Valentine Hearts Plaque Pyrography Tutorial wood burning

In this tutorial I’m going to discuss how to create my Valentine Hearts plaque pyrography art.  This is a wonderful project to test out different pen tips and texture styles.  My goal with this tutorial is to not only explain how I created it, but provide you with an assortment of different textures that you might use in other artwork.  I know there’s a lot going on in this artwork, but I think you’ll discover that it’s not that complicated. 

Click on the icon to the left to watch a timelapse version of the artwork on YouTube.




Click on the icon to the left to watch the tutorial version on youtube.




Now, let’s get to work.

SKILL LEVEL:  4 (Intermediate to advanced due to the number of different objects and texture techniques.) 


  • Writing tip
  • Shading tip
  • Knife tip
  • Mini Shading tip
  • Ball tip
  • Large shading tip
  • White Charcoal Pencil – – not a colored pencil
  • 12 x 12 inch (30.5 x 30.5 cm) piece of wood (I used Russian Birch Plywood)
  • Attached Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed) Valentine Hearts pattern

Note that I list quite a few pen tips on this project, but the first two can accomplish everything with just a little more work.


Sanding the surface smooth using 220 grit sandpaper.   The mist the board with water and let dry.  Once dry sand again.  This will give you an ultra smooth board to burn on.








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, and trace over pattern with a sharp pencil.





I find that it helps me to put a little mark (x) in each item I’ve traced.  That way I can easily see what has been done and what still needs to be done.







Before you remove the pattern, slowly lift it up and spot check the trace lines.  Look for any missing or hard to see spots.  If there are missing spots, lower pattern and trace again, recheck, and if all is good remove the pattern. 






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. 







Below are a couple of progress photos.










After you are done burning in the trace lines, then rub over the surface of the board with a standard pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite.









This is a super easy step as all we are doing is burning the background a mottled or blotchy dark color using a shading pen tip.







With the pen heat turned up high enough to get a dark line when burning, burn a thick dark line or band all along the outside of pattern.  I used a micro shading tip for this part as that made it easier to get around all of the small nooks and crannies.  For the pen tip I was using and the type of burner I have, my burner heat setting was 5. 






Use extra caution around the lotus flower stamen.  You might find it easier to use an X-acto knife or embossing tool to carve the antennae into the wood so when you burn around them it will stay pale.







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 pattern line.  Positioning the pen tip this way ensures that I am only burning on the background and not on the pattern.

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. 


Now that we’ve burned along the outside edge of the pattern and learned about optimal pen tip position, let’s finish burning the background.  I switched to a large shading tip for this step and turned the heat up just a smidgen more.  Slowly burn thick dark lines along the background using straight strokes.  Vary where you start the lines, as the starting point of the line tends to blacken and then lighten up as you continue the stroke.  This gives the mottled appearance I have in the background.  Below are progress photos  












This is an overexposed photo of the final artwork to show the background texture better.




While the heart pattern is rather ornate, there are images that repeat themselves in the pattern.  For example there are several small hearts, two pieces of “ribbon,” etc.  So instead of explaining how to burn each item, I will explain how to create the look for one image and this technique would need to be replicated for the repeated images.






IMAGE 1 – Comma Spiral Cluster

There are 3 comma spiral clusters in the pattern. 






I started by outlining the commas a dark black-brown.  I did one side of the commas, rotated the board and did the other side.  








Board rotated to keep pen tip in optimal position while I finish outlining the commas






Then I filled in the commas but left the “tops” a little lighter than the bottoms.  Below are progress photos.







Here’s what it looked like when I was done. 







Next I went along the outer edges of the image burning a very light brown color. I also burned a light brown band along the outside edges of the commas.  Begin by first burning along the outer edge of the cluster.






Next lightly burn right around the outside of the commas







Almost done burning the cluster







Now repeat this for the other Comma Spiral Cluster images.









IMAGE 2 – Heart Frame

In this step I burned the heart frame and there’s only one to burn.  This was a 4 step process.  1) Burn a very dark line along the edges, 2) darkly burn the crossing lines, 3) shade the outer edge by burning a dark band along it, and 4) shade the inside edge by burning dark band along it.   I used the shading tip for the entire step.  Note that I worked in sections on steps 2 & 3, and you can do the same or complete the entire step before moving on.




Burning dark lines along the inner and outer edges.







To burn the crossing lines I turned the pen tip so I could use its razor edge. 









For the outer and inner edging, I did short pull-away strokes that started at the edge and went a very short distance towards the center.  Or to explain in a different way, place the pen tip on the outer edge of the heart, pull the pen towards the center, and lift up quickly when you reach the 1/3 mark.  Then move the pen tip slightly to the right of the first stroke, and repeat.  Continue making these strokes all along the outer edge.    Below are some progress photos. 







Here’s how the heart frame looks after outlining, burning the criss cross lines, and shading the outer edge. 







Lastly, the inside edge needs to be shaded using the same pull-away strokes.  Again only doing the stroke for 1/3 of the distance of the frame’s width.  Once done the frame will have dark borders and a pale center making it look rounded.  Below are progress photos.








IMAGE 3 – Watermelon

For some reason I think of watermelons when I look at this particular image. 






Using a white charcoal pencil, draw little dots on each seed.  I have to emphasize the need for a white charcoal pencil in this step.  Charcoal resists the heat of the pen, whereas colored pencil does not.  Plus colored pencils contain wax and will melt under the heat of the pen.     




Here’s how it looks after I drew the dots.







Color each seed a dark brown-black, but try to avoid the charcoal dots.  Below are some progress photos. 








Next darken up the “rind” of the watermelon.  I first went along the inside edge of the rind and burned it darkly, and then filled in the 3/4 of the rind a medium brown color.  I left the outer edge of the rind pale.   Below are progress photos. 






Erase the charcoal and touch up any seeds if need be.   One of my seeds had an extra large charcoal dot that prevented an edge from getting dark, so I fixed that.





Repeat for the other images.









IMAGE 4 – Dotted Ribbon

This image reminds me of a piece of a ribbon with a dotted pattern on it.  There are two of them in the pattern.  The ribbon meanders in and out of the pattern and I tried making it look like it was arched or bowed verses lying flat.

To do this, I darkened up the ribbon where it emerged from behind the pattern and faded the color out at the “arch.”   Then I darkened the ribbon back up on the other side of the arch.  Note that I darkened the dots along with the ribbon – – I did not avoid the dots.   The dots I darkened up AFTER I shaded the ribbon.  

The goal is to have a smooth transition from the pale ‘arch’ to the darker bows or dips, so take your time and slowly build up the color.  Below are some progress photos. 







Here the middle and right ribbon segments are shaded to give them a bowed or arched look.  Notice how I’m burning right over the dots.













This is how it looked after I burned both ribbons to give them their arching or curved look.








Next I burned in the “dots” on the ribbon.  Since they were mostly burned in when I burned the ribbon, I just darkened up the side that was away from the arch (palest spot on the ribbon).   Below are progress photos.  

Shading the side of the dot furthest from the arch







Shading more dots (again darkening up the side away from the arch)

















Here’s a close-up of the ribbon to see how I shaded the dots.





The arrows in the photo show the location of the different ribbon segments.








IMAGE 5 – Curving Bands

The next image I worked on was the group of curved bands that are under the first image we burned, but there are only two curved bands.







First burn dark lines along the right edge of the bands.







Fill in / shade each band, but leave the left half pale. 







Below are progress photos









Now rotate the board and burn the other side of each band. 







Burn the other curving band group.  









IMAGE 6 – Tiny Hearts

I’m going to cover all of the little hearts found in the pattern in this step, but I’m going to break it up into 3 groups – dotted, dark, and streaked.

DOTTED – there are a total of 3. 

I used the small round ball pen tip, but you can use the writing tip if you prefer or don’t have ball tip.  

Fill in the heart with lots of dots, but use fewer dots in the center.  Place more dots along the edges.  

Below are progress photos. 


















DARK – there are a total of 2. 

Keep the ball tip handy as I used it to first fill in the area around the heart; again placing more dots along the edges.  Switching to a micro shader the heart was filled in by first burning a dark line along its edge and then filling it in but leaving the center a little paler. 



dotting the background
Finishing up the dotting







The Background behind the heart is dotted in.




















STREAKED – there are a total of 3. 

Unfortunately I didn’t notice that my video card was full, so this step didn’t get recorded.  Oops! 








Since I didn’t get this on the video card, I burned a quick example on some scrap wood.  This is a process of using pull away strokes.  Start the stroke at the bottom of the heart, and pull the pen tip away from the bottom and towards the top.  Lift the pen tip up and away from the wood, but vary the length of the strokes.  Also, make sure the strokes follow the contour of the heart’s shape.   I burned repeatedly over some lines to make them darker compared to others.  




Below are progress photos of the demo burn.








All done.  Notice the base of the heart is darker than the top and that some of the lines are darker than others.  

Please keep in mind I did this demo in 30-40 seconds, so didn’t spend the time to make it look as nice as the original.





IMAGE 7 – Leaping Dots

I call this image the leaping dots and this step includes the dots and the dark mass behind them.






Start by lightly edging around the first leaping dot and then slowly fill in the dot using tiny circular motions with the shading tip.  I went along the edges a couple of times with the small circular motions and then worked my way towards the center.  The made the edges a little darker giving them a rounded look.

Below are some progress photos.  


















Next, I filled in the area behind the dots a dark brown-black color with a slightly paler center area.  Of course, I first lined the section and then went along the edges with the small circular motions very slowly.  This resulted in a dark thick band along the edges of the area.  Then I filled in the center a medium brown.    






Continued work filling the dark background








There are 2 areas of leaping dots and on the second area the ‘dark mass’ is below the dots.








IMAGE 8 – Leather Leaves

This step is going to fill in a good chunk of the pattern as I drew clusters of leaves in a number of areas.  Yes, I know I’ve given some of the images rather creative names, but I have to call them something.  Each leaf has a leather center with a pale band around it.

I love the leather look and have used it in numerous projects as accents or borders.  I’ve done several trinket boxes where I used the leather look to create a frame around the artwork. 


First draw a dark line along the inside edge of the leather center.  This will create a buffer zone so you are less likely to burn on the pale border.  I drew the lines along one side for all of the leaves.





Then I rotated the board and finished drawing the dark lines along the edges.

For the leather look, start at one end of the leaf and place the pen tip to the wood and hold for a second or two. This will create a very dark blob shape.  Lift the pen tip, move it over slightly, and repeat.  The second blob needs to be slightly touching the edge of the first blob.  Continue doing this creating a row of blobs that follows the contour of the leaf.  

When you get to the end of the leaf, start another row of blobs below the first row.  The second row of blobs needs to be slightly touching the first row.   Continue making row or lines of blobs and fill in the leaf shape.   Below are progress photos.

















Here’s how the leaves look after the leather centers are done.







To burn the pale borders, lightly burn along the seam where the border and center touch.  I left the outer edges of the border pale.  Below are progress photos.  








Now burn the other leaf clusters.  









IMAGE 9 – Stacked Ovals

The next image to burn is the stacked ovals.  There are two of them and the one I will cover also has a “moon” that we’re going to burn; whereas the other one does not.





This is probably getting redundant, but I burned the outside edge of each oval a medium dark to very dark brown. 






Then, working on the inner (or smallest) oval, I colored it a medium dark brown with a medium brown center.







I continued to color each consecutive oval a medium dark brown color, but left the area next to the inner oval paler.  I did this for the contrast value. 





Next I worked on the moon near the ovals and simply darkened it near the base and let it fade to nothing along the outer edge of the moon. 



















Now just burn the other stack of ovals and you’re done with this step.






IMAGE 14 – Starburst

In this segment I’m going to cover the starburst images; as I call them.  Unfortunately it is another casualty of the full memory card, so I don’t have progress photos of them being created.  Fortunately, they are easy to render, but I also burned a quick demo to help explain.







Step 1 – go over each line with the shader pen tip, but do a pull away stroke;  lift the pen tip up and away before reaching the end of the line. 

Here’s I’m starting a ray burst line (yes – I oops and burned the first one all the way to the top).   ALWAYS start the ray burst line at the base near the “sun.”



Here I’ve finished the ray burst line and lifted the pen tip up and away from the wood.





Below are progress photos







After the ray burst lines are burned in I did a second pass, but only went a little distance from the sun.  The short rays followed the same direction as the long ones.  Plus I also burned short rays between the long ones, so it filled in around the sun.








Note on this starburst I also burned the sun (cat eyed shaped) so the side opposite the ray bursts is darker.  I did this for contrast. 




This sunburst follows the demo exactly.  







The last sunburst has the ray burst lines burned just like the others, but its sun is black.  Granted its sun isn’t really defined it’s just the darkest spot in the region.






IMAGE 15 – Scrolling Bars

There are a lot of scrolling bars in the pattern.  I equipped my burner with a knife tip and burned thin lines along one outer edge.  The direction of the lines went from the outer edge towards the center.  I did not do the same edge on all of the bars, but you can make them the same or make each one different.  





Below are some progress photos.  

















Like I said, there are a few of the scrolling bars in the pattern.









IMAGE 16 – Dark Arch

Most of the dark arches are just small segments, but my demo arch is on the full arch above one of the sunburst.






First darkly line one outer edge of the arch.







Next, rotate the board and darkly line the other outer edge.







Lastly, fill in the center.  I didn’t try to make it uniform or anything, but just filled it in a medium dark brown.






As said earlier most of the other dark arches have just a small segment of the arch showing.








IMAGE 17 – Divot Background

One of the goals I had with this tutorial was to come up with numerous textures and the divot background meets that goal.  It is created by using the writing pen tip (or a small ball tip) on very low heat and firmly pressing into the surface of the wood; filling the area with random depressed dots or divots.   Then using the shading tip go over the area to darken up the raised area of the wood.    




Pressing the writing tip into the wood to create tiny divots (dots)












 Here I’m almost done lightly shading over the divots.






Later on I decided I wanted more contrast between the divot background and surrounding items, so I edged along the background.








As you can see from the photo, I used the divot styled texture in quite a few small background areas.








IMAGE 18 – Jewels, Rolls, and Commas

This section is going to cover several little items that only appear once.

Pointed Oval Jewel.  Simply darken the bottom of the jewel and let it fade out towards the end where it meets the background.  I also shaded it so the sides were darker than the center.   









Rounded Oval jewel.   I first darkened the base of the oval where it touches the scrolling bars.  I made the base almost black in color and let it fade towards the opposite end of the oval.  The two smaller side ovals received the same treatment. 








The Rolls.   I must have been hungry when I named this image because they reminded me of dinner rolls.  I started with the roll closest to the mottled background and burned each roll separately.  Each roll was darkened where it touched the next roll and the tops of the rolls are lighter than the bottoms. 















The Commas.   I slightly darkened the commas and lightly shaded one side a little darker.  Mostly I wanted them to have a little color, but not be so dark they disappear into the background.  




Below are a couple progress photos.












The Mottled Eye.   The cat eye center was burned darkly along the edges and faded to a much paler color in the center.  The two commas on either side were burned just like the commas in the previous step.  





Cat eye burned dark along edges and paler in the center.  Commas on either side done just like the commas in the last group.







Lastly, the mottled edging around the eye was achieved by making meandering lines around the surface.   Let me explain a little more.  Starting on the right side near the base (by scrolling bar) I used the shading tip to started making circular motions.  As I’m doing this, I’m also coming forward with the pen tip, but not in a straight line.  I meander to the outer edge, then work my way back to the eye, and continue in this fashion until I get to the left base of the object.   I repeat this step a couple of times, but try to change the line’s meandering path each time.  This results in some areas being darker and others being lighter, so you get a very mottled texture.  

Begin by starting the first meandering line.


Finishing up the first meandering line.








The area after several meandering lines have been burned in.







IMAGE 19 – Shepherds Hook and Leaves

There are two shepherds hook and leaves groups to burn and they are pretty easy. 






First burn the hook just like was done with the dark arches.  Darkly edge the hooks and then fill them in a medium to medium-dark brown color.  






For the leaves, start by burning a dark spot in the center of the leaf.  Slowly extend the color from the center, but leave the edges pale.  As I extended the color, I did not make it as dark as the center spot.  Also, I extended the color in a very thin line so it touched the shepherds hook.     Below are progress photos to illustrate this.

Notice how the center of the leaves are the darkest area and the edges are extremely pale and pretty much unburned.  Also, I extended a thin line down the center of the leaf where it connects with the shepherd’s hook. 







Here’s where the two shepherd’s hooks are located. 








IMAGE 20 – Lotus Flower

We’re almost done.  There are two lotus flowers and they go pretty quickly.  First shade each petal so it’s base is darker then the edge of the petal. 






For the stamen I left them alone; other than to scrape them out with an X-acto knife to make them a little brighter.  I also went along the background around them really, really carefully burning it almost black to make them stand out.  




Now burn the other Lotus Flower.







IMAGE 21 – The Rope

Last step for the pattern area!   For the rope start at one end and work your way towards the opposite end; burning each segment individually. 




Starting with segment one, I picked a side (I chose the left) and made it super dark.  I let the color fade out when I reached the opposite side of the segment.  







Moving onto the next segment, do the same thing, but keep the dark side the same as the first segment.  The dark side needs to stay on the same side for each segment of the rope. 






Continue on in this fashion until the rope is completely burned.  Below are progress photos.







Now burn in the other rope.



In my next tutorial I will cover the cherub image I came up with for the center of the heart frame.  Maybe you need/want to finish your project now and/or aren’t interested in cherubs, so below are some alternate ideas on how to fill in the center of the heart frame.     

  • write a short love poem or loving message
  • decoupage a picture (like a wedding picture)
  • Burn a portrait of a loved one (kids, spouse, pet)
  • Burn a rose and write “I love you” below it. I have a Rose tutorial if you want to use that and I provided the link.   Rose Tutorial
  • Glue in some die-cut wooden shapes (“I love you” or loved one’s name. Paint the letters red or the loved one’s favor color).  Craft stores have all sorts of die-cut ornaments, so explore and get some ideas.
  • If you have a scroll saw or something similar, you could cut out the center of the heart and use this as a picture frame.
  • Draw a banner in the heart and say “I love you” on it.


Below are a few close-up pictures of different quadrants of the artwork.

Upper Left
Upper Right


Lower left
Lower Right


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 through.  My goal is to give you projects to follow along with to help you gain skills and confidence to venture out on your own.  So if there was a texture you hated, do something else.  If the background was too dark for your liking, burn yours lighter.  All I’m trying to say is feel free to experiment;  that’s how you learn. Heck you might discover a new texture you love in the process.

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 12 x 12 inches (30.5 x 30.5 cm).  It took me 11 1/4 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,


Jan 27, 2017

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