Coloured pencil still life tutorial

Are you a new artist, eager to hone your skills? This simple coloured pencil still life tutorial will equip you with essential skills to master the medium, including colour layering, and the use of various strokes to create texture.

So, grab your pencils, let's awaken your inner artist and create a masterpiece together!

Coloured pencil still life drawing

What you will need


Use any brand of artist coloured pencils for this project.

Peter, for example, used Caran d'Ache Pablos. If you're a beginner, you'll likely enjoy these soft pencils as they require little pressure to achieve a rich colour.

Faber Castell Polychromos pencils are also an excellent choice due to their translucent nature, which is beneficial when building layers.


The paper must have the right texture to accept multiple layers of pencil pigment, without feeling overly rough.

Good options include Stonehenge, Derwent Lightfast, or Strathmore 400 series papers.

While many colored pencil artists work on hot pressed watercolor paper, it could feel too smooth if you're still learning the techniques.

Getting started

Photo reference for still life drawing of fruitThe photo reference we will work from

Start by lightly outlining your still life with a graphite pencil on your paper. Aim for light lines, capturing the basic shapes and dimensions of the objects. No need for perfection here.

If you prefer a template, feel free to grab the downloadable guide via the below link. To transfer this onto your paper review my pages on using tracing paper or drawing with a grid

Outline sheet (PDF)

Full exercise notes PDF

Begin your coloured pencil still life with the orange

Let's kick off with the orange. With a soft touch, lightly shade with a Cream or Pale Yellow pencil. This will give your fruit a warm base colour.

I've left the shiny part as is but if you prefer, use a kneaded eraser to lighten it. This will give a softer edge to the shine, making it look more natural.

Using small circular pencil strokes throughout the orange will mimic the texture of the rough skin.

Drawing the orange step 1

The next stage is to shade with a mid-toned Yellow, then add light Orange to the shadowy areas. Your fruit might still look yellow at this stage, but don't worry.

Apply a middle Green to the stalk area, then layer a cream colour over the fruit (not the shiny area). This will begin to blend the colours together, but remember to shade lightly to retain the texture of the paper.

Drawing the orange step 2

Repeat this process, adding more pressure this time, and shade deeper Orange into the darker areas.

Continue to use circular strokes when blending, keeping your wrist loose and your arm moving. This will help to create an even tone.

The orange's rough surface means you don't need a perfect, smooth edge. Painting outside the lines can actually make it look more lifelike.

The light side of the apple

While perfect edges are not necessary when drawing the rough surface of an orange, a different approach is required when transitioning to the smooth skin of an apple.

It's important to alter your pencil strokes, tracing the apple's shape and shading with curved lines to accurately mimic its unique skin pattern. Each fruit requires a distinct technique to bring it to life on your paper.

Drawing the apple step 1

We begin with a soft cream base, focusing on the brighter sections initially. Then, we follow a similar process for the rosy patches, applying a cooler shade of red (not something too orange).

If you are unsure what is meant by a cool colour, check out the colour theory section of this site.

Drawing the apple step 2

Our approach unfolds layer by layer, strategically incorporating hints of light orange into the darker parts within the cream section.

We're not merely slapping paint on a canvas. We're sculpting with colour, carving out light and shadow with our pencils. Every stroke is deliberate, every hue chosen with care. We're not just painting, we're creating a world on our paper. And in that world, we control the light.

Remember, in coloured pencil painting, less is often more. A subtle touch of orange can sometimes express more than a whole palette of vibrant colours.

Be patient, let the painting unfold naturally. The beauty is in the details, in the careful application of each layer.

The red portion of the apple

Having established a vibrant base with careful layering of orange over the yellow sections, we now turn our attention to the red side of the apple.

Here, we'll implement an artist's secret: using complementary colours for depth and shading. In this case, we'll use green, the complement of red, to subtly darken certain areas and add a sense of three-dimensionality.

Drawing the apple step 3

We progressively build layers, mixing light orange with yellow and blending green into red to darken shadows.

Blend the apple with the cream pencil, then reapply the earlier colours for a stronger result.

To wrap up this part, intensify the apple's red side with dark red. Use sepia or bistre for the stem, shadows near the stem, and the apple's darkest shadows.

Drawing apple step 4

Add the banana 

Having completed the apple, your still life is beginning to take shape. Now, to further add depth and complexity to your composition, consider the arrangement of your fruits.

For instance, in this setting, the apple and orange are positioned in front of the banana, creating an overlap that contributes to a more dynamic and realistic portrayal.

Now let’s consider the colour of your banana.

By subtly adjusting and modifying its hues, you can enhance the overall effectiveness of your painting. Remember, the fruits are close in colour, and this aspect can be leveraged to create a harmonious, yet realistic coloured pencil still life drawing.

Drawing the banana step 1

Having explored the importance of accurately capturing the hue of your banana to enhance the realism of your piece, it's now time to move on to the actual drawing process.

Just like with the apple, the banana will be drawn with a series of curved lines that follow its unique form.

Add cream as a base layer, then layer on colors like yellow, orange, and yellow-green over darker areas. Include a hint of brown ochre and sepia in areas where shadows are cast by the fruit in front.

Finish the banana by applying brown at both ends. Spots and blemishes? That's your artistic call. Finish the fruit using a heavy burnishing technique with your cream pencil.

If you're unfamiliar with burnishing, explore this page to learn more.

The background for your coloured pencil still life

The photo shows the fruit on a white plate, arranged on a blue and white cloth. The colours complement the yellows and oranges of the fruit.

Since the fruit is the main focus, the background can be less detailed. Light Grey and a Blue of your choice can represent the plate and cloth. But ensure these colors are vibrant enough to hold their own against your coloured pencil still life subject

Remember to add the shadows beneath the plate's edge. This prevents the plate from appearing to hover.

Completed fruit bowlFruit Bowl is copyright Peter Weatherill 2005-2020

This tutorial explained how colour comes to life through layering. The first layers set the object's main colour; subsequent layers modify it subtly.

Drawing with coloured pencils is an incredible way to explore your creativity and bring your artistic vision to life. The process of layering, as you've seen, can dramatically increase the depth and realism of your work.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Don't shy away from trying out different fruit arrangements and experimenting with a range of colours.

As you continue to hone your skills, you'll find each piece you create becomes an expression of your growth as an artist. Before long you will be looking at everyday objects that have personal meaning to you to include in more elaborate coloured pencil still life arrangements.

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