Vista House Pyrography Tutorial wood burning

In this tutorial I’m going to explain how to create the Vista House pyrography artwork I did.   I like the different textures in this piece and I also like how the shadows create some high contrast.  What I really liked is that the house wasn’t too difficult to create, so that should make it easier for me to explain how to recreate this artwork.  Hopefully you will agree that it is fairly easy to create the Vista House.  But, there’s only one way to find out and that’s by trying it out for yourself; so let’s get to work. 

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

There is reader submitted art at the bottom of the blog, so please check that out.



  • Writing tip
  • Shading tip
  • Rounded heel tip (optional) – a.k.a knife edge tip
  • 8×10 (20.3 x 25.4 cm) piece of wood
  • Attached Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed) Vista House 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. 





With the writing pen tip on medium low, burn in the trace lines.  On the pattern there are some dotted lines that indicate corners or edges of the building.  Burn the dotted lines VERY, very lightly.   I burned mine too dark and had to scrape them off later as they stood out too much.  Heck there are still a few areas where they are very visible.




I did find that using a rounded heel (knife edge) tip works very well for burning thin straight lines like those found around and on the roof.  Everything else was done using the writing pen tip.







Using a micro writer pen tip to burn around the rocks.






When I burned the window panes on the circular window, I turned up the heat so it would burn darker.  I knew that the window panes would end up very dark, so this formed a foundation and made it easier when I used the shading pen tip to finish the windows.  I did not do this with the larger window, but in hindsight I should have and I do recommend it.



After you have burned in the trace lines, rub over the surface with a pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite.







I used the shading tip during this entire step including the windows, but when burning the window panes you might find it easier to use the writing pen tip.  Please note that while you can see that I’ve burned in the chimney, I will cover that in step 5 so just ignore it for now. 




First I went along the upper and left edge of the windows and burned them darkly.  If the corresponding pictures seem off, I have the piece upside down at this point.








Then I went along Under the roof edge (where the roof extends past the house) and burned that dark – including the two smaller roofs.





Working on one of the smaller roof lines.







My next step was to burn a very dark line along the underside of the roof edge on the side of the house; i.e., the area facing away from the photo viewpoint.







Next I worked on the cast shadows along the the entry porch arched window.








Also I darkened the entryway to a nearly black color.  Note that I had my pen heat up on medium high.  It was hot enough to darken the wood, but not so hot it created heat grooves or gouges in the wood.    





As a general guideline, if the metal on the pen tip turns red from the heat you have the heat set way too high.  

This photos shows the results from excessive pen heat.  Notice how the wood is gouged or grooved looking.




Further work on the cast shadows from the roof along the side of the house.






I quickly darkened the line where the roof meets up with the wall of the two small viewing areas on that rise above the roof.    

I also lightly shaded the walls making the sides (facing away) slightly darker.





Lastly I darkened up the large window.  This was accomplished by burning along all of the inside bottom and left edges of each window pane taking care to avoid the wooden frame.  Then I rotated the board and burned all of the upper and right side inside edges.  After I was done I touched up any center pane areas that weren’t as dark as I’d like.






Below are some progress photos. 

















Another thing to point out is that I burned the top third of the window frame a very pale tan color so it would give the illusion of the rocks casting shadows onto them.

One more thing, notice that the rock wall does extend past the window to the inside area of the house.  Don’t burn that area pitch black.

I burned the tiny window on one of the small look out areas using the same technique as I did on the large window.  This area is pretty small, so it might be easier to use a writing pen tip for this step.





 Lastly, I burned the cast shadow from the roof over the entry.










This step I’m just going to discuss how I rendered the roofs, so while you can see that some of the rocks on the entry area have been done ignore it as I’ll cover the rocks in step 5.






Part 1 – go along each row of shingles and burn a darker line with the shading tip, but make sure to vary the thickness of that line.  I did this by angling my pen to change how much of the tip was in contact with the wood.  







Continued work.









Part 2 – again using the shading pen tip, darken up a few random sections of the lines.  You can use the writing pen tip for this if it’s easier. 








Part 3 – using the shading pen tip, make a few strokes of color here and there on the shingles.   I started the stroke on the lined edge (seam between two rows of shingles) and pulled down to the end of that row.   I ONLY worked one row of shingles at a time.







Below are some progress photos

















Now do the same steps for the roofs on the main part of the house.  Below are progress photos of that.








This step is the longest step for this project as each rock must be burned individually.  Don’t panic; it’s not that hard.  First you will need several different patterns to use on the rocks.  Then burn each rock with one of the different patterns.  





I used five different patterns:  1) pale with a couple of fine ‘crack’ lines, 2) dots, 3) dark, 4) light irregular, and 5) medium irregular.





Pattern 1 – Pale with a couple of fine crack lines.   First burn the rock a pale uniform color.  Then draw a couple of fine lines across the surface of the rock.  

Pattern 2 – Dots.  Place a bunch of dots on the rock surface and then go over the surface burning a light tan over it.  The light tan does not need to be uniform in color.  

Pattern 3 – Dark.   Burn the rock a very dark color.  Again it doesn’t have to be uniform in color.  




Pattern 4 – Light irregular.    Using a small circular motion draw squiggly bands of color and/or a blotchy patch of color.  If the bands or patches should touch or slightly overlap that is not a problem, just make sure to leave some small area with no color.  After creating the bands and patches, go over the entire area to fill it in with a tan color, but don’t try to make it uniform as you want some darker and lighter areas.  Lastly, go along the bottom and right side of the rock adding a little dark shading.

Pattern 5 – Medium Irregular. Is the same as pattern 4 (light irregular), but just several shades darker in color.   See photo above for steps.

I disliked the dots pattern, so I used it very sparingly.  Once all of the rocks were done in you didn’t notice it – thank goodness.   Overall, I used patterns 1-3 sparingly with the dots being the least used.  The last two patterns (4 & 5) I used for the majority of the rocks and I just varied the overall darkness.   Please keep in mind that if you don’t like the patterns I created and used, then feel free to create your own patterns.  Make your artwork your own creation and just use my artwork as a guideline.

I worked on the covered porch /entry area first and I did the following:

Part 1 – emphasize the seams and shadows between the rocks.  Do not make every seam super thick or mega dark.  Variety is the spice of life and that is especially true for this artwork.   Also note that I used the razor edge of the shading pen tip for this step, but feel free to switch to a writing tip if that is easier.






Part 2 – pick a pattern and burn in several random rocks, but keep them away from each other.  Or put another way; don’t burn an adjacent rock with the same pattern.







Part 3 – pick another pattern and do the same thing.









Part 4 – continue to burn rocks using assorted patterns.  If there is a pattern you like the best then use that one predominately.  Or you can continue to alternate between the different patterns as you burn rocks.  There isn’t a wrong or right to this.   Note that in step two I told you not to burn an adjacent rock with the same pattern, but there are times when you will most likely have to.  Either that or create another pattern to use.  













Part 5 – When you are burning a rock with a corner edge to it, make the left side of the rock slightly darker than the right.  This will give the impression of the rock being along an edge where two sides of the rock are seen.





















Part 6 – There are several areas on the pattern that have a rectangle with a W marked on it.  They are located just under the roof line and they indicate a wooden beam.  For the wooden beams I drew lines down the length of the beam and then darkened it in. 



Here are some progress photos for the main house.
















The Chimney – gets the same treatment as the rocks on the house.  The only slight difference is the top of the chimney has a metal cap around the top, so I burned that a uniform pale color.  I did the same with the chimney liner that is slightly exposed (band between the cap and the start of the rocks), but added a slight cast shadow from the cap onto it.






One last thing I want to talk about in this step is the edges or seams between the rocks.  These rocks are not perfectly square or smooth, some stick out further than others and most have little gaps where the rocks don’t meet.  These areas are not indicated on the pattern, but a close up look at a section of the wall shows how I’ve rounded some of the corners and created the impression of gaps by darkening up the areas.  



We’re almost done.  This step will probably go pretty quickly especially compared to step 5. 






I created some vague rock formations on the ground in front of the side entry.  I also added some grass by drawing short slightly curved lines with the razor edge of the shading tip.  







Next I took care of the concrete sidewalk.  I shaded the front side a light-medium tan color and I didn’t worry about making it uniform in color.  Then I did the same thing with the sides of the steps. 









Since the sides of concrete are seldom smooth I created dark short random dashes with the edge of my shading tip.  These dashes represent little cracks and irregularities in the surface.   




I did the same with the steps and I really darkened up the bottom step seam.






After taking care of the sides of the concrete I burned the top surface.  I just went over the entire surface burning it to the lightest of tan color.  Again I didn’t try to make it uniform or try to hide the wood grain lines.






I added grass along the edge of the concrete by using the razor edge of my shading tip to draw slightly curved lines.








Since I love texture, I used the writing tip to apply lots of tiny pale dots around the grounds.  I kept the dots located within 1 inch (2.54 cm) of the concrete since I wasn’t intending to fill the entire area.  To me the dots represent a sandy, gritty look that the ground had.  



Continued work. 




Lastly add some more grass clumps here and there to finish the grounds. 




This is an optional step that you may or may not need.   Mostly I went through and darkened a few shadows that didn’t seem dark enough once the rocks were burned in.  I also created a few more “gaps” and rounded corners on a couple rocks.   Look at your work and see if there are any areas needing re-work.  If you can’t decide, ask someone else.  I often ask my husband to look at my artwork and he’ll notice things that I didn’t. 








Todd and I ended up liking this piece of artwork, so he made me a custom frame of dark walnut wood.   

It’s always interesting to me how the color of the wood can change after it’s sealed.  Plywood tends to color (yellow) more than others.







The final artwork before it was seal.








You can purchase merchandise and prints of this artwork on my Fine Arts America page.  Click on the image below and it will take you to the page. Or click on this link  Brenda’s Fine Arts Page.





We’re done.    Hopefully I was able to explain things well enough so you could follow along.  Remember, when you are creating your artwork, let your creativity flow.  My goal is to give you projects to follow along with as you gain skills and confidence to venture out on your own.

Having said that please note that I welcome feedback as that is the only way I will discover how I’m doing and what improvements I can/should make.

Now to answer a couple of questions I get asked frequently.  This artwork was burned on Russian Birch plywood that measures 8 x 10 inches (20.3 x 25.4 cm).  It took me 6 1/2 hours to complete the artwork.   That said, this is not a race or contest.  I only put how long a project takes me 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 learning to create pyrography artwork, and hopefully having fun while doing so.

Till next time,



This artwork was submitted by Douglas Green Sr., and I think it looks fantastic.  I love the creative addition of the little trees.  What is really impressive is that this is the first piece of pyrography artwork that Douglas has created!   I’m still in awe.  Douglas, thank you for sharing your work with us and I’m expecting amazing things from you!   




We have a this artwork from Jim Knapp.  Jim has been burning for a couple of years and he is producing wonderful art as his rendition of the Vista House shows!  The stone have wonderful variation and the house has great depth to it.  Thank you for sharing your artwork with us, Jim!   





Julie Ottaway submitted this wonderful rendition of the Vista House.   I just love how creative she was with the background; it’s a complete scenery piece of artwork.   What really impresses me is this is her first project.  Fantastic creativity!  Thank you for sharing with us Julie! 





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