Some of you are probably thinking it is summer, so what the heck is Brenda doing posting a Christmas themed tutorial?! Well Christmas in July is gaining in popularity and it’s never too early to start working on homemade gifts for the holidays, so I created Jingle Bells, the third installment of my Christmas Postcard series. Ok, another reason is that I was so excited at how realistic the ‘metal’ bells turned out that I couldn’t wait to share it with you. If I accomplish my goal, you will be as amazed as I was at how easy it is to create the look of metal. This tutorial blog will explain how to create the Jingle Bells pyrography art.
Reader submitted art at the bottom of this blog.
SKILL LEVEL: 1
- Writing tip
- Shading tip
- 4 x 6 (10.2 x 15.2 cm) piece of craft plywood
- Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed) Jingle Bells pattern
STEP 1 – PREP THE WOOD
Make sure to prep the wood by sanding the surface with 220 grit sanding paper. Yes, I did this even though I used a store bought piece of die-cut plywood because I want the surface to be as smooth as possible. Smoother surfaces enables better detail and reduced drag on the pen tip.
And since this is a postcard, I put a message on the back of the postcard, so I sand the back of the wood too. Heck I even sanded the sides of the wood to make sure everything was smooth. For more information about prepping the wood and different types of wood I’ve burned on read this blog: Prepping Wood
STEP 2 – TRANSFER PATTERN TO WOOD
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 lightweight 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.
STEP 3 – 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.
In this photo I’m burning in the trace lines. Notice that I’m not burning them in very dark. The snowflakes in the background remain pale and I didn’t do anything further with them after this step was done.
STEP 4 – THE BELLS
We first work on the right jingle bell. The key to the metallic look is extreme contrast, so looking at the bell you can see there are very dark streaks or bands next to super pale bands. Once I was done I ended up using 4 hues of brown to color the bell; dark brown, brown, tan, ultra-pale tan.
DARK BROWN. The dark bands are a very dark brown color that is almost black. There are 4 dark bands, the left top dome, and the right thin edge of the hanging loop that all get burned darkly.
The right thin edge of the hanging loop is pointed out with a red arrow and the rest of the areas are peach brownish color in this photo.
I’d have to say that I have a whole new appreciation for those who can do that photo painting thing. It is super tough to keep neat edges!
Starting on the first band located on the right side of the bell, edge it by burning along all of the outer area of the band with the shading pen tip. The purpose of this is to make sure the edges stay crisp and sharp. When it’s time to fill in the area you don’t have to burn right up to the edge, so it makes it easier to fill in.
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 bell. Positioning the pen tip this way ensures that I am only burning on the bell and not on the background. Plus, keeping the end of the pen tip this way will make sure that the edge of the bell has a very crisp clean line.
Optimal pen tip position ensures that you are burning where you INTEND to burn and that your borders are crisp/clean.
After edging the band fill it in with a uniform dark brown color.
Leave a super thin line along the lip where the bell flares out that is lighter in color than the dark brown. I marked the thin line with a red arrow.
For me I’ve found the easiest way to create the pale thin line is to edge along either side of them. So in this picture you can see that I edged just above where I want the thin pale line to be.
In this photo I’m edging below the thin line and filling in that small dark section on the rim.
Speaking of filling in, use whatever pen motion is comfortable for you. The only goal is to achieve a mostly uniform color with crisp edges. For me I tend to use uniform strokes near the ends of the band (top / bottom) and a small circular motions for the rest of the area. I wrote a tutorial about the different ways that I use the shading tip, so for more information about uniform strokes, circular motions, etc. are please read the blog Using the Shader as it goes into a lot more detail about it.
Also burn a dark line along the edge of the hanging loop at the top of the bell.
While you’re in the area, burn the left top of the bell. Yes, the picture shows I burned more than just the left side. The dark brown lightens to brown as it reaches the right side. You can do that now or wait until I discuss the brown bands.
Continued work on the dark bands.
Working on the last dark band.
The Brown Bands. The next bands to burn are the brown bands. The brown bands are about half the darkness of the dark brown bands.
The brown bands are painted yellow on this photo of the pattern.
Again edge the brown bands, but this is only needed on edges touching an unburned band.
In this photo the band I’m working doesn’t need edging on the side that touches the dark brown band.
Continued work on the band and notice that I also burned in the right side of the dome top on the bell. Yes, I also burned the tan spot on the hanging loop. Again you can do that now or wait.
Working on the last brown band.
The Tan Bands. The tan bands are approximately half as dark as the brown bands.
The light yellow bands on this photo of the pattern are the location of the tan bands. Looking at the color guide, notice that some of the ‘bands’ are nothing more than thin lines along the right side of the pale bands.
Fill in the bands. There is no need to edge the bands, but don’t forget to keep the thin line along the top of the rim even lighter than the tan color. This thin pale line helps give shape to the bell.
With this band I’m working on in the photo, the bottom portion is burned in and then it fades away as it reaches the pale band/line above it. Burn a thin tan line along the right side of the pale band.
The last area to burn a tan shade is the area on the rim near the right edge. Also burn a thin tan line along the right side of the pale band above this spot.
The Pale Bands. The pale bands have hardly any color to them.
Lightly burn over the pale bands and add a touch more color along the edges and bottom.
With the right bell done we’ll work on the left bell. This one shows a bit of the underside of the bell, so it needs a little more work, but nothing you can’t handle.
The top portion of the bell is almost identical to the Right bell, so my explanation for that area will be brief.
The Dark Brown Bands. First burn in the dark bands and like the left bell, the dark bands/lines are very dark brown in color to the point they are almost black. Let me say now that I added a dark band later as I felt I didn’t have enough contrast, so initial pictures won’t show all of the dark brown bands the final art has.
The peach colored bands on this pattern photo indicate the location of the dark brown bands.
Edge and fill in the dark brown bands. Some of the bands are nothing more than thick lines, so those don’t need to be edged first.
The Brown Bands. Next burn in the brown bands and make the color about half the intensity of the dark bands.
The yellow bands on this pattern photo indicate the location of the tan bands.
Start with the right side of the bell and make sure to burn in the two roundish areas on the rim.
Working on the next band.
Burn the last band and, just like we did with the left bell, edge the band before filling it in.
The Tan Bands. Burn the tan bands a color that is much lighter than the brown color. The tan bands are all located on the right side of the bell.
The light yellow bands on this pattern photo indicate the location of the tan bands.
Edge and burn in the tan bands.
The Super Pale Band. The last thing to do is burn the pale band and the rim highlight. The pale band is extremely pale in color.
Both the band and the rim get a touch of color and the edges of both areas receive more color than the center.
The first step with the inside of the bell is to edge along the upper lip of the rim.
Next darkly burn along the right side of the rim and fade the color to tan when you get to the bell clapper.
Burn the rest of the rim a tan color and make the left side of the rim slightly darker just before you reach the ribbon.
Here’s a progress photo.
Now burn the right inside part of the bell a tan color, but avoid burning on the clapper.
Let the color fade just past the clapper. On the rim there is a bright highlight (marked with red arrow) and the inside of the bell will be lighter in the same general area (marked with black arrow) to give the indication that light is hitting there too.
Burn a dark line separating the round clapper from the shaft it’s attached to.
Burn the rest of the clapper a tan color, but keep it a lighter color than the bell wall behind it.
Now burn the left side of the bell a tan color that fades as it nears the light reflection spot.
Here is a progress photo showing both bells. Time to critically compare them. What do you think?
I liked the right bell, but felt the left one didn’t have the same impact. What it needed was more contrast.
Here I’m adding that dark brown band. Yes, I put this band on the pattern.
I also darkened up the inside a touch more and put a dark line at the bottom of the clapper to help it stand out.
Below are the before and after pictures of the right jingle bell for easier comparison.
With the increased contrast the bell looks a lot more metallic.
STEP 5 –THE BOW
Now we’ll burn the bow.
First start with the center of the bow.
Edge the bottom of the bow center a dark brown black color and extend the color about ¼ of the way up.
Fill in the rest of the bow center a brown color and burn the right and left edges a bit darker.
Next burn the left tail.
First burn along the right edge of the tail to a brown color. Make sure to keep the color slightly paler than the dark brown, so it is easier to tell where one end and the other begins.
Next fill in the rest of the loop a brown color, but remember to keep a thin line along the right edge paler (marked with a red arrow).
This photo points out the right edge and bend area.
Now it’s time for the left loop on the bow.
First edge the loop and darkly burn along the crease lines.
Darkly burn the end of the bow loop. I used pull-away strokes for this, so the stroke started on the end of the loop and I pulled it away from the end. I kept the strokes short.
Leave a slightly paler spot near the center top of the loop.
Time to do the right tail.
Darkly edge the tail and darkly burn where the tail starts (touches the bell).
Fill in the rest of the tail a brown color and leave the bend spot slightly lighter.
Lastly it’s time to burn the right loop on the bow.
Again edge the loop and burn the end of the bow a dark brown color.
Burn darkly along the crease lines and fill the rest of the area a brown color.
Continue to burn the rest of the loop a brown color, but leave the center top of the loop slightly paler in color.
STEP 6 – THE GARLAND
Now we’ll burn the beaded garland.
First burn a dark brown line along the edges of the oval beads.
Burn a dark brown band along the edges.
Fill in the rest of the bead a brown color.
Burn the bottom half of the small circular beads a dark brown color. This is another area I used short pull-away strokes on.
Burn the top half of the small circular beads a dark brown color.
Lightly burn the center of the beads a tan color.
Burn the bottom half of the larger round beads a dark brown color.
Continued work burning the bottom half of the round beads.
Next rotate the wood and burn the top half of the round beads a dark brown color and burn the center of the bead a tan color as you work your way across the garland.
Notice how I’m keeping the tan center of the beads in line with how the garland hangs.
Almost done with the garland.
STEP 7 – EXTRA SNOWFLAKES (Optional)
I decided I wanted a few more pale snowflakes in the background. So I traced them on wood from the pattern and lightly burned them in. This is a completely optional step.
Continued work adding pale snowflakes.
STEP 8 – THE MESSAGE
Flip the postcard over, draw a couple of lines, burn them in, and then write your message.
STEP 9 – OPTIONAL ENHANCEMENTS
Even though I’m giving you the instructions on how I create my artwork, I strongly encourage you to let your creative side out and make the artwork uniquely you. 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 Elmer’s) over the snowflakes and add some glitter. You can also add some glitter the edges of the post card.
- Use colored pencils to give the postcard some color. Color the bow, or add a touch of yellow to the bells. Little things to make the art pop. Just don’t burn over the colored pencil as the heat will melt it and cause it to spread.
- Drill a couple of tiny holes at the top (one each end) and hang your postcard like an ornament.
- Make a keepsake by putting the year on the front of the postcard.
- Create a garland by making several postcards and stringing them together.
This concludes the Jingle Bells tutorial. I really love how the bells turned out and I felt that the metallic look wasn’t hard to create. Pyrography is a wonderful medium for creating the look of gold metal. While I’m not super thrilled with how my bow turned out, I do think that the overall look is pleasing. Considering that this didn’t take me very long to do, I’m actually amazed at how well it did turn out. Please don’t take my next comment as bragging because that’s not my intent, but I’m just amazed at the jingle bells. I started this project thinking that it was going to be difficult as I’ve never done metal before, but I was very pleasantly surprised it wasn’t difficult at all.
Ok I have to tell you that Todd says I’m horrible at judging the difficulty level of my projects. Part of the reason is that I’ve drawn for a bazillion years and pyrography is very similar to drawing, but I still felt that this was an easy project. I really did, so I would love to know if you feel the same way. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Now to answer a couple of questions I get asked frequently. This artwork was burned on a piece of die-cut plywood I bought from a local craft store. The piece of plywood measures 4 x 6 inches (10.2 x 15.2 cm) and it took me 3 hours to complete the artwork. Remember that this is not a race or contest. I only list how long it takes me because for some reason it is one of the first questions I get asked. Truly how long it takes to create the art isn’t the important thing. What’s important is the creation of the art, so go create some art. It’s like magic.
Until the next blog,
July 1, 2017
Lee Walls submitted this wonderful artwork. The glitter glow was created by diluting Crayola glitter glue with equal parts water. Great idea and thanks for sharing!
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