David Downton was born on 18 February 1959 in Kent, England. He studied at Canterbury (Foundation year 1977-1978) and Wolverhampton (BA hons illustration/graphics 1979-1981).
In 1984 he moved to Brighton and began his illustration career. He worked on a wide variety of projects ranging from advertising and packaging to illustrating fiction, cook books and, occasionally, fashion. His drawings from fashion shows have been published internationally. In 1998, he started working on a series of portraits of some of the world's most beautiful women.
Downton launched Pourquoi Pas?, a journal of fashion illustration, in 2007. He is a visiting professor at London College of Fashion.
He received an honorary doctorate from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, in April 2009.
Downton is the artist in residence at London's Claridge's hotel, where he stays 52 nights a year in exchange for drawings according to BBC2's 2012 program - Inside Claridge's.