First, I’ve gathered all my materials so I can have them nearby and easy to grab. I’m going to be showing you how to wood burn designs with my artwork. The design I’m using is an old owl art piece I created years ago. It’s a pencil sketch of an owl with ink layered around it. 

You can use any design you want. It can be some thing you created or it can be a pre-made template. I’m going to be showing you how I took my previous art and recreated something new, but these wood burning design techniques will apply to any artwork you want to burn.

Safety Equipment

Don’t forget your safety equipment. It’s always a good idea to wear a mask and have your gloves or finger guards ready. I also typically have a fan nearby to pull the smoke away from face.

These are three products I use when I’m burning. I’ve tried other masks, but the 3M mask with Vapor Filters have worked the best for me.




I started with scanning my old artwork and resizing it to fit on my 8×10 canvas. Then I printed it to create a template for transferring the design to the wood. I place the template on the wood, tape it down, place my carbon paper underneath and then trace the artwork onto the wood.

shader tip


Before getting started with how to wood burn designs, I get my burner fired up. I’ve got my shader tip placed in my burner wand. The Colwood burner heats up very quickly, so there’s no need to preheat. 

There’s no real method to where I start the burning, I just choose a spot and start burning. My favorite way thing to do is start burning the darkest areas and shade from there. I set my heat higher when I burn darker, so I’m going to start at a heat setting of six. For the darker areas, I just burn a flat even dark burn. I use the edge of my shader tip to outline the spot I’m going to burn. It helps me stay in the lines and keep a crisp outer edge.


Once I start shading the lighter areas, I’ll turn my heat down to a four. I like to start at the darker edge and use a circular motion with my tip and lightly drag my shader tip across the wood’s surface.


A Circular Motion Shading Technique

Using a circular motion helps keep the tip from staying in one place and burning too dark in one spot. It also helps control the shade depth you want to achieve. If you want a really light shade, speed up your circular motion and let your tip move across the wood quickly. If you want achieve a darker shade, slow down your circular motion.

You can achieve a good edge feathering by using the circular motion technique right along the edge of the dark burn. You will see the dark crisp line start to fade in to a light burn shade.

A swirl like this is perfect for learning how to wood burn designs. It has a combo of light and dark shades. I start with a dark out shade and fade my way to lighter shade using the circular motion toward the center. I move my tip faster and faster to keep the shade lighter than the edges. 


Filling in the Lighter Areas

You can see from the pic that I beginning to fill in those lighter areas of the artwork. The center of the owl’s face has a very consistent medium to light shade. The trick to this is  steady hand at a lower heat setting. Start with burning a lighter shade. You can always add more if it’s not dark enough. But if you go too dark, you’ll have to sand it down and start over or commit to a darker shade than you wanted. 

I’m continuing to use my circular motion here. It’s the perfect technique for preventing dark spots. Mark sure your heat is turned down. I will turn mine all the way down to a two or a three and then leave my tip on the wood longer to get the shade I want.

I slowly fill in the lighter area and I keep my eyes on the wood, not the tip. Keeping my eyes on the wood helps me watch what color the wood is becoming. I can adjust my speed as I go to get the perfect shade.


Finishing the burn. 

As I continue on with burning my piece, I follow these same techniques. I keep turning my eyes back to the original artwork to get an idea of what shade to achieve. I use the circular motion and vary my speed as I go. For a lighter shade of burn, I turn my heat down and burn a light faster. And for a darker shade, I turn my heat up and burn slower. 

All Done! 

The recreation is complete. I have finished burning this piece. Now let’s go on to part two of this blog where I add color to this piece using India Inks.


Thanks for reading!


This FREE (and highly detailed) digital packet is overflowing with information for getting started in pyrography.

  • 14 tools supply list – the best tools in pyrography
  • 5 pyrography patterns to use in burning
  • 2 step-by-step pyro projects with templates

I put together a digital download packet that highlights wood burning tools and projects perfect for pyro beginners.

“what burner should I use?”

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“what should I burn?”


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