Mandala III Artwork Pyrography Tutorial wood burning

Creating mandala pyrography artwork is a lot of fun for me.  I enjoy creating a pattern and burning it onto wood.  A while back I had created the pattern for Mandala II and I had planned to burn the image onto 4 pieces of wood so that I would have a complete circle.  I quickly discovered my pattern wasn’t accurate enough for that, so I started re-drawing the pattern.  During the process of re-drawing the pattern I ended up changing a few things, so I left the old pattern alone and I decided to make the new one; Mandala III.  Needless to say there are similarities between the two, but I tried very hard to make them unique.   This blog tutorial will explain how to burn Mandala III pyrography art. 

Watch the YouTube video tutorial by clicking on the thumbnail to the left. 




If you’d like to watch a time lapse video of the artwork being create click on the thumbnail to the left.




Let’s get started.



  • Writing tip
  • Shading tip
  • Ball tip
  • Knife tip
  • 10×10” (25.4 x 25.4 cm) piece of wood
  • Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed)   Mandala III pattern


Colwood micro writer
Colwood tight round shader





Colwood Medium Ball Pen Tip
Colwood rounded heel (knife tip)






USING THE SHADING PEN TIP – – – I wrote a tutorial on how I use the shading pen tip.  That tutorial covered how I use the shading pen tip to draw lines, the different fill-in methods I commonly use, etc.  During this tutorial I mention things like ‘pull-away stroke’ and, while I will give a brief description of what I’m doing, I’m not going to go into great detail.   If you need more information I highly recommend reading the USING THE SHADING PEN TIP tutorial.  



Begin by sanding the surface smooth using 220 grit sandpaper or higher.   

Mist the board with water and allow it to dry.  This raises the grain or nap of the wood.

After the board is completely dry, sand it again using 220 grit or higher sandpaper.

The board is now ultra smooth and ready for use.





Transfer the pattern to the 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 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.





I’m breaking tradition and I’m not burning in all of the traces lines first.  Instead the traces line will get burned as we go and we’ll start at the center of the design.






Using the shader, burn along the inner edge of the center and extend the color about 1/4 of an inch (0.64 cm).





Switch to the writing pen tip and burn dots over the entire center area.







Darkly burn the trace lines on the fluted border next to the center.







Burn lines on the fluted border that extend half way between the center and the outer edge using the razor edge of the shader pen tip.  If it’s easier just use the writing pen tip.







During this step we will burn the pointed spokes radiating out from the center, the cones that are between them, and the spools that top them.








First darkly burn the trace lines on the spokes with the razor edge of the shader.   Again, if it’s easier switch to the writing pen tip.  







Next use short pull-away strokes to fill in the left half of the spokes.  Start the stroke on the left edge of the spoke and pull the stroke towards the center.  Lift the pen tip up and away when you reach the halfway mark.






  Repeat on for the right half of the spokes.







Each cone base is filled with curved rows of thin short lines.  Use the knife tip for this to keep the lines very thin.   If it helps, draw in curved rows with pencil to help guide where the lines start.




Continued work.






Burn tiny blotches along the top of each cone topper.  Leave a small gap between the blotches.






Continued work.






Rotate the wood and burn a dark line along the seam (i.e., the spot where the cone and cone topper touch).  Then add the tiny blotches.  Sorry I don’t have a better photo, but my video camera wasn’t focusing well during this step.








Darkly burn the trace lines and all edges of the spools.






Progress photo.








Use pull-away strokes to fill in the right side of the spools.  Burn the strokes so they fill half of the spool, but let the stroke fade as it nears the halfway mark.






Rotate the wood and repeat for the left side of the spools.




During this step we will burn the inverted cones and the donuts.  Yes, I know the name is silly, but I have to get them some sort of name.








First draw in some pale curved lines on the inverted cones.  Again, if it makes it easier, draw the lines in pencil first and then burn over the pencil lines.






Next fill in along the lower edge of each curved line by burning pale short thick lines that end halfway before reaching the next curved line.




Continued work.






Here’s another progress photo.









Burn along the outer edge of the donuts so they are brown in color.





Darkly burn the trace lines along the donut centers.





Burn a row of alternating large and small dots around the donut center.  I used a ball pen tip for this, but the writing tip can also be used.  Just hold the pen tip in place a little longer to get a larger dot.





Burn rows of large dots that radiate outward from the center.  Each row of large dots begins on a larger dot that  rings the donut.





Next burn rows of small dots that radiate outward from the center.  Again, each row of dots begins on a small dot that is in the ring around the donut.






Continued work.






Next burn a row of large dots along the outer edge of the donut.








Burn some tiny dots to fill-in between each radiating line of dots.  I averaged 2-3 dots between each line.







Darkly burn along the edges of the donut center. 

Please ignore the fact that I did work on the tabs before I did this.  






Lightly burn over the entire center of the donut.









During this step we will do both the big and little tabs.









First darkly burn in the trace lines on all of the tabs.   I used the razor edge of the shading tip, but you might find that the writing pen tip is easier for this.  




Next burn dark pull-away strokes along the right side of the large tab centers.  Angle the stroke so it is headed slightly upward.







Continued work.







Burn dark pull-away strokes along the left side of the large tab centers and angle the stroke so it is headed slightly downward.






The center should be slightly paler than the edges.







Burn the right side of the short tabs.







Then burn the left side.   Yes, each side of the short tabs can be burned before moving onto the next one.  I had originally planned to only burn the right side, but decided it didn’t look good so had to go back and burn the left side.






Using the knife pen tip, burn thin pale parallel lines that start on the right side and angle down towards the left.






Rotate the wood and burn pale parallel lines that start on the left side and angle downward towards the right.   This creates a crosshatch type of pattern.




Continued work.  Compare the color of the tab I’m working on with the one to the immediate left.  Notice how the completion of the crosshatch pattern darkens the tab.





During this step we will burn sandstone keyholes.









First burn each keyhole a tan to light brown in color.  You don’t have to make the color perfectly uniform.






Continued work.







Add a dark band along the left edge of the keyhole.  The purpose is to make it appear that the keyhole is recessed and this is a shadow from the ledge around it.







Next burn in the trace lines for the rest of the sandstone keyholes section.









Fill the sandstone ledge with light tan blotchy patches that are irregular in shape and random in placement.








Continued work.  When I create a blotchy patch, I use a small circular motion with the shader pen tip.  





 Using short pull-away strokes darkly burn along the upper edges of the points of the keyhole frame.





Rotate the wood and repeat along the lower edges of the frame points.






Next, burn over the light area between the edges on the frame to reduce the contrast.








Generously dot the surface of the sandstone, including the keyhole, with small dots.  Note that I am using the ball pen tip, but a writing tip can also be used.






Then add a few larger and a few really dark dots randomly about on the sandstone.






Continued work.







Now add cracks to the sandstone surface by burning in lightning shaped lines (as in bolt of lightning) with the writing pen tip.







Continued work.







Finishing up.





During this step we will burn the saucers.









Darkly burn along the center oval.






Use very short pull-away strokes to extend the color.






Continued work.







Almost done with the center ovals.








Add a row of large dots along the outer edge of the saucer.  To keep the dots fairly consistent on each of the saucers, I placed the first dot in the center and then worked my way down the sides from there.  So in this photo I’ve burned the center dot and I’ve started to dot down along the left side of the saucer.




In this photo I finished the left side of the saucer and now I’m working my way from the center down to the right side.







Next draw a line in the center of each saucer (or close to the center) following the shape of the center oval.






Next draw curved lines that start from each dot and end at the center line that was just drawn.






Now draw reverse curved lines that start at the center line and end at the oval in the center of the saucer.  Each line forms an ‘S’ shape that connects a dot to the center oval.





Use the writing pen tip to burn in the ‘S’ shaped pencil lines.






  Continued work.









 Finishing up.








Rub over the saucers to remove any residual graphite, but be careful not to erase the Celtic knot design above the saucers.







Next contour the saucer by first using the shader pen tip to burn along the outer edge of the saucer.






Then burn along the centerline where the curved lines reverse direction.








This photo shows three saucers complete and three that still need to be contoured.   Remember when you create this artwork, make it your own.  If you don’t like the contouring then leave the area with just lines.








Finishing up the contouring of the saucers.






During this step we will burn the Celtic knots.









Burn the trace lines along the Celtic knot border.









Next burn dark short pull-away strokes on the inner edge of the border.







Rotate the wood and burn much lighter pull-away strokes along the outer edge of the border.







Burn the background area behind the Celtic knot a light tan color.







Continued work.








Fill in the background with lots and lots of tiny dots that are tan to dark tan color.






  Continued work.








Next burn darkly along the right edge of the vertical knot.







Continued work.








Rotate the wood and burn darkly along the bottom edge of the horizontal knot.






Continued work








If needed, use the writing pen tip to burn in the small areas that the shader has difficulty reaching.









During this step we will burn the honeycombs.









First burn in all of the traces lines.







With the honeycomb, I found it easier to burn in all of the lines in one direction, rotate the wood and burn in the next direction, etc.  For me this helped to keep the lines straight.





Burn darkly along one side of all of the honeycombs.






Rotate the wood and repeat the previous step on a new side.







Continue until all sides of each honeycomb have been burned darkly.  Then lightly burn over all of the honeycombs to reduce the contrast.







Next darkly burn along upper edge of the outer frame line except on the small bands.  Those are burned much lighter in color.






Continued work.









Rotate the wood and repeat along the lower edge of the outer frame.  Again keeping the small bands much paler in color.






Continued work.









Next burn thin lines with the knife edge along the inner frame.  Start the line on the honeycomb side and let it fade in color when it reaches the outer frame.






Continued work.







After the lines are burned in, the final touch is to burn over the base of the lines (next to the honeycomb) with the shader pen tip.






During this step we will burn the pods.








Darkly burn in the trace lines and then use pull-away strokes to burn darkly around the pod edges.








Also burn darkly around the center oval.  Again use pull-away strokes, but keep them very short in length.







Continued work.








Continued work.  I generally burn many pull-away strokes as I build up and extend the color.  This ensures that the outer edges are darker than the center where it nears the oval.





Next use the knife tip to burn in thin dark curved lines that start on the right side and curve down towards the left side.   I burn the first line slightly below the halfway mark and let the distance between the lines increase as they reach the left side of the oval.





Continued work.






Burning the first line on a new oval. 







Burning the curved lines below the starting point.








Burning the curved lines above the starting point.   I liked this look as it made it seem like all of the lines started at the same spot off in the distance that we can’t see.






Next burn a row of dots between each line.








Continued work.






Lastly add a row of dots around the oval.  Yes, I didn’t decide to do this until after I had burned part of the banner.








Continued work.





During this step we will burn the banners and finials.









First burn in the trace lines on the banners so they are very dark in color.





Next add a row of tiny dots along the upper edge of the banner.









Then add a row of dots along the edges of the pod.








Continued work.







Next darkly burn in the bean or kidney shape above the pod.







Continued work.






Now burn a light brown band or really thick line on the banner in each spot where the banner changes direction.





Next extend the color away from the bands and let it fade as it reaches the apex (high point) of the banner.  This will make the banner look curved.






Continued work.






Continued work.






Finishing up the banner.




Next burn in the trace lines on the large bulb finial.







Darkly burn the base of the small bulb finial top.







Burn along the top and bottom of the large bulb.  Keep the center or widest part of the bulb the palest.







Continued work.








Finishing this finial.








Burning another finial.







Finishing up the finials.






During this step we will burn the chocolate kisses.  Yes, this is another odd name, but they shape reminded my of the Hershey’s chocolate kiss candies.








Darkly burn in the traces lines and then burn dark pull-away strokes along the upper edge of the kiss.






Continued work.








Next use the writing pen tip to burn dark squiggly lines that meander over the surface of the kiss.







Below are pictures showing the continued work on the squiggly lines.
















I don’t have a picture for this step, but the very last thing to do is rub over the entire surface with a pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite. 

I also did this periodically as I was burning, but I was very careful to only erase on the areas I had burned in.

STEP 15 – ADD MORE (optional)

This is an optional step and can be done if there is enough room on the wood.  The piece I was using had plenty of room.  I printed a picture of the final artwork and placed this on the wood (along with the pattern) to get an idea of where to place them. 







After deciding on the placement, I traced what would fit of the pattern onto the area and burned in the outline.








I repeated this process on the second area I wanted the design to go.









Below are progress photos of the additional designs being burned in. 














This picture shows my test burn.  I drew the pattern onto a piece of plywood and played around with different looks.  I highly recommend you do the same thing as you can try out ideas.  If you don’t like my honeycomb section, replace it with a different design.







After I did the test burn, I transferred the pattern onto a different spot on the same board and started putting the stuff I liked into the new test area.   This gave me a better idea of how the final art would look and it helps me make sure that my contrast levels are good.  Or, put another way, I don’t want a bunch of pale stuff grouped together. 






I kind of like how the artwork looked in this photo.  I had started the banners, finished the finials, but the pods weren’t done.  Leave out the oval and let your imagination take over from there.








Another progress photo I liked was this one before the kisses were burned in.   I almost left them off.  Maybe you like the artwork better without them or want to put something else in their place.  By all means do!  









The last thing to do is sign your project and then seal the wood.  When I sign, I first sign in pencil and use the writing pen tip to burn over the trace lines.   Todd seals the wood with many coats of Lacquer.  I’ve written a blog that discusses this and other sealants.  To read it click on this link:  Sealing the Wood.


We’re done with Mandala III and I think it’s the best Mandala I’ve done to date.  Ironically I’ve yet to create a mandala design that’s even close to the ones I like so much on the internet.  Regardless I have a great time creating and designing the artwork.  I hope that you will give it a try.

If you do, don’t be afraid to let your creativity out.  Try different design patterns or dark/light schemes.  My instructions are intended to be guidelines and nothing more.   I share my art and explain how I create it because of your interest and my love of the medium. 

That said I always welcome feedback.  It’s the only way I will discover how I’m doing and what improvements I can/should make.   I also love to hear about ideas you have for future projects.

Now to answer a couple of questions I get asked frequently.  This artwork was burned on Baltic Birch plywood that measures 10 x 10 inches (25.4 x 25.4 cm) and it took me 12 3/4 hours to complete Mandala III.   Remember this is not a race or contest.  I only put how long a project takes me as I get asked that question a lot.  If I create pyrography slower or faster compared to others I have no idea.  My attitude is that it takes as long as it takes for the artist to be happy with their work. 

Until the next blog,


Dec 1, 2017

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