How to light a still life painting

September 27, 2018
By Richard Robinson
How to light a still life painting logo

Have you ever tried to paint a still life? I find the hardest and most time consuming part of it is just setting it up. Getting it to look interesting, well balanced and well lit turns out to be all the more difficult by the endless number of options. Placement of items is made easier when you begin to consider that what really looks interesting in a painting is variety, so I like to choose objects with different sizes, shapes and colors.

Lighting can be played with after the initial setup, but I find it's really an integral part of the whole design because one arrangement of objects make look good under one lighting setup, but bad under another, so I prefer to move the lighting around whilst I'm arranging the objects - and that's why it takes so much time to get it looking 'right'.

This short video shows you one possible lighting setup but because there are literally infinite options it really serves only as an example of the lengths you need to go to sometimes in order to arrange a pleasing setup. What I was trying to achieve with this particular setup was a dramatic high contrast lighting effect which showed off the rich color of the apple and the beautiful ripe roundness of its form.

Still life makes a nice change of pace from plein air landscape painting where the sun just won't stand still like a good old desk lamp will. I encourage you to give it a go - it's a great way to hone your skills.

"Still Life - Apple and Jar"

8x10"

Original Oil on Board

View Still Life painting lessons.


Happy painting, 

Richard