A few years back one of my nieces introduced me to mandala styled art. While I had never heard of it before, I found some of it to be extremely striking. Some of the patterns out there are so intricate that it must have taken someone many, many hours to produce. One day I was letting my mind drift as I was trying to come up with a tutorial project that was visually striking and fairly easy to produce. This got me to thinking about mandala art, so one afternoon I sat down and sketched out a design that became the Mandala Flower. In this pyrography tutorial I will show you how to create the Mandala Flower.
You can watch a time-lapse YouTube video of this artwork being created by clicking on the image to the left.
Clicking on the image to the left will play the tutorial version of the video.
Let’s get to work.
SKILL LEVEL: 1
- Writing tip
- Shading tip
- Ball tip
- Large shading tip (optional)
- 10 x 10 inch (25.4 x 25.4 cm) piece of wood
- Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed) Mandala Flower pattern
- Small Fan – to direct smoke away from you (optional)
Just a quick note to let you know that I often refer to each new design segment on the petal as a “ring” with the exception of the center. This is because each new segment is on every petal of the flower, so it forms a ‘ring’ or circle. On this picture, I’m trying to help you visualize this with the colored ring. Each ring represents a different design segment in the flower.
STEP 1 – PREP THE WOOD
Smooth the wood surface by sanding it with at least 220 grit sandpaper.
Then thoroughly wet the board by misting it with water or running it quickly under the sink faucet. Let the board dry and then sand again.
This will produce a super smooth surface, and the smoother the surface is the better the burn results will be.
STEP 2 – TRANSFER PATTERN TO WOOD
Transfer the pattern to the wood. Notice how I didn’t trace every single line for the segments that are filled with lines. I just drew in 1 or 2 so I knew what would be placed in there and the general direction they would be going.
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. For more information on pattern transfer please refer to my blog: Tranferring Patterns.
STEP 3 – BURN THE OUTLINE
With the writing pen tip 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 4 – BURN THE CENTER
Using the shading pen tip carefully go along the edge of the flower center. The goal is to create a fairly thick line. Next, using the same shading pen tip, create a ‘leather texture’ look in the center.
The Leather texture look is created by making concentric rings of touching dots that fill the center of the flower. To explain in a different way, hold the pen tip along the center’s edge to create a very dark dot (or blotch). Lift the pen tip, and move it just to the right of the dot and create another very dark dot. Repeat this process of creating dark dots until you have gone completely around the center’s edge; forming a circle of touching dots.
Now make a second ring of touching dots just to the inside of the first ring. The second ring of dots will touch the first ring in spots. Mostly likely there will be tiny gaps here and there, but that’s okay.
Continue making concentric rings of dots until you have filled the center of the flower.
STEP 5 – RING AROUND THE CENTER
Next we will burn the ring around the center of the flower using the shading tip.
First, burn a thick line along the outside edge of the ring. I find it is easiest to burn about ¼ of the circle, rotate the board, and burn another quarter working my way around the circle.
Then burn the segment lines to darken and thicken them up. I’m using the edge of the shading pen tip for this, but you might find it easier to use the writing tip. You can combine these two-step, by burning ¼ of the circle, burn the segment lines in the quarter, rotate the board and continue.
Next, fill in the ring with an up/down or zigzag motion that starts at the center edge and goes to the outer edge of the ring.
Below are some photos of the center being filled in.
STEP 6 – POINTED ARCHES
Using a ball pen tip, fill the pointed arches with the leather texture look. The process is the same as the process used for the center. The only difference is that we are using a different pen tip.
NOTE – if you do not have a ball pen tip, use the writing pen tip. The dots will be slightly smaller, but the end results will still look the same.
First, outline the arch with a thick dark line. I’m using the ball tip for this process.
Fill in the arch with the touching dots creates the ‘leather texture’ look.
STEP 7 – 7 DOTS
This is a fast step as we’re just burning in 7 dots in the next flower segment. The dot at the apex of the pointed area is the largest dot and then there are 3 smaller dots that trail downward on either side of the large dot.
Burn the apex or top dot first. To make it bigger than the others, just hold the pen tip in place for a second or so.
Now, burn the three small dots on the “left.” Barely touch the wood with the pen tip. This will make the dots smaller and slightly paler.
Lastly, burn the ‘right’ three dots. Again, barely touch the wood with the pen tip to get small dots.
STEP 8 – TAN ZIGZAG RING
The zigzag ring is a medium tan-colored ring right after the 7 dots. I used the shading pen tip on this step.
To burn in, use the shading pen tip to go along the outer edge.
Then use the shading pen tip to go along the inner edge. Fill in the center of the band if there are any gaps that got missed during the outer / inner edging.
STEP 9 – LINED ZIGZAG RING
Switch to a writing pen tip and draw parallel vertical lines that fill the ring. The lines do not need to be exactly straight or perfectly parallel. The closer the lines are the darker the band will appear. Of course, the opposite is also true; fewer lines will make the band paler in appearance. Another deciding factor on how dark the ring appears is how dark the lines are. I kept my lines a light tan color and didn’t draw a lot of them as I wanted this band to be fairly pale.
Burning in vertical lines along the zigzag ring.
STEP 10 – WHITE CIRCLES
Using a ball pen tip, fill in the area behind the large white circles with lots of random dots.
I made my dots brown in color and looking at it now I think I should have gone for a dark brown color.
Also, using either the ball pen tip or a writing tip, draw a dark brown-black line along the rings. This will help increase the contrast between the two sections.
Burn the dark line with the ball tip.
Fill in the segment with lots and lots of dots. The dots are randomly placed; don’t worry about making them all uniform in size and color.
Continue to work on filling in the white circles ring with dots.
I worked several petals at a time, edging and filling with dots. Then I’d start working on another group of petals.
STEP 11 – FIRST CURVY RING
Using a writing pen tip, darkly edge the curving ring and then fill the ring with parallel vertical dark lines.
Fill in the first petal curvy segment with vertical lines.
Continue to work on drawing vertical lines in the curvy ring.
STEP 12 – 9 DOTS
I used the ball pen tip in this step. In this petal segment there are 9 dots, 8 frame a center large dot. The 8 framing dots are shaded to a uniform dark brown-black color. On the large center dot, I used the leather texture method to color it.
Start with the smaller dots. Just touch the ball tip to the wood for about a second to get it good and dark. The longer you hold the pen tip in place, the larger the dot will be.
For the slightly larger dots, edge them darkly and then fill them in with the ball pen tip. These dots are too large to fill in by just holding the pen tip in place.
Edge the large center dot before filling it in.
Start to fill in the large center dot with the leather texture.
Continue to work on the 9 dots ring.
STEP 13 – FINAL ZIGZAG RING
Using a writing pen tip, draw a dark brown-black line along the outer edges of the last zigzag ring. Then fill the ring with dark brown lines.
First, edge the ring.
Then, draw vertical lines to fill in the ring.
Continue to work your way around the ring.
STEP 14 – LEATHER DROPS
Using a ball pen tip, fill the drops with the leather texture. During this step, I used the ball pen tip to darken the line between each petal.
Using a ball pen tip, edge a drop so that you keep a crisp line edge.
Next fill in the drop with the ‘leather texture.’
Using the ball pen tip, draw a dark thick line along each petal edge.
Continue working on the leather drops ring.
STEP 15 – LAST CURVY RING
Switching back to a writing pen tip, burn a dark brown-black line along both edges of the last curved ring. Then fill the ring with dark brown lines.
First, edge the curvy segment.
Then, fill in the segment with vertical lines.
Continue working on the curvy ring.
STEP 16 – TINY DOTS
During this step, create a row of tiny dots just above the curved ring.
Using the writing tip, create a line of dots that follows the contour of the curvy ring.
Continue work on applying tiny dots just above the curving ring.
STEP 17 – 6 DOTS
Using the writing pen tip, fill the 6 dots with the Leather Texture. This makes the dots very dark and gives them a nice texture that is both visual and tactile.
First, darkly edge the dot with the writing pen tip.
Then, fill in the dot with the leather texture.
Continue working on the 6 dots.
STEP 18 – PETAL END
Again, using the writing pen tip, fill the petal end with parallel lines.
Fill in the petal end with vertical lines.
Continue to work on drawing lines to fill in the petal ends.
STEP 19 – BURN BACKGROUND (optional)
This is an optional step. In this step all I am doing is burning the background a very dark brown-black color to help the flower stand out. I used a large shading pen tip for this step. The goal is to create a uniform smooth background, so the heat needs to be high enough to burn darkly, but not so high that you end up gouging or grooving the wood.
In this example, from another of my art projects, you can see how grooved and pitted the wood is. This is a direct result of having the pen heat too high, so each time I touched with wood with it the pen tip sunk down into the wood.
While burning the background, it can be very useful to have a small fan in use. Direct the fan AWAY from you so that the wind it generates is not blowing on you. Have the fan positioned to pull the smoke away from you, so your eyes (and lungs) won’t get irritated.
The small fan I use runs on batteries, clips onto edges, and the blades are made out of foam. I like that because if I accidentally bump it, nothing gets hurt or damaged. I found it on Ebay under a listing for a baby stroller fan and it cost around 10-15 dollars.
First, burn darkly around the flower. I have the pen heat a little lower because I’m going taking my time during this step to keep the edges of the petals nice and clean.
I consider this a buffer zone. Once I’m done, then I can turn up the pen heat a bit and burn faster as I won’t be right next to a petal edge.
Here, I’ve switched to a large shading pen tip. With this particular tip I’m using more of the side of the shading tip as that produces a wider line.
STEP 20 – FINE TUNE
This is a time to critically look at your work and see if there’s anything you want to fine tune.
I decided that the ‘white dots’ segment needed to be darkened up.
After I was done with that, I was satisfied with the artwork and signed off on it.
While I enjoy sharing my creations with you, and try my best to explain how I’ve created them, I really hope that you will experiment and let your creativity through. I started out on a scrape piece of wood and experimented with different textures to fill in the petals.
I highly encourage you to do the same. Maybe you hate all of the rings that are filled with lines. By all means, fill them in with a texture you would prefer!
You can also experiment with the flower placement on the board. You can offset the flower and have part of a second flower on the board. You can have a quarter of a flower in each corner of the board. Just print several copies of the pattern and place them around the board to see what you might like. Below are some examples.
We’re done creating the Mandala Flower. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and that the explanation was understandable. My goal is to give you projects to follow along with as you gain skills and confidence to venture out on your own. I also try to provide a variety of projects at different skill levels and subject matters to help you stay challenged and interested in continuing to learn the art of pyrography.
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 10 x 10 inches (25.4 x 25.4 cm). It took me 5 hours to complete the Mandala Flower and 3 hours to burn the background. 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 is irrelevant. What’s important is you’re learning to create pyrography artwork, and hopefully having fun while doing so.
Until the next blog,
Mar 10, 2017
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