THE APPLE PYROGRAPHY TUTORIAL
In this blog tutorial I’m going to explain how to create the apple pyrography (wood burning) artwork I did. This project helps build your shading/toning skills with its reflected light spots and varied tonal value. Also in this tutorial we work on creating the texture of both the top and underside of a leaf. Let’s get to work
- Writing tip
- Shading tip
- Piece of wood approximately 6 x 8 inches. (you can reduce or enlarge the pattern size if needed/desired)
- Sharp X-acto knife
- Attached pattern Apple pattern
STEP 1 – Transfer Pattern to the Wood.
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. After you have burned in the trace lines, rub over the surface with a pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite.
STEP 3 – Burn/Color the Apple
I went around the apple and burned a darker thicker line with the shading tip, but you can also use the writing tip if that’s easier for you. The purpose was to make it easier to see the apple’s shape and provide a buffer zone. I’ve found that if I have a ‘buffer zone’ around the shape I’m burning I can fill in the shape more quickly because I don’t have to slow down as much when I get to the edges.
OPTIMAL PEN TIP POSITION
Note the position of the pen tip in this photo. The end of the pen tip is on the inside edge of the stem. Positioning the pen tip this way ensures that I am only burning on the apple stem and not on the background behind the apple. I call this the optimal pen tip position.
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.
Burn the depressed area where the stem attaches to the apple. I initially burned the area a light tan, but added more darkness in the recessed (pit) area to make it look like a depression.
Here I’m adding more color to the pit area of the apple. Notice how the color fades the closer to the edge of the apple it gets. This is what creates that illusion of a pit or recessed area.
I used a pull away stroke when doing this area. I place the pen tip on the pit line (spot where it will be darkest) and quickly pull the pen tip away from the pit line towards the edge of the apple. When I get to the spot where I don’t want color (about 1/4 inch from the edge), I lift the pen up and away from the wood. This results in a band of color that starts darker but quickly fades. I repeated the pull away stroke several times to get it to the desired darkness.
Now color/burn in the rest of the apple, but avoid the light spots. The apple has two areas of light with the first being along the top where direct light hits it. The direct light is represented on the pattern with the dots. This area needs to be the lightest area on the apple. The second is reflected light and is located down just a little ways from the direct light and circles around the backside of the apple. The reflected light needs to be slightly darker than the direct light area. You have probably discovered that the reflected light is not drawn on the pattern, so this is your chance to modify a pattern. While burning/coloring the apple, keep these two areas color/tone free.
I used a uniform stroke on the main part of the apple. A uniform stroke is one that is slow and steady, so it produces a solid and uniform band of color. Or put another way, the beginning of the band has the same color/tone as the end of the band; unlike the pull away stroke that starts out one color, but quickly fades to nothing.
My strokes followed the curve of the apple and stopped before I got to the reflected light sections. To increase the darkness along the bottom, I just went over the area again, but didn’t make the stroke as long.
Below lots of progress photos
Since I’m burning on plywood, even with lots of sanding it’s a little rough, so provides a bit of texture. Also there were a couple of times when my pen built up some heat and produced a dark dot/blob on the apple. I considered that as just more texture, so left any of them that happened.
STEP 4 – Burn the Stem and Branch
After that I rotated the work to burn the edge on the right side of the stem, but keep it lighter than the left. Then I filled in the stem keeping the lightest spot a small circular area on the ‘bulbous’ area of the stem to indicate the light reflecting.
Next I worked on the tree branch and the first thing I did was burn both edges of the branch creating a slight buffer zone. Then starting on the left side I used pull away strokes that curved in a gentle arc towards the right side that filled ¾ of the stem width. To fill in the branch I used pull away strokes along the right edge gently curving towards the left. The goal is to get a little texture by having varied colored (dark/light) strokes. Below are several photos to help show what I’m trying to explain.
Here the branch is almost filled in. I finished by doing pull-away strokes that went from the right to the left. This filled in the branch and the results were uneven streaked color and that was what I was after.
After the branch is filled with uneven tone/color, draw in some darker curved lines to increase the texture. You know, looking at the photo reminds of me a carrot; or maybe I’m just hungry.
STEP 5 – Burn the Left Leaf
The left leaf is curled up, so we will be burning the underside of the leaf. The underside tends to be lighter and the veins more noticeable than the top of the leaf. My first step was to burn a light line following the lower edge of the stem and leaf. Secondly, I defined the vein area of the leaf by burning along the upper edge of the veins. I left the vein uncolored in this step.
This is how the leaf looked after I was done accenting/emphasizing the veins.
Next I went along the upper edge of the leaf burning it a light to medium light brown.
After I colored the upper edge of the leaf, I started filling in the leaf with color. I did pull away strokes that started on the upper edge and ended near the center of the leaf.
Almost done filling in the leaf with color. Notice that the leaf color is darker near the edge of the vein along the bottom than it is on the top edge.
Next I lightly burning along vein. Make sure to keep it paler than the leaf.
I also lightly burned the stem
The left leaf curls upward, so here I’m burning the other side of the leaf that is curving upward. The underside of the leaf is lighter than the upper. This little spot is part of the upper leaf, so it was burned darker.
Next I shaded the stem a little more by darkening up the “knob” where it touches the branch. I also darkened up the upper edge, so the center of the stem was the palest spot. By shading the stem in this fashion it makes the stem look rounded.
Last step with the left leaf was to use an X-acto knife and lightly scraped a fine line highlight along the vein and stem. This will further help the illusion of it being curved.
STEP 6 – Burn the Right Leaf
Photo shows the right leaf completed
My first step on the right leaf apple was to burn a line next to the leaf arch.
Next I burned along the left edge by the arch.
Filling in the arch edge with pull-away strokes. Start the strokes on the edge and pull them towards the arch. Make sure the edge is darker than the arch!
It takes me several passes with pull away strokes to build up the desired color level.
Notice how there is variation to the color of the strokes.
I went over the first line burned along the edge of the arch and darkened it up. I wanted to increase the contrast as this will make the leaf look curved or arched as I’m referring to it as.
Next I lightly defined the veins on the top of the leaf. They are very thin, but what I did was turn the shader on edge to use its razor edge and burn a thing line along the outer edges of both sides of the veins.
Now I’m filling in the leaf to give it color by using pull away strokes that start at the arch edge and go towards the leaf’s outer edge.
I also went burned along the outer edge of the leaf.
Working along the edges of the leaf.
Below are some progress photos
In this photo I’m working near the tiny arch near the end of the leaf. I just darkened up the edge next to the top edge where the arch starts. Just like we did with the big arch.
Next I lightly burned the underside of the arches. The smaller one at the tip just got a quick once over to give it some color. The larger arch was uniformly toned a very light tan and then darkened slightly near the back and along the top to define the arch.
Lastly take an X-acto knife and scratch in very fine tiny side veins that branch off from the main veins. Mine are not super noticeable, but little details like this can really add a lot to the realism of the artwork.
STEP 7 – Fine Tune (if needed)
Now is the time to critically look at your artwork and decide if it needs any fine tuning. If you’re happy with how it turned out, then you’re all done. I ended up deciding my work needed some touch-up, so below I’ll show you what I did.
First I darkened the stem on the left leaf.
Next I added more dark lines on the branch to give it a bit more texture.
Lastly I darkened up the reflected light on the apple as I thought it was too pale.
We’re done. Hopefully I was able to explain things well enough so you could follow along. Better yet, I hope I provided some useful information and that you will try to create some artwork yourself.
This project was burned on birch plywood, it measures 6 x 8 inches (15.2 x 20.3 cm), and took me almost 4 hours to complete it. A reminder that I only put my time in as I get asked that question a lot. You may get this done faster or slower, but that doesn’t matter. What’s important is you’re creating pyrography art and, hopefully, having fun.
May 31, 2016