What CAD Software Do Fashion Designers Need To Know?

fashion industry, fashion design career, fashion career advice, fashion CAD software, apparel CAD software, textile CAD programs, apparel CAD software, textile design, fashion designers, textile designers, fashion business

Fashion Designers Need To Know CAD To Stay Competitive

In the fashion industry technology is always changing. To stay relevant (and employable) you absolutely need to stay up on the latest CAD software technology being used for design and tech pack creation.

Different companies use different CAD software to achieve the same end goal. However, each CAD software has it’s own unique features. Companies choose which one to use depending on their size and budget restraints. I find that if you know one software it is fairly easy to figure out how to use the other similar ones.

In a recent posts “What Computer Software Do Fashion Professionals Need to Know?”, I wrote about software being used across ALL of the fashion industry. Here we are going to dive deeper on specifically what fashion designers use and what the differences are.


We couldn’t cover every possible angle of technology in the fashion industry in just one post! This article is part of an 8 part Fashion Tech Business Series. If you want to learn how technology is being used to shape the fashion industry and how you can be a part of it you can check out the entire series at the bottom of this page.


Top Computer Software Used By Fashion Designers

fashion industry, fashion design career, fashion career advice, fashion CAD software, apparel CAD software, textile CAD programs, apparel CAD software, textile design, fashion designers, textile designers, fashion businessBelow is a list of the most popular computer software being used by fashion designers today.

  • Adobe PhotoShop
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • CorelDRAW®
  • NedGraphics
  • Kaledo by Lectra
  • Prima Vision
  • Colour Matters

Adobe Suite

Most people start out learning Adobe PhotoShop and/ or Illustrator. It is probably the most widely used software in the industry because it is inexpensive and has many features. Adobe has gone to cloud based pricing that starts as low as $19 per month per program. See discount below. This also makes Adobe an obvious choice for freelancers to have access to programs at home.

Adobe PhotoShop was not a CAD program. It was designed to edit photos. However, the program is great for textile print design, and simple woven CAD needs. Many designers also use the software to create portfolios, line sheets, and presentations.

Adobe Illustrator is the vector based sister program that is widely used for sketching and technical design which is covered in the next section. Most designers create their sketches in Adobe Illustrator and then import the sketches into Adobe PhotoShop or other software to be used for line sheets, presentations or other uses.

Software for Sketching

One task designers have is sketching their designs. This usually starts out sketching by hand, but eventually the designs need to be translated into CAD form. These are the computer software used for sketching on the computer. Note they are both vector based programs mostly used for flat sketching and technical design. You can also create clean graphics with them.

Adobe Illustrator is considered the standard in the industry. Because it is a very commonly used program many CAD software mentioned in the next section is designed to work with it. You can usually import an Adobe Illustrator file into one of the below CAD software to fill bodies or create line sheets. The program s robust enough that you are able to fill in bodies with patterns and create line sheets or presentations inside Illustrator.

CorelDRAW® is the competitor to Adobe Illustrator. They both have almost all the same features and abilities. If a company purchases the CorelSuite you will be using the CorelDRAW® for all your sketching.

Here are the pros for using CD: CorelDRAW® has provisions to customize the interface to a greater extent than AI. You can set shortcuts in CD. AI has limits to what you can group. CD has Auto-Backups (with choice of duration) for all files which is missing in AI. Also, CD has more import/ export capabilities. It can export files in .eps, .ai, .psd, .pdf formats unlike AI which has no export/save provisions to .cdr. You can import multi-page PDFs into CorelDRAW® as well. For the super advanced user CorelDRAW® uses Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). This means you can write your own code inside CorelDRAW® and automate any tasks, create new tools, send commands to other programs etc.

Hard Core CAD Systems

Fashion designers have to know how to CAD today in order to stay employable and stay on the cutting edge. Depending on the size of the company you work for and what products you design you will be using one of the below programs.

NedGraphics – Starting price is $2000 per user.

This program has 3 base modules:

  • Color Reduction & Cleaning
  • Design & Repeat Pro (files can be import & export from all CAD & PLM & Adobe CS)
  • Easy Coloring

It then offers an array of add-on softwares for very specific needs such as Dobby & Dobby Pro, Coloring Pro, Print Studio Suite (including Easy Map Creator Pro, Storyboard & Cataloging Pro, Easy knit, Weave & Coloring Pro, Design & Repeat Pro, and Color Reduction & Cleaning Pro). One advantage NedGraphics has in the ability to send files directly to the loom or printer.

Kaledo by Lectra- Starting price is $4000.

This software replaced to older U4ia program offered by Lectra.

This program has 3 base modules:

  • Weave- Included yarn library & weave library. You can work in flat mode or yarn mode.
  • Print – Includes color reduction, repeat & layering abilities.
  • Knit – Includes yarn libraries. You can work in flat mode or yarn mode.

It also has capabilities for mapping and creating line sheets and presentations.

Prima Vision by Lectra Systems – Starting price is

Prima Vision was designed before Kaledo and is no longer being updated. This is a textile application only. You can make very intricate weaves, knits, jacquard, and prints.

Colour Matters – See below for pricing

Under the Color Matters name there are three different softwares:

Colour Matters Pro (CM32) – Includes 4 modules (weave, knit, print, & draping).

Prices are separate for each module.

Bae Bitmap = $1450

Base Layers = $500

Weave = $1450

Knits = $2250

Knits Symbols= $650

Drape  $399

CM Studio (CM32) – This is the more affordable version of the above. Still has the 4 modules, but not all the features.

Prices are separate for each module.

Bae Bitmap = $499

Base Layers = $299

Weave = $499

Knits = $850

Knit Symbols = $650

Drape  $399

Fabric Toolbox (FT32) – This is the entry level program offering all-in-one illustration/ imaging/ and layout abilities. Ideal for students, freelancers, and start-ups. Price $349

That is a lot to Learn!

You do not need to be an expert at all of these programs. However, the more programs you know the more opportunities you will have, and you will find it easier to transition between jobs.

I suggest to become an expert in at least one CAD program and one vector based program. Then it is a good idea to either take a crash course or weekend or evening class on the others maybe once a year just so you are not totally in the dark about how they work.

Fashion Tech Business Series

fashion industry, fashion technology, fashion software, computer software for fashion, CAD programs, fashion CAD programs, fashion career, fashion career advise

If you or someone you know is interested in starting their own fashion tech company you can read the entire series here. Learn what it takes to be a successful fashion tech entrepreneur or just work in the field with the latest and greatest technology.

  1. How Technology Is Changing The Landscape Of The Fashion Industry
  2. Interview with PopMark Co-Founders Soumya Jain & Fletcher
  3. What Software Do Fashion Professionals Need To Know To Stay On The Cutting Edge
  4. Interview with Tycoon App Founder Jessica Perez
  5. What Software Do Fashion Designers Need To Know To Stay Competitive
  6. Interview with Passport Runway Founder Elizabeth Entin
  7. How To Work With Fashion Technology Incubators
  8. Interview with Patternbank co-founder Neil Elliott   
fashion industry, fashion technology, fashion software, computer software for fashion, CAD programs, fashion CAD programs, fashion career, fashion career advise
fashion industry, fashion technology, fashion software, computer software for fashion, CAD programs, fashion CAD programs, fashion career, fashion career advise
fashion industry, fashion technology, fashion software, computer software for fashion, CAD programs, fashion CAD programs, fashion career, fashion career advise
fashion industry, fashion technology, fashion software, computer software for fashion, CAD programs, fashion CAD programs, fashion career, fashion career advise
fashion industry, fashion technology, fashion software, computer software for fashion, CAD programs, fashion CAD programs, fashion career, fashion career advise
fashion industry, fashion technology, fashion software, computer software for fashion, CAD programs, fashion CAD programs, fashion career, fashion career advise
fashion industry, fashion design career, fashion career advice, fashion CAD software, apparel CAD software, textile CAD programs, apparel CAD software, textile design, fashion designers, textile designers, fashion business
fashion industry, fashion design career, fashion career advice, fashion CAD software, apparel CAD software, textile CAD programs, apparel CAD software, textile design, fashion designers, textile designers, fashion business
fashion industry, fashion design career, fashion career advice, fashion CAD software, apparel CAD software, textile CAD programs, apparel CAD software, textile design, fashion designers, textile designers, fashion business
fashion industry, fashion design career, fashion career advice, fashion CAD software, apparel CAD software, textile CAD programs, apparel CAD software, textile design, fashion designers, textile designers, fashion business