Yellow Lab Puppy Pyrography Tutorial wood burning

Anymore it seems like, everywhere you go, someone has a pet dog with them.  I expect to see them in parks, but now it’s common to see them in stores and occasionally on airplanes.  Heck some businesses even allow their employees to bring their dogs to work with them.  Pet popularity seems to be at an all-time high and I don’t see it declining anytime soon.  So I thought it would be fun to feature a tutorial about a pet dog.  The Yellow Lab Puppy is a piece of pyrography artwork I did for a friend and today I’m going to explain how to create it. 

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

Let’s get burning.




  • Writing tip
  • Shading tip
  • Medium Ball tip (optional)
  • Large shading tip (optional)
  • 8×12 inch (20.3 x 30.5 cm) piece of wood
  • Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed)  Yellow Lab pattern
  • X-acto knife
  • Small Fan – to direct smoke away from you (optional)

NOTE – During some of the tutorial steps you may notice that more work has been done that what is being discussed in the current step.  Please try to ignore that.  I tend to bounce around when I’m working on projects, but I think that when I’m explaining how to do something it would be easier for the reader to start and finish the one area (say a nose) before moving on. 


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. 






 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 dark graphite pencil, place pattern on wood, tape in place, trace over pattern with a sharp pencil, remove pattern, and you’re ready to burn.  





Notice how I only coated the back of the paper where the pattern lines were. 

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:  TranferringPatterns.








With the writing pen tip on medium low, burn in the trace lines.  On a scale of one to ten, because that’s what my burner has on it, this would be 2.5 – 3 on the heat setting.

IMPORTANT – – On the pattern there are some dashed-lines on the dog’s body that indicate shadows, fat rolls, etc. on the dog.   I cannot emphasize enough the need to keep the dashed-lines as pale as possible.  The fur has to be as dark as or slightly darker than the dash lines to make them ‘disappear’ or blend in.  The reason is that fur doesn’t have hard edges to it like say a cup or a table does, so the presence of a dark straight line will look wrong.

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



Before I continue with the tutorial, I need to discuss Optimal Pen Tip Placement as this is important for the eyes and nose.

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 nostril.  Positioning the pen tip this way ensures that I am only burning on the nostril and not on the nose itself.

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.




Let me apologize now for the low quality of some of the pictures.  I got most of the pictures from the video frame capture and I was still in the process of discovering the best setup for the camera.  Sorry.   

Because the still shots from the video were such poor quality, I did a pencil drawing of the eyes to help visually explain the steps. 

Technically we will be working on the dog’s right eye, but with how we are viewing it I’m calling this eye the left eye.








Burn a dark line along the bottom edge of the eye.    I had my burner on 3.5 (it goes to 10) and took my time to carefully and slowly burn in this area. 






Since I was going pretty slow, even at a medium-low setting the resulting line was pretty dark.   I kept the pen heat setting at this level for the entire artwork with the exception of the background.




Burn a dark line along the lower edge of the eye lashes.  








Burning along the eyelashes






With the shading pen tip, edge around the reflected light spot in the eye.  If it’s easier for you, switch to the writing pen tip for this step.  Either way you need to avoid burning on the reflection spot.  This will ensure it looks “white” when we are done burning the eye.






If it helps, color the reflection with a white charcoal pencil and then burn around it. Do not use a white colored pencil!   Colored pencils contain wax and will melt.  Charcoal, on the other hand, resists the heat of the pen.  After you are done erase the charcoal.



Fill in the remaining part of the eye, but continue to avoid burning on the reflection spot.  






Filling in the eye




Burn a line along the upper edge of the eye lashes.






Switch to a writing tip and burn the iris a very dark brown/black color.  






Burning the iris





Here’s how the eye looked after I was done with the iris.




Next darken up the eye one last time to a very dark brown, but leave the eye slightly paler right around the iris.





Burn the eyelashes black







Burn a dark line under the lower eyelid.







burning the dark line under the eye




Burn a dark tan line along the nose by the eye.








Burn a line along the upper eyelid crease and burn a line that extends from the upper eyelashes to the corner where the tear duct is.





Before I can continue with the tutorial, I need to explain how to create the look of short length fur.

SHORT FUR:   I use short zigzag bursts to create the look of short fur.  The key to realism is to vary the starting point of each burst.  You do not want a straight line of them.   Each burst is typically the same height and width of ¼ inch x ¼ inch (0.64 x 0.64 cm).   Below is an illustration of my zigzag concept using a black marker for best visibility on what I’m doing.  (photos already uploaded)

In this photo I’ve got 3 zigzag bursts drawn.  All of them are slightly offset from each other.




I’ve added some more bursts to finish the row.  Notice how I vary where each one started, so it doesn’t form a straight row or line of zigzag bursts. 




Here I’ve started a second row of zigzag bursts.  Again I varied where I start each one. 




The second row of zigzag bursts is done.  Notice how some of the bursts from the first and second row slightly overlap in places and that’s perfectly ok.





Now I’m just filling in the area.   

An important thing to keep in mind is that the bursts need to follow the direction the fur is going.   In the drawings below I’m demonstrating how I change the direction of the fur.



Starting to angle or rotate the direction of the bursts
adding more bursts









Continued work filling in the area.

That’s it.   I love how quickly an area can be filled with this texture and how realistic looking the illusion of fur can be. 





Burn in short fur around the eye keeping the fur in the direction of the hair growth.  For example the fur under the eye grows in a more up/down direction with a slight slant towards the left, so you would not create fur in this area with left/right direction fur. 







adding fur around the eye







Darken the fur along the inner eye by the nose.  Also extend the darkened fur along the lower eyelid.







Darkening up the corner area along the inner eye.







Next slightly darken the lower eyelid. 









Darkening up the lower eyelid







Lastly, using a sharp tip of an X-acto knife, or something similar, to scratch in a couple of tiny highlights on the lower eyelid.  This will give the appearance of some ‘wet’ looking spots.






We are going to do the same basic steps for the right eye that we did with the left eye.







Burn a dark line along the bottom edge of the eye.   







Burning a along the lower edge of the eye







Burn a dark line along the lower edge of the eye lashes.






Burning along the upper edge of the eye







Edge around the light reflection spot in the eye. 






Fill in the remaining part of the eye, but continue to avoid burning on the reflection spot.  







Filling in the eye






Burn a line along the upper edge of the eye lashes.






Switch to a writing tip and burn the iris a very dark brown black color.  







Burning the iris with the writing pen tip






Burn the eyelashes black






Iris burned in




Next darken up the eye one last time to a very dark brown, but leave the eye slightly paler right around the iris.  





Burn a dark line under the lower eyelid.    







Starting to burn the dark line under the eye





Burn a dark tan line along the crease of the upper eyelid.






Burning the eyelid crease







Burn some dark short fur next to the eye along the nose.







add fur around the eye






Continue to add short fur around the eye.  







adding fur around the eye






Slightly darken the lower eyelid.






darkening up the lower eyelid




Using an X-acto knife scrape in a couple of highlights on the lower eyelid.





This step will cover  how to create the puppy’s nose and mouth.







Burn a medium tan line along the lips of the mouth.







Next burn a wide dark brown line along the inside of the nostrils and a line just below each nostril.







Burn the inside of the nostrils dark brown to black in color, but slightly fade out the color as it gets closer to the outside edge of the nostril. 





Burn in some fur texture around the nose.  Don’t worry if the fur extends into the nose area because once we’re done you won’t be able to see it.  






Make sure to keep the fur in the direction of hair growth. 







Continued work on the fur around the nose.







Darken up the nose leaving a paler band that is located just above the nostrils.  Also leave a light area along the lower edge of each nostril.  These three areas are where the sunlight reflected the most. 





Below are some progress photos of me darkening up the nose.   





Now let’s work on the mouth again.  Darken up the lower lip especially the area of the mouth directly below the nose.





Continued work to darken the area of mouth below the nose







Next add the whisker follicles on the muzzle.  I used the edge of the shading pen tip to do this, but you may find it easier to use a writing tip or large ball pen tip. 






The progress photos below show the whisker follicles being burned in.  














Then add some darker fur on the front of the muzzle just below the nose.






Next burn in the fur along the chin and do a final darkening of the lips (if needed).







Progress photo before the final texture is added to the nose.








Because a dog’s nose is not comprised of smooth skin, a bumpy texture needs to be applied to the nose.  This is accomplished by applying a layer of dots over the entire surface of the dog’s nose with a medium ball pen tip.  If you do not have a ball pen tip, then use a writing pen tip. 







Apply more dots in the dark areas and fewer dots in the light reflection spots.    

My use of the dots not only adds needed texture, but also helps further define the nose.  An example of this is the faint dark line that runs between the nostrils that I created with the dots.







Lastly take a critical look at the nose and decide if it needs to be darker or not.  I decided mine needed to be a little darker so I lightly went over the nose with the shading tip.








To show what a difference the dots make on the nose, here’s a photo before and after the dots were applied.

Nose before dot texture
Nose after dot texture









In this step I will cover how to create the rest of the face including the ears. 

First burn a medium tan line along the inside edge of the ears.  The inside is the edge near the face. 








Next burn a medium tan line just under the right jaw line. 






Then burn medium tan fur along the dotted line areas marked on the pattern. NOTICE THE WORD FUR.  This means we are using the zigzag motion to burn along the dotted lines.   (don’t worry about the ear at this point as I will discuss it later)







To make sure there is no confusion about dotted lines I’m referring to on the pattern, I marked a few of them with pale yellow marks.  The dotted lines indicate facial contour marks, so we are burning them in to start defining the face.  





In this photo I’m working on the line between the eyes and have already done the line along the top of the head and right cheek. 








Next fill in the face with light tan fur.  Make sure to keep the fur direction the same as the hair growth direction. 








I indicated the direction of the fur with red streaks.







Below are some progress photos of the facial fur being burning in. 

















First thicken up the line that was first burned in along the inside edge of the ear. 








Next cover the ear with fur texture that is a little darker than the fur on the face.








Continued work on covering the ear with fur and making the bottom edge of the ear darker than the top of the ear.     

I actually applied several layers of fur until I got it to the darkness level I wanted. 






In this picture of the ear after I was done I’ve marked a few items to keep in mind.  1) The darker band along the bottom of the ear.  2) The light edge along the fold of the ear near the face. 

The darker band was created by burning another layer of fur along this area.

The light edge along the fold was created by applying only one layer of fur on the right side of the edge.  The left side of the edge received several applications of fur.














Burn the tip of the ear and the outer edge a medium-dark tan color. 









Fill in the tip of the ear a medium tan color.











Cover the ear with fur and make it darker in color than the facial fur.












Burn a darker band along the bottom edge.  This photo shows the ear after I applied the first layer of fur and did the dark bottom band.











Next thicken up the dark line along the inside edge of the ear.









Add the final touches to the ear by making sure the fold has a slightly pale edge and that the bottom of the ear is darker than the top.





Closeup of the body 









First burn dark fur under the right side of the jaw.  This area is in shadows, so it’s pretty dark compared to the face.  






Also burn a small patch on either side of the throat.  They almost looks like fangs in this photo.      






Next burn a medium tan fur line along all of the dotted lines on the chest area of the pattern.







Cover the chest area with light tan fur.  Here I’m working on the right side of the body.








Burn the fur on the right back leg, but make sure the fur is darker along the edge where it touches the rest of the body.   Notice how I have rotated the board so I could easily burn the fur in the proper hair growth direction. 





Here’s how the chest area looked after I was done.






closeup of the right leg









Burn the fur on the right leg; make the upper inside edge dark.









Continue burning the fur on the right leg, but keep the right side slightly darker than the left as it’s in the shadows.     








Burn a slightly darker band along the dog’s wrist.







Cover the paw in fur.









The knuckles are slightly darker than the rest of the fur along the top of the foot.








Burn the fur between the toes a medium tan color.  Also darken the right side of each toe, but fade the color as nears the top of the toe.    

With the toenail, just burn a medium tan-colored line just to the right of each toe nail.   We’ll finish the toe nails when we burn the background.






Closeup of the back paws






Apply fur over both of the back feet, but keep the tops of the toes the palest part.  The tops of the feet are mostly in shadows from the dog’s belly.








Darken up the tops of the feet so they will appear to be shadowed.   Just like the front paw, darken up the fur between the toes, darken the right side of each toe, and burn a medium tan line just to the right of each toe nail.






Do the same to the left back paw.  

This photo shows the right foot done and me working on the left foot.









closeup of the left leg









Burn the shadowed area on the upper inside of the left leg.








Cover the leg with fur and make sure to burn a slightly darker band along the wrist.  Also make the fur on the right side is slightly darker than the left.  











Burn the fur between the toes a medium tan color and burn a line on the right side of each toe nail.





Because the lab puppy is so pale in color, he will not be very noticeable if the background isn’t darkened up.   So the last step is to darken the background and finish the toe nails.

With the shading pen tip on medium heat setting (I had mine on 4.5 and it goes to 10) burn a dark band around the dog. 

The dark band is what I refer to as a buffer zone.  Once it is in place you won’t be burning right up to the edge of the fur and this makes it easier to fill in the background.






It’s important to note that while I mention what setting I have my burner at, that doesn’t mean you will need to use the exact same setting.  Old pen tips require less heat the new ones.  Hardwoods like maple, require more heat than softwoods like the basswood I’m burning on.

KEEP THE EDGES ROUGH or irregular by using the zigzag stroke as you do this.  Fur, like all hair masses, does not have crisp smooth edges.  The close up photo above shows the irregular or rough edge.

With the buffer zone in place, switch to a large shading pen tip (if you have one), turn up the heat a little more, and finish burning the background a dark brown color.






When burning around the toenails, first burn a dark thick band on either side of the toe nail.  







Shorten the toenail length by filling in the area between the two dark bands.   Keep the toe nail length longer than you really need.   The pen heat is too high right now for doing detail work, so finish the toenail after the background is done.







Here’s how the first toe nail looked after I was done with the above two steps.








After the background is finished, switch to the normal sized shading tip (assuming you were using the large one for the background), turn down the pen heat and finish shaping the toe nails.

 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.  Having the fan positioned this way pulls 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 accidently bump into 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.








Another thing I need to mention is that I had the heat just high enough to burn darkly, but not so high that it gouged the wood.  Really high heat will burn channels (or gouge) the wood, but a lower heat and slower hand speed prevents this; I wanted my black space background to be smooth.  








We’re done.    Again I apologize for the low quality of some of the photos.   Like I said in the beginning of this blog, I was still discovering the best setup for the camera.  Heck, I’m still in the process of discovering what works best.  I do really hope that despite the photo quality I was still able to convey what was needed so you could create the artwork.

As always I welcome feedback because 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 basswood that measures 8 x 12 inches (20.3 x 30.5 cm).  It took me 9 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.  The only thing that is really important is you’re gaining experience as you learn to create pyrography artwork and hopefully having fun while doing so.

Until the next blog,


April 15, 2017

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