Wood Burning Shading Techniques

What You’ll Need:

  • Scrap Wood
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Wood Burning Tool (I’m using a Colwood Super Pro II)
  • Shader Tip
  • Rounded Tip
  • Tonal Value Cheat Sheet – Download Below

We are going to practice wood burning shading techniques with a piece of scrap wood and a tonal value cheat sheet. You can click the link below to download the tonal cheat sheet. We are going to use this as a guide for practicing our tonal values.

Ruler, Pencil, Scrap Wood

First, let’s grab our wood, ruler and pencil and draw out seven boxes. There are many more shades than seven of course, but I think it’s a good starting point for practice.  I’m going to draw out three different sets of seven boxes, because we are going to try three different techniques.


I’m using a Colwood Super Pro II in this tutorial, but any wood burning tool will work. Most wood burning kits like Walnut Hollow Versa Tool come with a shader tip and a rounded tip. Those are the only two we will be using to shade.

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.

The Jatai Finger Guards are actually for use with curling wands, but of everything I’ve tried these keep the heat off my fingers the best.

Circular Motion.

Circular Motion

I switch my burner on to a heat setting of 3. Now, I’m going to start with the circular motion for shading. The circular motion is as simple as it sounds. I sweep the shading tip over the woods surface in a circular pattern over and over again to achieve the shade I want. To achieve a light shade, I leave very little contact between the tip and wood.

This is what i use the majority of the time. I feel like i have more control over how light and dark my burn is. Because I’m using a circular motion, the burner tip doesn’t have time to sit in one place and leave a darker mark or shade too much.

As I continue practicing my wood burning techniques and moving through my tonal values, I slowly increase my heat settings and/or the amount of time I leave the tip on the wood’s surface.

Pulling Motion.

Pulling Motion

I do use a pulling in one direction motion occasionally. I hesitate to use this motion because there is less control and more of a chance the tips will stop on a spot in the wood and leave a darker color than desired. However it’s quicker and its handy for things that have a larger area of one tonal value.

You really want to use a good piece of wood for this technique. If you’re using pine or a wood that has an inconsistent grain pattern, it’s going to be harder to keep a consistent tonal value. I’m using poplar here and it’s has a much better grain pattern.

My wood burning technique is the same as I go through the tonal values. I start with a heat setting of 3 and by the end, I’ve increased it all the way to 6. I’m slowly increasing my heat settings by a half or whole setting and/or increasing the amount of time I leave my tip on the wood’s surface.

Dot Pattern Technique.

I rarely use the dot pattern technique. There’s no particular reason why, it’s just not my style. However, I wanted to cover it because I see a lot of other pyrographers use it and I think it’s a great way to shade your work. 

I added my ball tip to my Colwood Burner and turned it on at a heat setting of 3. Once my tip is nice and hot, I start dabbing the wood’s surface over and over creating a light shade of a dotted pattern. I’m leaving my ball tip on the surface for a minimal amount of time in order to create a very light shade. Even though my heat is only set at 3, you still want to make very little contact with the wood to make sure you don’t burn too dark.

For the the next tonal value, I’m going to turn up the heat to a 3.5 and use the same dot pattern technique. I’m still using very little contact with the wood to keep my shade light.

As I go through the rest of the tonal values, I’m increasing my heat by a half to a whole heat setting. And I’m slowly increasing the amount of time I leave my ball tip on the wood. The longer you leave the tip on the wood, the darker your dot will be.

If you have a burner that doesn’t have heat settings, then you’ll have to be good with timing how long your burner is on the wood. The shorter amount of time, the lighter the dot. The longer it’s on the wood, the darker it will be. If you have a burner with heat settings, you’ll have a bit more control over how light or dark your dots are.

Completed Tonal Values

Practicing these wood burning shading techniques in person is where you will gain the experience to gauge the heat setting and amount of time it takes to achieve the desired shade.

You have to sit down and put the burner to the wood to fully understand your style and the best technique for you to shade your artwork.

Completed Tonal Values

Continue with Part 2 of Wood Burning Shading Techniques



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?”

“what’s the best wood to burn?”

“what are my safety options?”

“where can I get these tools?”

“where can I get pyrography patterns?”

“what should I burn?”


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