In this pyrography tutorial I’m going to explain how I created the three-dimensional illusion of the word “stone” and explain how to create the sandstone texture. I’m also going to introduce you to the shading pen tip and explain a how to use it. Since this example doesn’t require the ability to create uniform color it’s a good lesson to get some practice with the shading tip.
Both the 3D and the sandstone techniques can be used in a host of other projects. I use 3D techniques in every project I’ve ever done and it’s the basis for all realistic looking artwork. Sandstone is an interesting texture and I like to use it when creating anything that looks Mayan or Egyptian. An example would be artwork depicting hieroglyphic tablets or figurines. Depending on how subtle or bold you make the texture will be what determines how aged the stone will look.
Reader submitted art at the bottom of the blog.
- Wood – I used 4×8 piece of birch plywood
- Writing & Shading pen tip, ball tip optional
- Attached pattern 3D stone pattern
STEP 1 – Transfer Pattern
I use the tracing method to transfer all my patterns to my projects. It’s cheap, easy, and gives me control on what I want to include. Print off your pattern on light weight paper (standard copier paper is perfect), coat the back of the pattern with a graphite pencil (I use one in the B ranges), place pattern on wood, tape in place, trace over pattern with a sharp pencil, remove pattern, and you’re ready to burn.
You might need to cut the pattern down in size so you can see where to place it on the wood.
STEP 2 – Burn the Outline
With the writing pen tip on medium low, lightly burn in the trace lines for the word stone. Note that I did remove one corner of the N to give it a more weathered appearance. You can do that too or leave the letter whole, or if you want this to look even more aged, then remove ‘chips’ from some of the other letters. Experiment as that is how you will learn.
STEP 3 – Burn the Cracks & Erase
Turn pen on medium high and burn in all of the crack lines (looks like lightning to me) and rub a pencil eraser over the surface to remove any residual graphite.
The key to get the really wispy fine endings on some of the crack lines is to lift the pen as you finish the line. Sort of like a plane taking off motion, pen tip is in contact and it slowly loses contact with the surface.
The goal with the cracks as you draw them is to have them get thinner the closer to the end of the crack you get. To accomplish this never start a crack where it end.
From the two pictures above (starting a crack line / finishing the line) I’m trying to show how I started the line at the thicker end of the crack versus the wispy end of the crack. When I’m almost at the end of the crack I’ll lift the pen tip to get the wispy fine finish.
Take a moment to notice how I offset crack lines on the surface of the letters from its ending point where the crack met the left side of the letter. This offsetting helps further the 3D illusion as the viewer assumes they can’t see where the crack actually connected with the letter. On the right side of the letter I made the crack go vertically straight (or mostly straight) and then continued it’s “lightening” path on the surface of the letter.
STEP 4 – Burn Shadow on Seam
This next step you can do with either the writing or the shading tip, but I used the shading tip. With the pen tip on medium high go around the seam of where the letter meets the ground and burn a dark line in the shadow areas.
OPTIMAL PEN TIP PLACEMENT – –
NOTICE the placement of the pen tip in this photo; I call this Optimal Pen Tip Placement.
The end of the pen tip is on the outside edge of the letter O. Positioning the pen tip this way ensures that I am only burning on the background and not on the letter.
If you walk away with only one thing from this tutorial, I hope optimal pen tip position is it. Optimal pen tip position ensures that you are burning where you INTEND to burn and that your borders are crisp/clean.
When burning the dark shadow seam I ONLY burning a dark line where the letters would cast as shadow onto the background.
It might be easier to visual if you think about where the sun is and then figure out where the cast shadows would be. I placed the “sun” in the upper left corner, so my shadow seams are on the right side of the letter. When I was first learning to draw I use to put a big X in the spot that represented where the sun was and sometimes I still do that. A yellow sticky would work also.
You can make the dark line / cast shadow as thick or thin as you want. A thicker, or wider, shadow gives the appearance of the sun being lower on the horizon. Where as a thin shadow (like I have) would indicate the sun is in a near overhead position.
STEP 5 – Burn Letter Sides
With the shader pen tip on medium heat, add tone (color) to the sides of the 3D letters. It is not necessary to have smoothly burned sides as we’re creating a stone texture, so there will be irregularities in the surface color. If we were recreating a metallic look, then it would be very important to have very smooth and uniformed colored sides.
Again note the pen placement where the pen tip edge is going along the outside edge of the letter surface. It’s important to have the shading tip in this position so you only color the section you’re working on – in this case the side of the letter.
By shading/toning the sides of the letters and putting in a cast shadow, you have created the 3D effect.
Yes, it really is that easy to create a three-dimensional illusion.
STEP 6 – Tone/Color the Background
Keep pen heat on medium and apply tone to the background. Remember we are creating a stone texture, so keep it irregular or blotchy versus smoothly uniform colored background.
A blotchy background will accomplish several things, a) aids the stone look, b) makes the letters pop up from the background, and c) adds a little visual interest.
While burning the background I used a small circular motion with the shading pen tip. To get the darker blotchy areas I repeatedly went over those areas till I reached the desired darkness. Also I left a few areas barely touched to ensure the background was variegated in color.
STEP 7 – Add Shadows to Cracks
Using the shading tip on medium heat, slowly go along the cracks and add shadows. Going back to the sun visualization, my sun is in the upper left corner, so I’m applying shadows to the right side of the crack lines.
If it’s easier for you to use the writing tip, or any other tip, please do so. You can make the shadows as dark as you wish, but keep in mind that the really thin cracks shouldn’t have much in the way of shadows.
If you discover that after toning the background some of your seam shadows appear a little pale, then darken them up and the same with the sides of the letters. Sometimes touch ups are needed as you progress to keep the relative contrast across the picture. In the picture for this step, I increased the darkness for both the seam and sides of the word.
STEP 8 – Dot the Background
Switch to either a writing tip or a ball tip pen and turn the heat on medium. Cover the ground with random dots and dot the sides of the letters.
The frequency, size, and color of the dots should vary. While the dots are not extremely pronounced, they add wonderful texture to the stone illusion.
Note how I haven’t done much with the tops of the letters. They have the crack lines and crack shadows, but that’s it. If you like this look, then stop, but I’m going to add some texture to the tops of the letters.
STEP 9 – Blotch & Dot
With the writing tip or a ball tip pen in place, heat on medium low, cover the tops of the letters with light-colored dots. Again vary the frequency, but don’t get too carried away as we want the tops of the letters to be paler than the background for contrast. Plus it will make it look the like the sun is striking the “highest” point. After dotting the tops, switch to the shading tip and add some spots of pale color to make the tops a little blotchy in appearance.
Summarizing the 3D illusion
- Pick the light source (I put a X in the corner that represents the sun)
- Apply a dark seam shadow where the object meets the background
- Shade the sides of the object
- Tone the background. Toning the background makes the object become the focal point as the contrast will make it stand out, or ‘pop’, as I like to say.
To vary the “age” of your sandstone is a simple matter of how much texture you create. A gently aged (or newer) sandstone would be accomplished by reducing the number of cracks, making the cracks lighter/finer, not having any chipped off pieces on the letters, and very pale dots.
To age the stone even more than I demonstrated is just a simple matter of adding more blemishes – more chipped areas, darker overall tone, more dots and larger dots to make it look pitted, plus deeper and wider cracks.
That’s it, you’re done. My practice piece was burned on Birch Plywood, measures 4 x 8 inches, and took me just a little over two hours to create. To get a 3D object without the stone texture, just omit the dots and the cracks. The method I explained for creating a 3D illusion is the foundation I use in all of my artwork to create the realistic look.
I do hope that I taught you a few things and especially hope that you try creating this yourself as that’s where the real learning happens. And, as I said before, experiment around as that’s one of the best ways to learn.
This artwork was created by Brenda Fox. Brenda is very new to the artform and she did an amazing job. Even more impressive is that she used a writing pen tip for the entire artwork! Great job, Brenda. Can’t wait to see what you’ll be creating after you get more familiar with your burner.