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Tech Pack Creation Using Illustrator and Excel

At a Glance:

How to Create a Tech Pack

Summary Page 

Technical Sketches 

Bill of Materials (BOM)

Graded Specifications

Colorway Specs 

Sample Comments

Illustrator and Excel: Pros and Cons

In the fashion and apparel world, designers may spend hours conceptualizing product sketches and mood boards as part of their creative visualization. However, when the time comes to translate those visuals into physical samples, suppliers and manufacturers require more than a few creative briefs to usher new garments into production. 

A tech pack is a specified document created to communicate design concepts and product requirements, serving as the blueprint for factories to access the data needed to produce new styles. Designers and developers generate tech packs to ensure all product details can be viewed, shared, and edited with zero restrictions. Manufacturers use tech packs to explore images, files, layouts, sketches, numbers, and materials to determine production costs, labor costs, and minimum order quantities (MOQs).

How to Create a Tech Pack 

Transitioning your tech pack into a functioning prototype is no easy feat, but it’s made possible with the help of a cloud-based PLM software like Backbone. Nevertheless, other manual tools like Adobe Illustrator or Microsoft Excel are also intended to create and share product specs with suppliers. If your brand isn’t ready to fully utilize an all-encompassing PLM solution, Illustrator and Excel still provide professional, customizable documents to house product information. As we mentioned in our blog on static vs dynamic data, there is nothing wrong with taking this approach to tech pack creation; it might just require some additional lift from your team. 

Follow along as we show you how to create manual tech packs and how you can download a few helpful tech pack templates for free. 

Related Article: Tech Packs: Static vs Dynamic Data 

The Summary Page 

First thing’s first, the summary page. This page provides an overview of your project creation. Taxonomy and product-related details about your design should be complete with a flat sketch. These summary details include: 

  • Your company name and contact information 
  • Style name or style number
  • Season
  • Factory or vendor
  • Country of Origin (COO)
  • Date Created
  • Size scale
  • Colorways
  • Sample due dates
  • Revisions section

A tech pack acts as a visual contract for your factories to access the data needed to track the entire product development process. To ensure a quick and seamless sampling stage, all feedback and revisions should be recorded with a reason for the change. That helps tie up loose ends and holds your vendors accountable for implementing all modifications. It isn’t uncommon for factories to make mistakes during development or production, so maintaining an up-to-date, well-organized tech pack provides leverage for negotiation and allows your suppliers to provide more accurate quotes. 

Here’s an example of a tech pack cover page:

Tech Pack Cover Page

Technical Sketches 

Technical sketches are black and white sketches often drawn in Illustrator with text annotations to specify design and construction details. These flat sketches typically include key components such as stitching, trims, and placements.

When creating your sketches and enabling callouts, it’s recommended this be done in layers. The base layer includes the company logo and page title (or framework), the second layer includes the flat sketches, and the top layer is left aside for text annotation.

If you examine the image below, you will see the product information required to construct a garment from the front viewpoint. Additional formats include back, side, and detail construction flats. For more complex product designs, teams must ensure the proper level of detail is conveyed, or they risk leaving areas of construction open to interpretation by the factory, resulting in a sample that will not pass quality assurance and lead to costly revisions.

Tech Pack Product Construction Viewpoint

Bill of Materials (BOM)

The Bill of Materials is a complete list of every physical item required to create a finished product, along with photos and sketches that show where each item is located on the product. This list includes fabric, labels, style name, size, composition, color, quantity, and even hangers or poly bags. Additionally, sample measurements, fit revisions, and construction details are made available.

Updating BOMs is one of the most crucial aspects of tech pack creation, but it can also be the most tedious if your team designs a product with lots of intricate details and trim pieces. Whether your designers build a new piece of outerwear or a new handbag, examine both the inside and outside of the product to make sure your BOM includes all necessary materials. Don’t overlook any aspect of the product — even the interfacing, elastic, and packaging materials should be identified in your final tech pack. 

It also helps to conduct a mental scan of your design. Envision each part of the product as it would look leaving the factory, including hangers, cardboard inserts, tags, insulating materials, and so on. Maintaining an accurate forecast of the raw materials and components needed to manufacture specific products saves hours of valuable time and provides a template for new products to be adjusted.

Here’s an example of a tech pack BOM:

Related Article: What is a Tech Pack? Tips & Tricks

Graded Specifications

A graded spec is a chart of Points of Measure (POMs) for your given product. A POM is simply the point at which measurements and values are listed. For example, the Front Body Length from the High Point Shoulder. If you notice the POM has similar instructions listed, you can include them as such or input a column for, “How to Measure.” Consult with your vendor before constructing these documents to ensure your developers create a format that matches how they like to view and digest product data. 

Product measurements and size specs are often the bulk of a tech pack, as each design size requires its own unique set of measurements. The spec is crucial to determining how your garment will fit and should be created by a technical designer or pattern maker. Unless any of your team members are seasoned in this area, it is best practice to outsource talent for this task.

Colorway Specs 

All colorway variations and related components are included in your tech pack, along with labels, trim pieces, and embellishments. Designers can manage product and component colorways and identify which color goes where in a given garment. Additionally, designers display these specs using colored letters and numbers, or they can use colored chips below the artwork.  

The number system is a more foolproof operation, as it becomes independent of printer quality on the receiving end. When creating custom palettes or sourcing colors for new designs, Pantone is consistently the most common color reference in the fashion industry. Pitch sheets show details for all textile patterns or prints, including colors, scale, repeats, or placement. These are created in Illustrator and sent to your factory with native artwork for development. 

After you’ve loaded Pantone colors into your workspace and finalized your art specs, you’ll be ready to create colorways for your tech pack creation.

Colorway Specs for Tech Pack Creation

Related Article: Choosing Your First PLM System

Sample Comments

Because your tech pack serves as a master document for tracking, you will need to enter measurements, comments, approvals, and rejections for various samples — proto samples, fit samples, sales samples, photo samples, etc. 

It’s common to include photos of samples marked with notes to communicate changes or construction issues. Be sure to highlight any measurements that are out of tolerance so the factory can easily locate the corrections that need to be fulfilled. These sample pages can be duplicated to fit the exact number of samples you receive. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s faster to leave minor comments in an email thread. No matter how minuscule the comment is, provide sample feedback to your factory within the tech pack itself. Trust us when we say — two months or two years down the road, you won’t remember the comment and probably won’t be able to find the email. It’s just too easy to lose track of all correspondence this way.

Pros and Cons of Illustrator and Excel

Illustrator and Excel are two of the most renowned programs available, and that’s the honest truth. From fashion and apparel to accessories and home goods, designers commonly use these tools as a jumping-off point for the first stage of product development. The flexible user interface allows designers to make as many revisions as needed and manually input all necessary product information. A vast range of tutorials and a knowledgeable customer support team make it possible to adopt these systems; however, there are limitations when building and sharing factory-ready tech packs. 

For example, Illustrator offers a tremendous program for designing technical sketches, colorways, and product variants, but complete tech packs require additional specifications and product data not stored in Illustrator, including materials, measurements, image templates, component renderings, numbers, and so on. 

Often, design teams will use these tools in addition to PLM software to organize and maintain tech packs. It can be a convoluted and time-consuming princess to upload artwork to multiple programs and access different iterations throughout the design cycle, but Backbone’s two-way Adobe integration enables designers to access and update files without worrying about having the current version. Changes are synced seamlessly with the click of a button, taking the pain out of product revisions for your whole team. Product designers and developers can create tech packs in minutes and update sketches or detail pages without leaving the tool they are operating in to make these visual changes.

Related Article: PLM vs ERP: What’s the Difference? 

You Can’t Beat Backbone 

As your fashion brand learns more about tech pack creation and which system produces the best results for your team, you’ll find Backbone PLM beats manual tech pack creation in every facet. While Illustrator and Excel are dependable, feature-forward tools, building tech packs in these manual platforms limits your brand to operate using static data. 

If your team has a goal to save time, increase speed to market, and drive profits, Backbone’s cloud-based system provides well-constructed tech packs that are made visible and concise for both internal and external contributors. This is possible thanks to one unique concept dynamic data.

Interested in Backbone’s tech pack creation and other digital product features? Explore our collection of case studies, blogs, and customer reviews to learn more. If you’re ready to build your brand with Backbone, schedule a demo with a member of our team below!

But wait, there’s more!

Try your hand at tech pack creation with our collection of user-friendly templates. Click the button below to access Backbone’s resource library.