for Free People/Urban Outfitters sketches her drawings on Moleskine Classic Notebook. Here’s some sketches I did for my Urban Outfitter’s portfolio using the Moleskine Classic Notebook.


When I sketch I like using mechanical pencils so I don’t have to worry about sharpening it all the time.


I like having an extra eraser when the one on my pencil runs out.


I always have a box of Sharpie’s for outlining sketches, labeling my patterns, etc.



I’ve always been hands on in the design process and understanding sewing construction helps me trouble shoot how to design and make certain ideas. I have this brother brand machine for home and works smoothly. It’s durable, easy to use, and it’s computerized . The price for this computerized machine is $149. It’s a good price because I remember when I bought my machine in 1999 that wasn’t computerized it was priced around $150.


I also have a single needle Juki industrial machine. It’s the professional machines they use in the factories that the industry uses to create everything that is purchased at the malls, boutiques, etc.



The last machine that you would need is this portable Juki overlock machine shown below. I’ve had this machine for about 4 years now and haven’t had any problems and the stitching is clean and neat. It costs about $353.70. From observing factories, Juki is like the standard and most used.


The factories use a Juki industrial overlock machine that’s not portable. The overlock machine helps you finish raw edges so you don’t have to put lining in a garment and it prevents the fabric from fraying. This is how a finished edge looks like. Common finish for seam finishing for t-shirts, unlined jackets, and pants.


Next, I recommend getting a DSLR camera. I’m not a professional photographer, but I have a specific way I want my design to be shot to show unique design elements. In my blog, “How to take pictures of your outfit for the gram – Product photography,” I describe how it can cost a lot doing photoshoots all the time- hiring models from agencies, photographers, location, and hair/makeup, etc. I also show you how to shoot manually.

Anyways, I wanted to document the garments I’ve made in a natural, everyday, street photo vibes like Bill Cunningham and Sartorialist. I didn’t need anything bulky, so I went with a Canon Rebel t3I that comes with a EF-S 18-55MM lens. The cost is $599.99.


To shoot with natural light and get that street style vibe of Bill Cunningham and Sartorialist, my photographer friend, Larsen, recommended to get the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto Lens to achieve this effect. The cost of the lens is $349.

 1_Canon EF 50mm f:1.4 USM Standard & Medium Telephoto Lens.jpg

I also purchased a flash accessory to get that Terry Richardson look and vibes. I use the Speedlite 430EX II. Again, I show you how to use the camera in my blog post “How to take pictures of your outfit for the gram – Product photography.”


Another alternative to buying a Canon camera would be to shoot on your iPhone 6. The phone has an awesome features that allow people to take quality photos. In their recent billboard campaigns it says “shot with iPhone 6.” I’m sure they did some post editing on photoshop as well. I’ve seen people with expensive camera shoot things that aren’t inspirational, while I’ve seen some people who might not have the latest camera but have to be more creative to work with less have rad photos. Having an inspired vision really dictates that final outcome.


I do a lot of my work on my Macbook Pro which includes uploading and editing my photos I take on my Canon camera in Photoshop, drawings on Adobe illustrator, printing artwork, etc.


Apple – Macbook Pro With Retina Display – 13.3″ Display – 8gb Memory

I have a lot of files which includes Adobe Illustrator/Photoshop files, thousands of reference images, and music that slows down my computer. It’s always a good idea to back up your files on an external hard drive. I use the WD 1TB Black My Passport Ultra Portable External Hard Drive .


As a designer, I’m always printing hundreds of reference images, drawings from Adobe Illustrator, even graphic artwork to scale for a t-shirt or cut and sew idea to see if the dimensions are right. Having a printer is very necessary.


I use special scissors when I cut fabric. I would see pattern makers in the factory using these scissors as well as FIDM students buying some from this sewing supply store in downtown LA called Ace sewing. It cuts flawlessly and lasts forever, just have to get them sharpened once in a while or sharpen them yourself with a nail filer. Here’s more info about them.

Korea Dragonfly Tailoring Scissors are made using the best blacksmithing techniques in order to produce this excellent product. Its steel edges are made only of the best high carbon steel which are treated only at precise temperatures. The resulting scissors have an edge cuts through any kind of fabric seamlessly without ruffling or pushing the material into creases. Because of the quality of their material, expect the scissors to withstand impact. The scissor’s edges are made of soft and hard steel in order to make the item durable while retaining a measure of flexibility. Korea Dragonfly Tailoring scissors handle well because its grooves have been designed to provide comfort to the hand.


After I come up with a design, the next thing I would do is make a pattern. I use white pattern paper with the numbers and letters on it.


Sometimes I run to home depot in the paint section and buy brown manilla paper. That’s what I used to do before I got into the industry when I didn’t know anything, I’m still learning everyday. I still use the brown paper as well. I would go into the factories in downtown LA and they would look at me crazy with the brown paper because the white paper with the alpha and numeric print is the standard. The white paper does help to make your pattern more accurate.


When I need to trace my fabric I use chalk with white powder that has sharp pencil like lines. I use this specific chalk because it’s accurate and isn’t messy.



When I start cutting fabric, to keep it from shifting I use fabric weights.


I also have several seam rippers to use when mistakes happen and need to unstitch parts of the garment.

1_seam_ripper copy


You also need pins to hold the fabric together and keep it in place while you sew.


I’ve tried every glue on the market and went through all the trial and error finding a product that holds fabric. I use the Beacon 3-In-1 Advanced Craft Glue, 8-Ounce.



I have a lot of extra sewing machine needles because I break needles all the time. I get universal needles meaning they will be applicable to any home sewing machine in the market, unless otherwise stated. These needles are good for light to medium fabric.


But if you’re going to be sewing heavy weight fabric like upholstery, leather, heavy canvas you would need a different needle. For heavy weight fabrics I use denim needles.


Sometimes I have to hand sew parts of garments because the machine can’t get to it or when I have to finish closing up the lining. I have a set of these needles.


When you buy your sewing machine it comes with a couple of bobbins to wind different colors of thread. I buy multiples because you’re going to need more than 5 that come with the machine. You’re going to have more than 5 colors, and sometimes you want to double up on colors. Bobbins like the sewing machine needle are universal as well, unless otherwise stated.


I always have extra measuring tape.

The transparent rulers are the best because sometimes you need to see through the ruler when your working on some projects. But it’s also really helpful adding seam allowances to your patters.


I like buying thread with around 6000 yards. It could last for a year, with a cost around $8, and you can make like 20 jackets. Whereas buying Gutermann thread from Joann fabric with 400 yards, with a cost around $5, you would have only enough thread to make half the jacket. Also, your overlock machine requires 3 to 4 spools of thread. So, it’s cheaper to buy in bulk.


After I make something new, I enjoy looking at it. I normally hang it on a rolling rack. It’s also collapsible and you could store it in the closet.


I’ve always been using brown wooden hangers, haven’t gotten a chance to get these metal hangers yet. I think it would look good with the rack.


When I’m working on patterns, my transparent ruler is often times too short. It’s good to have a yard stick.


I have an X-ACTO knife when my scissors aren’t sufficient enough for the job and need to cut super detailed things.


I have a lot of scotch tape laying around when I’m working on patterns and when I print out artwork from my printer when dimensions exceed 8.5″ x 11″.



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