5 easy tips and tricks for a successful still life set up


I set up this still life knowing I was using the palette knife for the January 2019 demo. I wanted to demonstrate how to use the straight edge of the palette knife to paint with. So I picked these two different colored boxes. Using only two colors, Venetian Red and Titanium White I knew I wanted to make sure there was a strong contrast. The painting was going to be a monochromatic painting with values not color. So I started with the big empty box laying on its side and positioned it so the back of it was in complete darkness with a strong single light source. As I set up the items inside I noticed the light coming across the base, up the side planes and over the top.

Here are five quick tips on setting up you’re still life.

  1. Find some items you want to paint. If you’re making a final painting it should definitely have some meaning to you or you’re not going to want to keep at it. If you’re painting a still life as practice then maybe pick an item that challenges you or that you just have lying around. I painted a lot of apples because that’s just what I have lying around and I wanted to paint.

  2. Have a single light source that you can adjust to create the lighting affect and mood you’re trying to achieve.

  3. Experiment with the lighting to create a mood. For example if it’s strong straight overhead light that gives a much different feel than if it’s off to the side or a soft diffused light.

  4. Arrange and rearrange the items with some overlap to create space, depth and keep in mind all the rules of composition.

  5. Use a large open box on its side to set up a smaller still life inside. You have a better chance of controlling the light if you’re in a room with multiple light sources.

Let me know what you think of these tips and tricks. Have you set up a still life? What works well for you? Can’t wait to hear what you have to say. Thanks for reading.

For additional fun watch the demo of the painting here and watch me premix the colors to make the painting quicker and easier to complete.