The Apple Pyrography Tutorial wood burning


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

You can watch a timelapse YouTube video of this artwork being created. Just click on the image to the right.


  • 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.

Pattern positioned on 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 

Checking for a complete transfer

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

Burning 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

This step took me the longest as it has the most area being burned.  Plus I kept re-burning areas as I was slowly building up the darkness/color of the apple.

creating a buffer zone

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 depression at stem

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. 




adding more darkness

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.  





Ending a pull away stroke

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.


Apple burned in

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 















The last thing in this step is to lightly color the reflected light area on the apple (the lower spot).

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

First I burned the stem using the shading tip to burn a dark thick line along the left edge of the stem. 

Edging the stem









Burning along the right side

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.

Stem is done
















Working on the branch

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.

Starting a Pull Away Stroke
Finishing the pull away stroke










Continued work















Branch with pull away strokes on one side



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.





Adding dark lines to increase the texture
Finishing up on the branch

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.



Apple Progress Photo



STEP 5 – Burn the Left Leaf

Left Leaf burned in

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.

Burning along lower edge of stem
Starting to accentuate the veins
Continued vein work





















Done making the veins stand out

This is how the leaf looked after I was done accenting/emphasizing the veins.  






Working along the upper edges of the leaf

Next I went along the upper edge of the leaf burning it a light to medium light brown.

Continued work along the upper edge







filling in the leaf

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



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.





Lightly burning along the bottom vein

Next I lightly burning along vein.  Make sure to keep it paler than the leaf.

I also lightly burned the stem

Lightly burning the stem








Burning the “back curve”

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. 


Contouring the stem


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.




Scraping a thin highlight with an X-acto knife blade


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.






Progress Photo

STEP 6 – Burn the Right Leaf

Right Leaf burned in


Photo shows the right leaf completed






Line next to the arch

My first step on the right leaf apple was to burn a line next to the leaf arch.  

Burning along the edge

Next I burned along the left edge by the arch.







Using pull away strokes

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!







Continued work

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.







Defining the arch

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.

Edging one side of a vein 
Edging the other side of the vein








One Vein edged on both sides
Pull away strokes from the arch to the edge

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


Working along the edges of the leaf.









Below are some progress photos

filling in
Continued work










Working on the tiny arch


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.





Progress Photo




Lightly burning the underside of the leaf

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. 





Scratching in tiny side veins

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.   



Progress Photo


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.

Darkening the left stem

First I darkened the stem on the left leaf.








adding texture to the branch

Next I added more dark lines on the branch to give it a bit more texture.





Added more color to the reflect light area

Lastly I darkened up the reflected light on the apple as I thought it was too pale.  







Final Results:


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

4 thoughts on “The Apple Pyrography Tutorial wood burning

  1. Oh my goodness! an amazing article man. Thank you Nevertheless I ‘m experiencing problem with ur rss .
    Do’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting
    identical rss trouble? Anyone who knows kindly react.


    1. Hi,
      thanks for the nice comment. Pardon my ignorance as I’m fairly new to blogging. I like to create art, but I’m still very much learning about this whole website thing. After doing some research I discovered there was an option I could enable that is suppose to allow subscribers, so I have enabled it.
      Have a wonderful day


    1. Hi,
      thanks for the nice comment and glad you enjoyed the post. Just wish I had more time to dedicate to my little hobby.


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