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How to Draw Still Life

Still-life drawing is a great way to get started with drawing and building your foundation. Start with simple shapes like a mug or ball to learn contouring and shading. Once you've mastered the fundamentals, you can move on to more complex objects like a tree or house. Here are some great tips to help you start drawing still life.

Aim and Position

You should always outline and set up your composition before you dive into the details. Concentrate on the big picture of what you’re seeing and work on the relative positioning of the objects. Stick your hand out with your pencil in front of you and squint one of your eyes to help measure the distance of various objects in relation to each other. Then use your pencil as a measuring tool on your paper to place and size the objects on your paper appropriately.

Wireframe with Geometric Shapes

Start by drawing the objects as though they are translucent wireframe forms with visible structural lines in any still life. This technique allows you to be fully aware of every single form's geometric parameters with respect to the others. It's crucial to sketch things lightly so that any mistakes or construction lines can be easily changed. You can practice drawing ellipses and balance the symmetry of cylindrical structures by employing vertical and horizontal lines.

You must be conscious of your arrangement's conceptual structure, which includes line, shape, tone, colour, pattern, texture, form balances and contrasts. A translucent, simple geometric approach to drawing still life aids in the organization of the group's arrangement. It makes it easy to observe how each object's form, position, and dimensions relate to its neighbours.

Clear Construction Lines

You can erase the contouring lines once you're satisfied with all your shapes, light balance, and composition. This will leave you with a cleaner composition and .you can now dive into the details of each object.

Shade in Layers

Squint at your objects to quickly see the light contrast and how light or dark you should shade each object.

The shading process must be segmented into four steps:

Step 1 - Add some basic tones to start building up the three-dimensional structure of each object.

Step 2 - The spaces around the elements are crucial in setting the tone. Pay attention to the lights and shadows between the items. The objects' shapes are defined just as much by the shadows thrown beneath and around them as by the shading of their surfaces. Notice how well the objects' forms are defined by the counter-change of tonalities between them and their surroundings.

Step 3 - Intensify tones and increase the contrast between dark and light parts. The most difficult task at this point is to maintain a balance between tones and forms.

Step 4 - Now focus on the gaps between the pieces, enhancing their contrasts. To produce a coherent and realistic image, carefully balance the tonal values of the items and the gaps between them.

Your final still-life drawing should function on two levels: as a correct portrayal of the collection of objects and as a dynamic arrangement of visual elements that harmonize and contrast line, form, and colour.


Still life art requires object measurements, modelling, positioning, shading and capturing light and shadow, refining and detailing. For some inspiration and great examples of still life drawing, you can visit Ino Chang’s art portfolio.

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