10 Must-Have Items for the Ultimate Still Life

Looking for interesting items to set up the ultimate still life? Curating a diverse collection of items for your still life arrangements will unlock endless artistic possibilities. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 10 essential materials to help spark your imagination and guide your next artistic masterpiece!

Being able to create different still life combinations will not only make your work more visually interesting but will also allow you to tell stories through your art and add narrative depth to your compositions. Still life art isn’t just about painting a bunch of objects—it’s about noticing the relationships and unexpected connections that emerge when you begin to look at ordinary objects in a new way. This list of items will give you a great foundation to build on and provide you with endless possibilities when it comes to setting up your still life arrangements.

1. Fabric

Cream silk fabric tossed to create dynamic folds, accentuating its luxurious texture with shadows.

The use of fabric in your still life arrangement is key for creating a foundation, as well as adding dynamic interest to your composition. Fabric introduces texture, movement, and a tactile quality that adds depth to your still life. Whether it’s in the delicate folds of silk, the luxurious drape of velvet, or the cozy warmth of flannel, fabrics offer a diverse range of stories to be told. Different materials also interact with light in unique ways, allowing you to explore the interplay of shadows and highlights.

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View cotton flannel fabric on Amazon

View satin fabric on Amazon

2. Bowls

 Five tarnished metal bowls of varying sizes, displaying their weathered appearance.

Bowls serve as versatile elements in any collection of still life items. Their curved forms and varying sizes add interesting shapes and contours while providing ample opportunities to play with light, shadows, and reflections. Naturally, bowls can also be used to hold a variety of objects, suggesting utility and domesticity, and contributing to the storytelling potential within a composition. Available in different materials, sizes, and styles, bowls are essential for constructing a captivating still life that draws viewers in with a blend of form and function.

View rustic iron bowl on Amazon

View handcrafted bamboo bowl on Amazon

View modern fruit bowl on Amazon

3. Dried Plants

Eight vases with dried plants, some clear, some opaque, on a shelf against a dark green wall.

Dried plants lend a natural and organic element, providing unique textures, intricate details, and an array of shapes that contribute visual interest and complexity to your still life. They introduce a delicate play of light and shadow, creating nuanced contrasts within the composition. Symbolically, dried plants represent the passage of time, enabling artists to explore themes of resilience, transience, and mortality.

View assorted dried pampas grass on Amazon

4. Artificial Flowers

Pink faux flowers in blue vase against charcoal wall, creating contrast.

Artificial flowers are perhaps one of the most important items to add to your still life collection. Immune to wilting or decay, artificial blooms allow for greater control over composition, and their consistent vibrance provides artists with a reliable and enduring subject matter. This stability enables you to work at your own pace, experiment with various arrangements, or even revisit the same setup. Artificial flowers offer a diverse range of colors, forms, and materials, allowing for creative expression without being limited by seasonal availability.

View assorted artificial silk flowers on Amazon

View assorted artificial foliage on Amazon

5. Tapered Candles & Holders

Three lit taper candles against cream silk backdrop.

With its elegant and timeless appearance, the classic tapered candlestick adds sophistication and richness to any still life arrangement. Symbolizing themes such as celebration, time, and romance, tapered candles add narrative depth to the composition and infuse the still life with a warm, intimate atmosphere. Their versatility allows for creative expression through various shapes, colors, and styles, while unifying diverse objects in the arrangement. With their vertical stature, they serve to draw the viewer’s gaze upward and encourage the eye to explore the composition.

View spiral candlesticks on Amazon

View ivory candlesticks on Amazon

View small glass candle holders on Amazon

View large glass candle holders on Amazon

6. Adjustable Lighting

 Image Description: Ring light illuminated against an orange-tan backdrop.

The right lighting has the power to completely transform the mood and ambiance of your still life. An adjustable wall light allows for precise control over the direction, intensity, and angle of illumination, enabling you to create dynamic plays of light, shadow, and color. If you’re more interested in studio-style lighting for your still life setup, consider adding a standing ring light to your collection. The diffused light is ideal for imitating natural sunlight and can be adjusted in brightness as well as tone to achieve the perfect balance.

View adjustable LED wall sconce on Amazon

View adjustable ring light with tripod on Amazon

7. Vases

Vases of varying shapes and sizes in natural colors against a light pink backdrop.

Vases are a staple element in many still life arrangements. Whether overflowing with flowers, standing mysteriously vacant, or even broken into jagged pieces, vases can be used as powerful storytelling agents. The different shapes, sizes, and materials of vases often tell a story of their own and become focal point of a composition, providing form, structure, and anchoring the viewer’s gaze. Their reflective surfaces introduce opportunities for artists to play with reflections, and transparent vases present an interesting challenge for the ambitious artist.

View assorted glass bud vase set on Amazon

View modern ceramic vase set on Amazon

8. Fake Fruit

Close-up of assorted artificial fruits and vegetables in various colors and sizes.

While real fruit is ideal, with its natural imperfections and ability to be cut, sliced, or bitten, artificial fruit provides a good alternative and is an essential item to have in your still life collection. The shapes and colors of various fruits bring vibrancy and flavor to your still life, while allowing you to practice rendering form and color. Consistent and long-lasting, fake fruit eliminates concerns about damage, decay, or seasonal availability, and fortunately, there are many options on the market that look nearly as real as the fruit you’d find in the produce aisle.

View assorted artificial fruit on Amazon

9. Wooden Mannequins

Small wooden mannequin against an office backdrop.

The wooden figure mannequin is an iconic studio tool that many artists use to create and study dynamic human poses. It aids in the exploration of anatomy, expression, and the play of light and shadow on different body positions. In still life artwork, it provides a consistent reference point, enabling you to experiment with form, movement, balance, and spatial relationships. A mannequin also allows you to incorporate a human element into your arrangements, lending a surprisingly expressive quality while maintaining the still life principle of using inanimate objects.

View posable wooden left/right hand mannequin

View posable wooden figure mannequin on Amazon

10. Pitcher

Three white pitchers of varying sizes, shapes, and textures arranged on a wooden table against a black backdrop.

The pitcher is a classic element often found in still life art, notably favored by artists like Cezanne, Van Gogh, and many others. Its distinct form, with a handle and spout, provides a sculptural element that draws the viewer’s attention and serves as an anchoring force, adding structure to a composition. While vases are predominantly decorative, the utilitarian pitcher suggests a more functional use. Whether it’s filled with a beverage to be served, humbly embracing delicate flowers, or dejectedly tipped on its side, a pitcher can imply a human touch and add a strong narrative element to your still life arrangement.

View white ceramic pitcher on Amazon

View rustic ceramic pitcher on Amazon

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