With Halloween quickly approaching I thought it would be a great idea to create a sign for the holiday. Not only is this project quick and easy to do, but it’s also quite colorful via the use of coloring crayons. This tutorial will explain how to create the pyrography Happy Halloween sign including how to get a smooth color crayon finish. This is a very easy project and it’s great for beginners.
10/2018 – added reader submitted art at bottom of blog.
Now, let’s get to work.
SKILL LEVEL: 1
- Writing tip
- Shading tip
- Large shading tip (optional)
- 10×10 (25.4 x 25.4 cm) piece of wood
- Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed) Halloween Sign pattern
- Small Fan – to direct smoke away from you (optional)
- Coloring crayons*
- Embossing heat gun
*I used the following coloring crayons: White, Unmellow Yellow, Vivid Tangerine, Orange, Burnt Sienna, and Brown.
Here’s a picture of the embossing gun I use. It’s a standard type of tool used in paper crafts to apply embossing inks. A high wattage hair dryer might work, but no promises on that.
STEP 1 – PREP THE WOOD
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
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, position on the wood, and trace over the pattern. Make sure to check the trace results for accuracy before removing the pattern.
STEP 3 – BURN THE OUTLINE
With the writing pen tip on medium to medium high burn in the trace lines. Just don’t burn the inner lines on the pumpkin dark; the inner lines are found inside the facial features. After you have burned in the trace lines, rub over the surface with a pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite.
Quite truthfully I would have saved myself a little time if I had burned a lot darker than I did, but it still turned out.
STEP 4 – LETTERING
This is a super easy step as all we are doing is burning darkly along the edges of the lettering. I did my lettering so the center was paler than the edges, but if you want a solid black letter, by all means burn yours that way.
Start by burning darkly along one edge of the letter. Use super short pull-away strokes to thicken the dark edges. The pull-away stroke starts with the pen tip on the outer edge of the letter, pull the pen away from the outer edge towards the center of the letter, and then pull the pen up and away from the wood once you reach the halfway mark.
Continued work darkening one side of the letters.
Rotate the wood and repeat the process on the opposite side of the letters. By rotating the wood it will be easier to keep the pen tip in optimal position.
Once ‘happy’ is done start the same process on ‘halloween’.
Rotate the wood and finish up the word.
Keep in mind that, if you prefer, you can do all of one side on both words before rotating the wood to finish up. There isn’t an absolute wrong or right way of doing this.
STEP 5 – PUMPKIN
In this step we are going to burn the pumpkin.
First burn in the pumpkin skin so it is very dark brown to black in color.
While burning the pumpkin it can be very useful to have a small fan in use. Direct the fan AWAY from you so that wind it generates is not blowing on you. Having the fan positioned so that it sucks/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 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.
Below are progress photos of my burning in the pumpkin.
Now we’re going to burn in the inner flesh of the pumpkin.
Start by burning the inner flesh along the left eye a uniform light tan color.
Then burn over the flesh to darken up along the outer edge where it meets the black pumpkin skin.
Do the same steps for the right eye.
With the nose there is very little flesh showing, so just burn it a uniform light tan color.
Now do the same steps for the mouth. Start on the left side and burn it so the flesh is darkest at the edges where it touches the skin.
Also make the top part of each tooth lighter than the flesh behind it. This is to provide some contrast so they can be seen.
Continued work. Notice how the seams where two teeth meet is darker than the top of each tooth.
STEP 6 – COLOR CRAYONS
Now it’s time to get out the crayons and color the sign.
Let’s start with the glow inside of the pumpkin.
Use the white crayon color in the corner of the left eye. Extend the color about 1/4 inch (0.64 cm) from the corner.
The white crayon gets applied to the corner of both eyes, the top of the nose, and the peak of the front 3 teeth. This photo marks the white crayon areas with white arrows.
Fill in the rest of the glow areas with the Unmellow Yellow crayon. It’s ok to overlay the white and yellow a little bit.
Here’s how the pumpkin looked after I was done with the yellow.
Use the Vivid Tangerine crayon to color along the eye next to the flesh.
Also color along the very bottom of the teeth next to the flesh. This photo shows how the pumpkin looked after I was done coloring the glow area.
I do want to point out the touch of tangerine I added along the last teeth. The orange arrows mark two spots on the photo.
Use the embossing heat gun to heat up the colored area.
Wrap a piece of paper towel around the end of your finger and gently rub over the heated crayon to blend and remove excess.
This is how the pumpkin looked after I was done heating and blending the crayon.
Let’s continue this process with the background. Here I have applied the Tangerine color crayon to a small area behind the pumpkin.
Rub over the surface with a wadded up piece of paper towel.
Here’s how it looked after I was done.
This photo shows the before and after the heat treatment for comparison.
Switch to the Orange coloring crayon and color the rest of the sign. I worked small sections at a time, so in this photo I’ve colored around the word Halloween.
I applied heat starting on the left side as my left hand had the paper towel wad.
As I moved the heat gun towards the right, I started rubbing over the left area with a piece of paper towel. I continued this method of heating and rubbing as I worked my way towards the right side of the artwork.
Here’s how it looked after I was done.
I wanted a smoother transition between the tangerine and the orange, so I applied another layer of orange along the seam where the two touched.
Here’s how it looked after I was done and I like this much better. Keep in mind, that I also applied heat and rubbed over the area again with a piece of paper towel to blend it.
Continued to color the sign with the orange crayon.
Heating and blending the color as you go.
After I was done with the orange I used burnt sienna and brown in the corners.
Looking back I probably should have done those colors before the orange was applied. Whatever color gets applied first tends to be predominate, so I had a little difficulty getting the corners dark.
The corners still aren’t as dark as I’d like them, but I was making a mess with my repeated attempts to darken them up so I gave up. This was my first time doing this, so I didn’t expect perfection. Good thing.
STEP 7 – FINE TUNE
Here’s how the sign looked after I was done.
What do you think?
I thought the letters needed to be darkened up.
I burned over the centers of the letters to reduce the contrast and give them a darker appearance.
Below are the before and after photos of the sign.
ABOUT THE CRAYON FINISH
I like how quick and easy it was to use the crayons. Interestingly the wood feels very smooth and not waxy at all which surprised me.
There is a shine to the corners where I have a lot more crayon layered, but the rest of the crayon dried to a matte or non-glossy finish.
If I scrape really hard in the corners I can remove some of the crayon. But in the areas where there wasn’t as much crayon build up I couldn’t do so (at least with my fingernail). Also when I signed my name in the corner the crayon heated back up and moved away from the pen tip. So I’d use care in how you store this artwork. I normally put all of my Halloween decorations in the attic, but during the summer it gets extremely hot up there so that wouldn’t be a good choice for this sign.
11/26 – SEALING THE ARTWORK
I finally remembered to update this blog in regards to sealing/finishing the artwork. I was concerned that the Lacquer would smear the color like it does with colored pencil, but I’m happy to report it does not. Todd was able to brush the lacquer right onto the surface and the color stayed in place.
This sign was quickly created by getting “Happy Halloween” lettering I liked and added a pumpkin sketch below it. From concept to pattern drawn only took me an hour if that. Needless to say it would be very easy to modify this.
Don’t like the style of lettering? Find one you do like and substitute one for the other. Want a happy looking sign? Change the lettering to simple block style letters and draw or google a happy looking pumpkin.
Heck, you can also burn this opposite of how I did. By that I mean burn the background super dark and then color in the lettering and the pumpkin.
Use paints or colored pencils instead of crayons. Add little bats or spider webs in the corners. Make the pumpkin more 3D instead of silhouette styled as I did.
This tutorial is a concept tutorial, or, put another way, it is just an idea for you to modify to your personal tastes.
We’re done. This project came together extremely quickly for me. It was a one day project from concept to creation. It’s not super fancy, but not everything needs to be. I really liked the concept of using crayons because of their ease of use and how inexpensive they are. Plus I liked how the color looked after being heat treated and rubbed over. The final result almost looks like chalk or water colors and I’m not sure I would have believed someone if they told me it was coloring crayons.
What do you think of this project? I always love hearing from you, so please leave a comment.
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 4 1/2 hours to complete the artwork.
Until the next blog,
Oct 13, 2017
Updated Oct 21, 2018
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This artwork was done by John in Virginia. It is his first piece of pyrography artwork and I think he did a fantastic job! Welcome to the pyrography community John. I hope you continue to create pyrography art and have a great time doing so!