If you’re looking for a fun and easy art project, try painting an apple on a mini canvas. You can complete it an afternoon and it only requires 4 colors plus white. The apple is a simple shape that’s easy to draw. In fact, if you’re not confident with your drawing skills, the free PDF guide includes a drawing of the apple that you can transfer to the canvas. The guide also includes the original reference photo of the apple.

In this post, I include a list of all of the supplies you need, explain how to mix most of the colors, and offer tips on blending acrylics. You can watch me paint the apple from start to finish in the YouTube video below.

The painting is available, the bidding starts at $25. Click here to view the auction.

The Art Supplies You’ll Need for This Project

The Saral transfer paper is optional if you prefer to draw it by hand. As I mention in the video, you can also transfer the drawing by coating the back of the printout with graphite. Just use the side of a pencil to coat the back of the printout with graphite. The graphite will act like carbon paper, when you trace over the lines on the front, the graphite will transfer to the canvas. Softer pencils, such as 2B, will work better than harder pencils.

I’m using OPEN acrylics, but you can use whichever brand you prefer. You can substitute other colors if you don’t have all of them. This set of OPEN acrylics from Golden includes the colors you’ll need, except you’ll have to use Hansa Yellow and the Napthol Red Light for your yellow and red. It should work the same as the colors I selected. The set also includes a bottle of thinner.

If you’re using OPEN acrylics, you may want to pick up a bottle of OPEN thinner. When the paint starts to dry and becomes tacky, you can add some thinner to loosen it up. Adding water will loosen up the paint, but it won’t replenish the retarder. Adding water will make the paint dry faster than if you were to use the thinner. According to Golden’s technical info on OPEN acrylics: “Water will very rapidly reduce the viscosity of the paint, but will not preserve the extended open time.”

The color recipes should also work with oils, so feel free to paint it with oils if you prefer them over acrylics.

Below are the basic steps that are involved in creating this painting.


Draw the Apple on the Canvas

I normally complete the drawings for my paintings by hand because I find that it’s much more engaging than tracing. However, if you’re worried about your drawing skills, then you can just print out the PDF and transfer it to the canvas.

To transfer the drawing to the canvas, you first need to download the PDF and then print it out to any printer. You want to make sure that the settings in the print dialog box are NOT set to “fit to page” because that may distort the size of it and it won’t fit properly on the canvas. Set the scaling to 100% as shown below so that it will print at the same size as the canvas.

If the PDF is printing out too small or too large, check to make sure that “fit to page” isn’t selected in the print dialog box.

Cut the drawing out with scissors and then attach it to the canvas with a few small pieces of masking tape. You only want to tape the top edge for now, this will allow you to slide a piece of transfer paper underneath the printout. Cut out a piece of Saral transfer paper roughly the same size as the drawing, which is 2.5″ x 3.5″.

The transfer paper has a coating of pigment on one side. It comes in a variety of colors, but in this case I’m using blue. You want to position the transfer paper so that the side with the pigment on it is facing the canvas. Once you have it aligned, tape the bottom edge of the canvas with a few small pieces of masking tape.

Use a pencil to trace over the line drawing. The hard point of the pencil will transfer the pigment from the transfer paper to the canvas.

You may want to keep the tape attached to the top of the canvas and have a look underneath to see how well it transferred to the canvas. If you forgot to trace over an area, the tape at the top should keep the printout aligned. This is helpful if you need to trace over a section that you forgot, trace over it more pressure if the lines are too light.

Remove the paper and the transfer paper and you’re ready to start painting!

Mix the Colors and Block in the Major Shapes

The color mixing is probably the most difficult part of this project, especially for beginners. Since I only recommend using a limited palette of 4 colors plus white, it should simplify the process so it’s not as confusing as having to choose from 10-20 colors. You may want to read my post about the 7 colors you need to start painting in acrylics.

Another helpful tool is my acrylic color mixing chart which has multiple formulas for mixing common colors. Below I explain how I go about mixing the main colors for this painting.

A Few Tips on Color Mixing

It’s easy to be fooled by the colors of an object. When you think of an apple, I’m sure that a bright red comes to mind. This is a McIntosh apple which isn’t bright red, the colors are much more subdued. The skin of the apple also includes green. It’s helpful to separate the colors from the object so that you can get a more accurate view of them.

In the photo below, I created small swatches of colors from the main parts of the painting. The idea is that if you match these swatches and then place them in proper location, it will create the illusion of an apple.

How much you blend the colors is up to you. It’s acceptable to put these colors down as solid patches of color without blending them. This approach will create more of an impressionistic effect.

While I give the basic proportions for mixing the colors, keep in mind that it’s impossible to provide exact recipes. There are a lot of subtle adjustments that you have to make in order to create an exact match.

Don’t get frustrated if you have trouble mixing colors. You’ll never be able to guess the exact proportions on the first try. Don’t get frustrated by this. Keep practicing, watch my videos on color mixing, and read my other posts about color. In time, color mixing will become second nature.

I created color swatches from various points on the apple. It’s surprising how dark some of them are. Most them are neutral colors.

Start by Painting the Background

It’s often easier to start by painting the background, especially when it’s made of a large area of the same color. Filling in these large areas of color in the beginning will make you feel like you got a large portion of the painting completed.

The background is a warm gray. I mix it from the primary colors instead of using black.

The background looks like gray and most beginners would mix it from black and white. That would create a very neutral gray, but this background is more of a warm gray.

Since I don’t have black on my palette, I mix it from the 3 primary colors. First, I mix magenta and yellow, and then I add the Phthalo Blue to neutralize it. From there it’s a matter of adding in a small amount of Titanium White to lighten it. Once you add the white, it will become obvious if you have gray.

You’ll probably have to adjust the color. If it looks too green, then you’ll want to add more magenta. If it’s too magenta, add a small amount of Phthalo Blue. It helps to compare the color on the brush to the color swatch in the reference photo.

Mix the Color of the Table

The table is a warm neutral color.

The “table” is actually a large ceramic tile that has a beige hue. The color is mostly Titanium White with small amounts of Benzimidazalone Yellow and Quinacridone Magenta. You’ll need to add a very small amount of Phthalo Blue to dull it down so that it’s not a bright orange pastel color.

The shadow shape on the table is the same color, except it contains less white.

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