Tips & Tricks to Appetizing Food





Ever wonder how to draw delicious food and make it so appealing to the eye that you are instantly hungry but can't eat it? This tutorial is for you, I will go through all the basics that you need to know when it comes to drawing food and how to make it look appetizing and mouth-watering.

Learning to draw food is almost similar to how chefs learn and study on food plating.

It is best to have a basic understanding on what makes food look delicious and apply the knowledge into yor drawings.


I will go through few important topics and share some basic tips and tricks for you guys in creating these foods.


When illustrating and drawing food, it can be split into 3 kinds of layers and they are:


➤ The Base

➤ The Food Elements

➤ The Toppings



The Base is also known as the "Table Setting". It is also a layer where you place your plates, bowls, cutlery, napkins, wooden boards (for aesthetics), trays and so on, basically the layer that has less priority/attention than your food.

It can be formal, like how those fancy-pancy table setting with a lot of kinds of plates (dinner plate, salad plate, lucheon plate etc), different kinds of forks and spoons (dinner fork, soup spoon etc.), and with some beautiful floral napkin or such.


Or it can be just as casual as just a bowl and a spoon, or a box and plastic cutlery, like how you would use when you eat at home or enjoying some street foods.

Observe below example, this is one of my favourite childhood local food from Malaysia, Hokkien Mee or simply, Prawn Mee. The base I have included in this illustration are:

➤ A bowl

➤ A chinese soup spoon

➤ A pair of chopsticks (to be specific Polymer Material Alloy chopsticks)

➤ Table mat that is made from coconut leaves or some sort to give it a tropical feel.

The base can be a nice addition to your illustration, like how including the chopsticks and spoon feels like it is inviting the viewer to have a taste (although they can't XDD)


In this section, I will be explaining how you should draw and place your food in your illustrations. Some dishes comes with a lot of food elements, some just as simple as like a bowl of soup. It is important to think this through on how you should draw these elements effectively so you can convey what you are intended to show to your viewers.



Arrangement of food elements plays an important role in creating food illustrations. This is because it determines the main direction and intent of your illustration.


There are two types of arrangements, they are:

➤ Focused (1 - 3 main food elements)

➤ Harmonized (every food element blends in yet complements each other)



For focused arrangement, you have to determine your main food elements you want to focus in the whole illustration. What do you want your viewers to draw attention first? Choose 1 to 3 elements to focus and not more than that.

After you have chosen your main food elements, it is time to think about how to make them "pop" in your illustrations., in other words, creating contrast. There are a few ways to do this:


➤ Scale

  • make your food element larger than the rest or smaller than the rest

➤ Colour

  • choosing an opposing color like complementary colours is a great way to give contrast (I will further explain this in the Colours section)


➤ Lights and Darks

  • make your main food elements seem lighter or darker than the rest, it helps to enhance the main food elements as focal point.


As opposed to Focused Arrangement, food elements in this kind of arrangement should compromise with each other, even better that they complement each others, the concept of "it won't be the same without you" haha.

To achieve this, your choice of Scale, Colour, Lights and Darks are more harmonized, or "Blend in" for all your food elements, basically do the opposite that of Focused Arrangement.


Observe below example on how the food elements are almost the same size and carries the same priority for the whole illustration. They are place in circular shape, so the eye is able to move from one end to another and continue the cycle.

Similar to what I mentioned for Focused Arrangement, choice of colours will be further discussed in Colours section.


Depending on The Base and how your food elements are arranged, the "perfect" angle varies. There are a lot of kind of angles you can picked from for your food illustration. It is not easy as it sounds as you have to imagine your food in a 3D space and pick the angle that best suit for your food in which all important food elements will have a decent coverage for your illustration.

Though, fear not, there are 3 commonly used angles you can try out:


➤ Normal angle

  • eye- level angle, best for food (especially drinks) that has transparent to semi-transparent base, or the food has height like pancakes!


➤ 45 angle

  • best for food that you want to give precise focal point without neglecting the side elements.


➤ Top Angle

  • or simply the top view. this is best you decided that you want all your food elements visible to the camera


Here are some angles that I tend to use for my illustrations:


Last but not least the "Toppings". Toppings can be literal toppings of food or "decorations" on food. **Though, please do keep in mind that, for my own definition of toppings are the kinds that you can get away by not linearting or sketching them. Great examples of "Toppings" are icing glaze, condiments, sauces, spring onions etc.


Toppings can be divided into two types: solid-form and liquid form


This kind of topping comes in all shape and sizes, it can be as small and irregular as crushed dark chocolate, or as big and regular as chopped spring onions.


Here are some toppings examples or ideas for you guys:

For Savory Food:

  • black pepper

  • red pepper flakes

  • black and white sesame seeds

  • chopped spring onions (some called it scallions)

  • fried scallions

  • dill leaves

  • bay leaves

  • parsley

  • butter


For Sweet Food:

  • butter

  • crushed peanuts

  • crushed chocolates

  • coco powder

  • chocolate strips

  • sea salt

  • colourful sprinkles

When drawing something more scattered such as salt and black pepper, The general rule of thumb to make things look randomized is to place two of the random items together and leave one slightly further away from the two.

I do recommend to not be over-obssessed in giving too much details for these toppings, like what the masters say, "less is more".


Here is one example on how I applied this to my food illustration.


Liquid-formed toppings are your sauces, gravy and glaze. It can be as opaque as chocolate glaze, or as transparent as honey glaze.


To learn how to draw these liquid-formed toppings, you have to understand how to draw liquids in general.



The consistency or thickness of liquids carries a lot of information when drawing them on food. Glaze usually has less thickness and looks watery, so when drawing glaze, your drops must be thin and has a longer drip flow. As for thick liquids like gravies, your drops are more larger and shorter drip flow.


To give this an even more clear understanding, observing below the application of this concept on my food illustrations.

Observe how I applied these concepts on my illustrations:

The green matcha glaze has a more thin long flow, while the gravy looks more thick and has shorter flow.

A quick tip: Adding some highlights on these liquids helps to give it some shine so it looks convincing!


Colours is one of the most important elements in drawing an illustration. Colours gives life, meaning and mood of the piece, and drawing food is no exception..

I know that everyone's colour scheme is different, but it is highly recommended to use more saturated and vibrant colours. This is because we "eat with our eyes". The more the colourful or vibrant the food looks, the more appealing and inviting to its viewers.


From the colour wheel, this is the recommended areas to pick your colours.

Look how the left side looks more delicious and inviting than the one on the right that looks dull and less inviting.


Colours is also great in giving contrast, blending your elements, give volumes as well as convey the temperature of a piece. I will further discuss this in upcoming sections.


Complementary colours are pairs of colours that sits opposite of each other in the colour wheel, they cancel each other out and if they are mixed, they create a gray shade.

The three main pairs of complementary colours are Red and Green, Blue and Orange, Purple and Yellow.

If you are going for focused arrangement for your food illustration, you can incorporate some complementary colours for your main elements, to give it some "pop". Complementary colours are also useful if it just to distinguish between your dish and the base (plates, table mat etc), so the viewer is able to draw their attention to your food first.

You can use the below link to help you with picking pair of complementary colours for reference.

Here are some examples that incorporate complementary colours in my food illustrations. Observe how the colours help in giving more contrast and separate the less important subjects and the main elements.


Colour harmonies, like its name, it blends, give harmony to all elements. But since we are drawing food, we want every element to blend with each other yet enhance each other. So it is wise to choose harmonious colours that are able to complement each other.

This is typical useful if you are drawing the Harmonious Arrangement. Use the link I shared in previous sections and choose "Analogous" to have 3 harmonious colours that you can reference from!


Here are some of my illustrations that aim for a more harmonious colour choices.


Harmonious colour choices aims to give a more cozy, "at home" feel to its viewers, so it is very suitable if you want to invoke some nostalgia in your piece. Like how I used it on Hot Coco, a hot warm drink during the winter and Hokkien Prawn Mee, a local dish that I loved since young.


Another useful method to give contrast to your piece is using light and dark values of colours, especially when complementary colours does not fit in your piece. It helps to separate your main focus with other elements by using lighter or darker tones. This also enables viewers to draw their eyes to the main subject and able to distinguish what is your main focus.

Observe how I choose a lighter colours for my main subject and darker colours for the base in the first illustration, and the opposite for the second illustration.


If you are a beginner and still don't know how to choose your colours, the first thing you can try is to actually find good reference photos of the foods you want to draw. And pick the colours directly from the photos.


User the colour picking tool and hover across your reference photos and pick out the obvious colours and do some swatches for it.


Foods come in hot and cold, but as an illustration, viewers are unable to tell the temperature of your food if you do not give indications of its temperature so its good to give some visual reference for your viewers to imagine what is it like to put the food in their mouths.


Great common indications of temperature are the heat coming out from hot foods and water droplets on cold drinks that indicate melting of something cold.

In this section, I will give a brief simple tutorial on drawing smoke to give heat for your hot foods and how to add water droplets for your cold foods (or drinks).


To start off, pick any brush of your liking, make sure the opacity is set to 100. The size you pick for your brush will be the size of the smoke and pick the colour white. I am using CSP's default Turnip Pen here.

Draw the shape of your smoke, for me I will go with a simple swirly line.

Then, go to Blur and pick the Finger Tip Blur tool.

Simply just draw another swirly flow with the blur tool on the white line you just drew. Lower to the opacity of the layer to your liking or just leave as that.

This is what it should look like when it is applied to my food illustration.


Just like how I explained how liquid-formed toppings are drawn in previous section, it is almost similar when drawing water droplets. Water droplets are less thickness and flow fast, so make sure you draw it small, thin and long, especially when it is flowing on a smooth surface.



Same as the way I did with the smoke, Turnip Pen, white colour, opacity 100% but this time the size should be as thin as possible.

You can straight away apply your water droplets by drawing it on top of your subject. To illustrate this, observe how I draw water droplet on top of the cold glass.


This section is just the step-by-step screenshot process of my food illustration which consist of 6 foods and 2 drinks. This is just to give you guys an idea of how I draw my illustrations.


My typical steps are:

  • sketch

  • lineart

  • flat colours

  • painting

  • toppings

  • finishing touches


These are the brushes I used when drawing these delicious foods:

If you have noticed, I did add some sparkles for my drawings, this is to make your illustration more inviting and engaging to look at, the brushes I used for these finishing touches are as below:









Thank you for reading my tutorial, honestly this is my first time drawing foods, and this is basically what I observed when doing the studies. And I hope this is useful for those who wants to draw mouth-watering foods!



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