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Photo of a still life and paper.

Make Still Life Drawing Easier With 7 Simple Tips

  1. Choose The Right Location For Still Life Drawing
  2. Selecting Objects To Draw
  3. Plan The Still Life Composition
  4. Selecting A Location For Drawing
  5. Lighting Still Life Objects For Drawing
  6. Art Materials For Still Life Drawing
  7. Photographing A Still Life For Drawing

Drawing A Still Life

What Is A Still-Life In Drawing?

A still-life refers to the subject matter of a drawing. It's a drawing of objects that are still, usually material objects. Examples are drawings of fruit, flowers, and metal or glass containers.

Still-life drawing can fall into a wide range from simple to complex, representational to expressive. Gather a few objects, nicely arrange them, and draw.

Occasionally, an interesting composition appears by happenstance. Like a stroke of good luck, a collection of objects demands attention. New to still-life drawing? Here are a few practical tips I've learned over time.

Choosing The Right Location For Still Life Drawing

Plan when drawing still-life art. Consider how long drawing a still life will take and plan accordingly. Keep everything the same for the duration of the drawing process. Taking over your dining room table for an afternoon still-life sketch is one thing. A realistic still-life drawing may take days, weeks, or months, depending on the level of detail. While some won't mind sacrificing the family dining space for art, others may not appreciate it.

Set your still life up in an area convenient for the long haul. Move a still-life and struggle to get things back in perfect arrangement. It's best to set it up and leave it there for the duration of the drawing process.

Selecting Objects For Still Life Drawing

For those new to still-life drawing, consider simple objects. Add interest through lighting. Creating bold lights and shadows can make the most common objects seem interesting.

Are you looking for a still-life idea? Here are a few ideas for still life drawing:

  • Eggs
  • Engines or Machine Parts
  • Still Life Drawing Flowers
  • Dishes & Pottery
  • Baked Goods
  • Still Life Drawing Fruit & Vegetables
  • Plants & Gardening Supplies
  • Toys
  • Candy & Packaged Goods
  • Still Life Drawing Wine Bottle
  • Shoes
  • Still Life Drawing Skull

Household objects can make a great still life. Simple objects may be easier to draw. Combining textures adds interest. Reflections on glossy objects can be fun and challenging. Add interest by casting shadows onto a colorful background. The perfect still-life drawing for beginners may be a simple grouping of 2 to 3 objects.

Planning The Composition For Drawing A Still Life

Select a grouping of objects. Raise or lower items by placing them on books or other objects. Create a variety of heights within the still life by arranging some objects higher than others.

Placing objects upon draped fabric or a glossy surface can create interest.

Get the still-life composition right. Get the lighting right. Get the placement right. Get the background right. Getting it all right from the start makes drawing a still life easier.

Finding The Perfect Location For Still Life Drawing

If working from an easel, consider leaving your easel, lamps, and light sources in place for the duration of the drawing.

Again, you'll seldom get them back into the same position. The slightest change in placement changes the view and requires changing the drawing.

Lighting A Still Life For Drawing

Natural light can be great for sketching. If drawing inside the studio, Northern light is often recommended. Consider setting a still-life up next to a Northern-facing window. Remember that natural light changes faster than you might think.

Consider using artificial light for longer sessions and realistic drawing. Lamps and light stand create consistent lighting over long periods. A lamp or light source can be placed at a 45-degree angle on one side of the still life. Placing the light source to one side creates contrasting lights and shadows. Even in a fully lit room, a brighter light source can be directed to one side of the still life to create contrast.

Visually separate dark objects from a dark background by placing a small lamp or light source behind and slightly below the still life to illuminate the background.

Lighting a still life directly from the front can visually flatten shapes. Areas of light and shadow make it easier to create an illusion of depth and 3D forms.

Art Materials For Still Life Drawing

Use art materials designed to help reach the desired result. Charcoal works great for still-life drawings. Art pencils are available in a wide variety of styles and hardness.

Photographing A Still Life For Drawing

Drawing from photographs is a great way to preserve a still life long enough to create a drawing. Fresh flowers can be photographed for still-life drawings. Fleeting moments happening in nature are often a stroke of luck easily captured by photography, perfect for drawing later.

What Should Be Drawn First In A Still Life Drawing?

The arrangement should be thought of as a single object. Imagine the pieces are all glued together, forming one single piece. Draw a rough container representing the overall shape of the group together as a whole. Compare this container from top to bottom, then side to side. Make sure that the width and height are proportional.

Begin drawing when satisfied that the container is the appropriate size, height, and width. Focus on the areas of light and dark. Consider the negative spaces between objects as important as the objects themselves.

What Is Most Important In Still-Life Drawing?

Lighting may be one of the most essential things in still-life drawing. Intriguing lighting can make the most ordinary objects seem extraordinary. Extra care should be given to lighting objects in a still-life before drawing.

How Many Objects Should Be In A Still-Life Drawing

A still-life drawing can include as few or as many objects as you like.


Plan ahead for still life drawing by curating objects that interest you. Select a space that can be used as long as it takes to complete the drawing. Group objects together at a variety of heights, creating interesting compositions.

Use natural light for sketching if you like. Consider artificial lighting for long periods.

Create areas of light and shadow by placing a light on one side of the group of objects. Don't move the still life, easel, or light sources until the drawing is finished. Consider drawing perishable fruit and flowers from photographs for convenience if time is of the essence.