In this tutorial I’m going to discuss how to create my Winter’s Snowman pyrography art, the first in my Christmas Postcard series. As usual, my tutorial will provide a free pattern and cover things like how to create the look of falling snow and wood logs. Without further ado, let’s get to work.
You can watch a timelapse YouTube video of this artwork being created by clicking on the image to the left.
Reader submitted art is at the very bottom of the blog.
SKILL LEVEL = 2 (beginner to intermediate)
- Writing tip
- Shading tip
- Knife edge tip
- Ball tip (optional)
- Large shading tip (optional)
- Sharp pointed object – embossing pen, small crochet hook, etc
- 4 x 6 (10.2 x 15.2 cm) piece of craft plywood
- Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed) Winter Snowman pattern
- White Charcoal pencil (I use either General or Conte brand)
STEP 1 – TRANSFER PATTERN TO WOOD
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.
Check the trace lines before you remove the pattern. Slowly peel back the pattern and if there are missing lines, replace pattern, trace in lines, and then check again.
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. It is easy to get into the habit of burning your outline or trace lines darkly, but if you want to create realistic art don’t get into that habit. The goal is to burn lines dark enough to see, but not so dark that you end up with something that looks a coloring book. Below are a couple of progress photos.
Before I continue with the tutorial, I need to discuss optimal pen tip placement.
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 inside edge of the scarf. Positioning the pen tip this way ensures that I am only burning on the scarf arm and not on the snowman’s body.
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.
Turning the wood, when needed, is important to ensure optimal pen tip placement. You can angle your hand in weird positions to accomplish this, but if you’re burning for any duration of time it’s much easier to just turn the wood.
STEP 3 – RENDERING THE SNOWMAN
Like most of my projects I tend to bounce around the artwork as I’m burning it and Winter Snowman was no exception. With that in mind, I will discuss some areas of the artwork and you might see that more has been done, please try to ignore that.
THE EYES & MOUTH
The photo to the left is a close up of the eyes and mouth and is the subject of this step.
First, using a white charcoal pencil, mark the highlights on the eyes. Then with the heat on medium to med-high, burn the eyes in with a writing tip while avoiding the charcoal pencil marks.
Note – do not use a white colored pencil! It contains wax and will melt.
White Charcoal highlights drawn in using a Conte brand pencil.
After burning in the eyes with the writing tip, darken up the mouth. I ended up going over the mouth a couple of times to thicken or widen it out.
To create the hat I had to use my micro shader and the writing tips.
First with the shader darkly burn the underside of the hat. Make sure to have the pen tip in optimal position so you are only burning on the hat.
Next start working on the brim edge and top of the hat. I first burned the brim’s edge a medium brown color. The edge is where the red arrow is pointing on the pattern close-up. Then I burned the rest of the brim a very dark brown color.
After burning the brim, I finished the top portion of the hat burning it a very dark brown color avoiding the buckle, ribbon and holly.
Black portion of the hat almost done
Burn the ribbon band a light brown color taking care to avoid the buckle and the holly.
This is how it looked after I was done with the ribbon.
Lastly, switching to the writing tip, burn several dark dots for the holly berries.
If you need to, use the writing tip to burn along the outside edges of the buckle to help it stand out. I left the buckle completely unburned.
I was able to use my micro shader to burn the entire scarf, but if there is another pen tip that would work better for you, by all means use it.
I started by burning along the upper left edge of the scarf and continued down along the edge were the scarf looped over it.
Then I burned the back hanging scarf end. I left a slightly paler spot to give the impression the scarf had a bend to it.
This photo shows the light spot on the scarf that makes it look slightly bent.
Next I finished burning the left segment of the scarf that I had started earlier. I used a small circular motion with the shading tip to fill in the area. I did add a dark line near the middle to give the impression of a crease in the scarf.
After burning the left segment, I then started on the right segment using the same technique I did with the left side.
I’m continuing the work on the right segment.
The last segment of the scarf to burn is the top hanging end. Again using using small circular motions fill in the area. When I’m close to the edge of the scarf I burn using a line that follows the contour of the edge.
Finishing up with the top section. It’s got a “crease” at the top and is pretty uniform in color for the rest of it.
Almost done. The very last thing to do is burn the fringe on the scarf. I turned the shading tip on edge and used the razor edge to burn fine short lines at the ends of the scarf.
Adding fringe to the end of the other scarf end.
My snowman’s arms are made out of chunks of logs, so I burned them darkly and gave them some texture to look like tree bark.
First shade the log making sure to keep the pen tip in optimal position. You want crisp clean edges on the log. In the photo I’m starting to fill in the log.
Here the arm is nearly colored in and notice that the bottom of the arm is darker then the top.
I’ve rotated the postcard, so I can burn a dark line along the edge of the arm where it meets the body. This ensured my pen was in optimal position.
Here’s how the arm looked after I was done shading it. I’ve got a really, really dark line right next to the mitten’s fluffy edge to make it look like it’s casting a bit of a shadow. The bottom of the arm is darker than the top, which is slightly darker than the center. Lastly the arm is a little darker the closer it is to the body.
Final step on the arm is to add the bark texture. This was accomplished by using the razor edge of the pen to draw extremely dark, slightly wavy or jagged lines. Or put another way, don’t draw perfectly straight lines.
Here I’ve got the left arm almost shaded, but you can also easily see how the right arm turned out.
Yes, technically I’m burning the snowman’s right arm, but I’m referring to it as the left since it’s further left on the postcard than the other arm is.
Drawing in dark, slightly wavy or jagged, lines on the left arm.
Creating the nose is a pretty quick step.
First I outlined the bottom edge of the nose with the shading tip.
Then using small circular lines I filled in the nose shape. Once you are done, the nose should be the same color as the bottom line.
Next I rotated the postcard so I could easily create a sharp crisp line along the upper edge of the nose and finish filling it in.
Last step was to draw a couple vertical (up/down) lines along the nose for a little texture and to represent the “growth” lines carrots tend to have.
This is another very quick and easy step to do. Since I had logs for the arms, I decided the “buttons” would be sliced segments of the logs. This meant they would have a dark ring that would represent the bark and a much paler center.
First burn the dark bark ring. I did this by holding the shading tip edge in one spot, on the edge, for a second or two and then moving slightly to the left or right and working my way around the ring.
Below are some progress photos
Next burn the interior of the button a medium brown color. It does not need to be uniform in color. I choose a medium brown color for contrast with the snowman’s belly and to make sure the “bark” ring was the darkest part on the button.
Last thing to do is burn the growth rings with the writing tip. Burn them as dark as you want. I made my just slightly darker than the medium brown.
THE LEFT MITTEN & HOUSE
While the area is small, there is a lot going on here, but it doesn’t take long to do because it’s so small. I used both the micro shader and a writing tip to get the area rendered.
First I burned the bird house opening black.
Next I worked on coloring in the mitten.
Then I added a cast shadow from the rope by burning darkly on the mitten along the left edge of the rope.
Using the writing tip I burned the rope by drawing dark curved lines between each twist. The line follows the twist edge.
After I burned in the edge lines I used the writing tip to quickly fill in the rest of the rope a medium brown color.
I also used the writing tip to make a dotted line for the cast shadow from the cuff.
Notice I said DOTTED line. The cuff is “furry” so you don’t want a smooth line. By going along and burning lots and lots of dots it will create an irregular edge to it.
Next it’s time to finish rendering the bird house. I went along under the front roof and put a touch of color there and then burned some dark defining edges on the side of the house.
Then I filled in the lower part of the house.
After that I worked on the roof.
To finish up the house, add a dark defining line along the front of the roof where it touches the walls of the house.
The very last step was the add a little color to the fluffy mitten cuff. I just went along the left edge and added some very light tan to give it that slight “in shadows” look.
THE RIGHT MITTEN & BIRD
Now let’s work on the right mitten and the bird.
First I shaded in the mitten the same color as the left mitten.
Continued work on the mitten.
Then I went along a few of the bird’s edges and darkened them up. The edges were the back, crest, tail feathers, and wing.
Next I colored in the bird, but left his chest, belly, and front of face white.
I decided that there needed to be a cast shadow from the bird onto the mitten, so that’s what I’m doing here.
Using the writing tip I created the eye and filled in the beak.
Also, very lightly shade the left side of the fluffy mitten cuff.
SHADE THE SNOWMAN
Very lightly shading the left side of the face
Shading the left side of the body
Continued work shading the body.
STEP 4 – CREATE TEXTURED SNOW (optional)
Because snow has a lot of texture to it, I decided to add some subtle texture to the snowman. This is not a requirement as you might be happy as a clam with your snowman the way he is, if so just skip this step.
To create the texture, using a small ball tip pen (or a writing tip) on low heat and create random dots all over the snowman’s skin.
Below are the before/after pictures of the snowman once I was done.
STEP 5 – CREATE THE FALLING SNOW
Close up of the “falling” snow
Using a hard pointed object, create small divots in the background by pressing the object into the wood. I used a small crochet hook (ball size 10/1.30 mm) to do this. The plywood isn’t super hard, so it doesn’t take much pressure to create a small divot. In this photo you can see the divots I made. The divots will become the falling snow once the background is darkened up.
The photo below shows the divots.
Create the horizon line. Again notice how I have the tip of the pen in optimal position to create a crisp clean line.
Using a large shading tip to glide over the divots and darken up background. You can make the background as dark as you like. The darker it is the better the divots will be show up and look like falling snow. Keep in mind if you burn the background super dark the snowman’s hat won’t be very noticeable.
Another thing to keep in mind is keep your pressure light when burning the background. It’s the heat of the pen that darkens the wood. Heavy pressure can cause the tip to compress the wood a bit and you might lose some of your snowflakes if they aren’t very deep divots.
You might notice in the pictures below that I used an assortment of pen tips when burning the background. I was testing out different tips. I tend to use a couple of tips almost exclusively and I often wonder if I might get better or quicker results if I used other tips. So this was an opportunity to try some different tips without having to worry about messing anything up like I would with commissioned work.
Below are progress photos (and you’ll see some different pen tips I tested out).
The front of the postcard is done, so now it’s time to do the backside.
STEP 6 – WRITE YOUR NOTE
STEP 7 – OPTIONAL ENHANCEMENTS
While I do my best to give you instructions on how replicate my artwork, I strongly encourage you feel free to let your creativity shine. With that in mind, I’m going to mention some ideas that you can use, or not, to customize your postcard.
- Add glitter. Christmas is always better with some sparkle. Carefully paint a thin coat of glue (like elmers) over the snowman and add some glitter. Or you can add a light dusting of glitter over the entire surface and the glitter becomes the falling snow.
- Use colored pencils to give the postcard some color. Color the scarf, the holly berries, the nose, the bird, etc. Little things to make the art pop. Just don’t burn over the colored pencil with a wood burner as the heat will melt it and cause it to spread.
- Drill a couple of tiny holes at the top of the postcard (one each end) and hang it like an ornament.
- Make a keepsake by putting the year on the front of the postcard.
- Create a winter woodland scene by adding a couple trees and a small animal (like a rabbit).
- Decoupage a small photo onto the front to commemorate a special event like a wedding, birth of a child, etc.
That’s it. We’re all done. I hope you like my first Christmas postcard project and tutorial. My goal was able to explain things well enough so you could follow along and feel confident enough to try it 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. I also welcome any suggestions for future postcards.
Now to answer a couple of questions I get asked frequently. This artwork was burned on a piece of die-cut plywood that measures 4 x 6 inches (10.2 x 15.2 cm) that I bought at a local craft store. It took me 2 ¾ 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.
Until the next blog,
Lee Walls submitted this beautiful piece of art. I love the color! Thanks for sharing with us Lee.
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