Coloured pencil still life tutorial

Coloured pencil still life drawing

This coloured pencil still life is a simple first project for novice artists. This tutorial explains several fundamental skills that you will need to produce a colored pencil still life of your own. It also provides encouragement and inspiration for those who've never tried colored pencil art before. For more on the basics, check out the page on composing a still life pencil drawing

Although you can use any brand of artist coloured pencils for this project, Peter used Caran d'Ache Pablos for his sample. If you're just starting out, you might enjoy these soft pencils as they require little pressure to achieve a rich color.

If you have some experience with colored pencils but not with this style of realistic still life, this easy to follow tutorial may still be helpful because it provides detailed tips and techniques showing why Peter uses certain pencil strokes and colours.

Getting started

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

Sketch out your coloured pencil still life on to your paper with a graphite pencil. Keep the lines as light as you can get them. Don't worry too much about the accuracy of your sketch, just get the shapes and sizes of the objects in place.

If you would rather have a guide to follow, you can download this from the link to the outline sheet below.

Outline sheet (PDF)

Full exercise notes PDF

Begin your coloured pencil still life with the orange

We begin with the orange, using a light pencil pressure to lay down a Cream or Pale Yellow wash with a dry pencil. This provides warm undertones to the fruit.

Using small circular strokes, scribble lightly and work your way around the inside of the circle you've drawn for the orange. I've left the highlight alone, but if you want to lift it later, use a kneaded eraser. This will produce a soft outside edge to the highlight, which will look more natural.

Drawing the orange step 1

Using the circular stroke throughout the orange will help portray the texture of the bumpy skin.

The next step is to add a layer of a mid-toned Yellow on top, followed by a light Orange to the darker areas. Your orange will still look yellow, but don't panic.

Introduce a middle Green to the stalk area, and then add a layer of cream to the fruit (avoiding the highlight). This will merge the previous layers together but stick with a gentle pressure to maintain the paper's tooth.

Drawing the orange step 2

Repeat the procedure with the same colors, this time using more pressure, and then add a deeper Orange in the darker regions. 

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

To avoid going outside of the shape of the orange, begin your strokes at the edge and work in towards the centre. Don't forget to move your paper if necessary to make it easier.

Start work on the apple

Drawing the apple step 1

To work the apple, we need to use a totally different pencil stroke. Here, we follow the form of the apple and shade with a series of curved lines to imitate the pattern within the skin. 

We start with a pale yellow/cream undercoat and work in the light areas first, then repeat the procedure on the red regions using Light Red (a bluish rather than an orangy-red).

Drawing the apple step 2

We build up layers progressively, adding some light Orange over the darker areas within the Yellow section.

As green is the complementary colour to red, we will use it to darken some areas on the red side of the apple.

Drawing the apple step 3

We build up layers progressively, adding some light Orange to the Yellow and some Green into the Red to darken the shadow areas. 

Drawing apple step 4

Use the cream pencil over the apple and then reapply the previous colours to ensure a much stronger colour to the fruit.

To finish this section deepen the red side of the apple with Dark Red. Then use Sepia or Bistre for the stalk, shadows around the stalk, and the darkest shadows in the apple.

Add the banana 

To add depth, your colored pencil still life composition will require some overlapping items. The apple and orange are in front of the banana here.

Modifying the colours of the banana will help the entire picture read more effectively as the fruits are close in hue.

Drawing the banana step 1

Draw the banana in the same way as you did for the apple, with curved lines following its form.

Add Cream to undercoat and then build up layers of colour by adding Yellow, Orange, and Yellow-Green over the darker areas. Then use a touch of Brown Ochre and Sepia in the deeper shadows where the fruit in front creates shadows. Also, add brown to each end to finish the banana.

The spots and blemishes are up to your own artistic nature. Complete the fruit by burnishing heavily with your cream pencil.

The background for your coloured pencil still life

In the photograph, the fruit is sitting on a white plate, which is placed on a blue and white cloth as a complement to the yellows and oranges.

As the fruit is the centre of attention, you can complete the background in a looser fashion. To represent the white plate and checked cloth, you can use Light Grey and a Blue of your choice. Remember that these colors must be strong enough to stand up against your colored pencil fruit still life.

The essential step is to define the plate edge and the shadows under it so it doesn't just float in mid-air.

Completed still life drawing of fruitFruit Bowl is copyright Peter Weatherill 2005-2020

In this session, you've learned that color is created through layering. We define the primary colour of an object with the early layers, while later layers shift it without drastically altering it.

Your coloured pencil still life is now complete! Hang it on your wall and enjoy your own handiwork.

Thank you so much for reading this tutorial. I hope it's given you some insight into the world of coloured pencil still life.

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