WRAPPED UP CHRISTMAS POSTCARD PYROGRAPHY TUTORIAL wood burning
Wrapped Up is my 6th postcard in my Christmas Postcard series. I created Wrapped Up mostly because I had just finished another project where I’d burned a metallic bow. I loved how the bow looked, so I decided I had to create a postcard with a bow on it to share the technique with you. While the bow might seem a little complicated, it’s not that bad once you break it down. In this tutorial I will show you how to create the Wrapped Up Christmas Postcard.
Now, let’s get to work.
SKILL LEVEL: 2
- Writing tip
- Shading tip
- Knife tip (optional)
- 4×6 inch (10.2 x 15.2 cm) piece of wood
- Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed) Wrapped Up pattern
STEP 1 – PREP THE WOOD
Smooth the wood surface by sanding it with 220 grit sandpaper. The smoother the surface, the better the burn. For more details about prepping wood and the different types of wood I’ve burned on refer to this blog: Wood Prepping.
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
Use the knife pen tip, aka Colwood rounded heel, to burn in the straight lines on the pattern. If you do not have a knife tip, then use a writer pen tip.
There are a lot of dashed lines on the bow. The dashed lines indicate the different bands of color on each loop of the bow. Burn just the edges of each loop on the bow with a writer pen tip.
Use the razor edge of the shader pen tip to burn in the dashed lines. The lines will be much thinner, so this will make it easier to distinguish between the bands of color and the edges of each loop.
After you have burned in the trace lines, rub over the surface with a pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite.
STEP 4 – STRAIGHT RIBBON
The edge of the pen tip is right on the edge of the ribbon. The rest of the pen tip is angled over the ribbon. This is OPTIMAL PEN TIP POSITION.
Keeping your pen tip in optimal position when burning along the edges will ensure you ONLY burn on the ribbon and that the edges of the ribbon are nice, clean, and crisp.
Rotate the wood, as needed, to keep the pen tip in optimal position as you burn. I burned a line along the entire left edge, rotated the wood, burned a little along the right edge, and then used uniform strokes to fill in the ribbon as I went.
Uniform strokes are simply a thick line or band of color that is the same color throughout the entire stroke. I’ve found that wood is easier to burn on if you can burn with the grain direction. Especially with plywood like I’m using on this project. The grain direction was horizontal (left/right), so I’m burning uniform strokes in that same direction.
The pattern on the plywood really shows up by burning horizontal uniform strokes. I decided I liked the pattern as it reminded me of the texture a fabric ribbon might have, so I didn’t try to cover it up.
Burn in the tail on the lower left of the bow.
Burn in the really short tail on the lower right of the bow.
Burn in the really short horizontal ribbon on the left side of the bow.
Burn in the top section of vertical ribbon above the bow.
Burn in the tiny piece of ribbon on the top section that shows behind the bow loop.
Lastly, burn in the horizontal ribbon on the right side of the bow.
STEP 5 – BOW
The next thing we will work on is the bow. My advice is to ignore the bow as a whole, and instead concentrate on one loop of ribbon – one at a time. Each loop is made up of solid bands of color, so I used uniform strokes to burn them in. I will show the first 5 or 6 loops in great detail, and then quickly cover the remaining loops.
Here’s a close-up of the bow. If you look at the different colors on the bow, you will hopefully notice that there are only 4; pale tan, tan, dark tan, brown.
Here’s the reference photo I used to create the bow. As I explain the steps, I will use my artwork for reference since it has been converted to brown and tan colored hues. This way if I say a band should be tan in color no one has to try and figure out which shade of red on the bow that corresponds to.
We will burn in the two lower loops first, starting with the one on the right. Critically look at just this right loop and analyze the bands of color. I see a loop that is mostly brown and dark tan in color. There are bands on each end of the loop that I would call tan, but nothing I’d call pale tan band. Ok, let’s burn in the loop.
Start by burning in the brown bands on the loop.
Next, burn in the dark tan bands.
Continued work. There aren’t any pale tan bands, so the remaining bands should be tan in color.
Rotate the wood and burn along the opposite edge of the bands to make sure they have nice clean edges. Let me elaborate on this a little.
I’m left-handed, so when I burned in along the right edge of the bands, the pen tip is in optimal position and the edges came out crisp and clean; clearly defined. The left side, not so much, as I wasn’t in optimal position. To fix this, I rotate the board and burn along the left side of the bands to give them clearly defined edges.
Burn the dark space above the loop. I had actually started this in the previous step as the wood was in the perfect position to burn darkly along the edge of the loop.
Now we’re going to burn in the left loop. Let’s analyze the color bands on this loop. This loop has brown, tan, and pale tan bands on it, but I don’t see the dark tan color like the first loop had. So let’s burn in this loop and the dark space above it.
Burn a dark line along the dark space above the loop. With this bow, I can’t emphasize enough the need to keep your pen tip in optimal position so the edges of the loops are clearly defined.
Next burn in the brown bands on the loop. If you look, you’ll see I also burned in the tan band just to the left.
Burn in the next brown band. As you can see from this photo, I burned in the all of the tan bands on the left side of the loop.
Then burn in the tan band found between two of the brown bands.
Burn in the all of the remaining bands which are pale tan in color.
Rotate the wood and finish burning the dark space above the loop. Also, take care of any edges that need to be clearly defined.
Since we’re working on the dark space, let’s burn in the little triangular area between the two loops above the lower left loop. This area has a small tan spot, so don’t burn over that. If you do, don’t worry. It’s not like anyone will know unless you tell them.
Now we are going to burn in three more loops and a little more of the dark center of the bow.
We will start with the right loop and the dark space above it, marked with the yellow circle, so let’s critically look at the area. The dark space has a little loop peaking out, and the loop has a large pale tan band along the center of it. The right edge of the loop has a brown curved reflection from the adjacent loop on it. Other than the reflection, the right side of the loop are bands of pale and tan. The left side of the loop has brown and tan bands. Let’s get to work.
Start by burning the brown curved reflection on the right edge of the loop.
Burn in the tan band found on the right side of the loop. After you burn in this tan band, also burn in the pale tan band between it and the brown reflection.
Next burn in the brown band on the left side of the loop. In this photo you can see tan band and pale tan bands are burned in on the right side of this loop, but the center band is still unburned.
Continued work. This brown band has a sliver of tan running through part of it, so I’m burning along one edge of that sliver. Later I will rotate the wood to burn along the opposite side to give it nice, clean edges.
Continued work burning in the brown band.
Rotate the wood and burn darkly along the dark space by the loop.
Next, burn along the other edge of the tan sliver in the brown band to give it very defined or crisp edges. The last band, along the top of the loop, is pale tan in color, so take care of that band too.
Burn darkly in the bow center, but avoid the little section of loop that is peaking through.
For me, I find it helps when I’m burning darkly, to first burn along the edges of the area I’m working, which is what this photo is showing. This gives me defined edges and marks the limits of where I’ll be burning.
Continued work on the dark bow center.
As you finish up the dark bow center, don’t forget to burn the little section of loop. Burn it to a tan color.
The yellow circle marks the next loop we will burn, so let’s look at this loop. It has a curved reflection on its right edge and an assortment of tan bands on the right side of the loop. The left side of the loop is predominately brown bands. Let’s burn in this loop.
Burn in the curved brown reflection on the right edge of the loop.
Burn in the tan band that starts where the brown reflection ends.
Continue to burn in the tan bands on the right side of the loop.
Then start working on the brown bands on the left side of the loop.
Burn in the dark tan band on the right side. Yes, I had originally burned it tan, but I’m fixing that.
Lastly burn in the pale tan band along the top on this loop.
Now we’re going to burn in two spots of dark bow centers. I’ve circled the two areas we will work on in yellow. We’ll start with the larger spot.
First, darkly burn along the right edges of the large dark spot.
Rotate the board and darkly burn along left edge of the dark spot, and then fill in the dark space.
Now we’ll burn in the small dark spot. Begin by burning darkly along the edges of the spot, just like we did with the larger one. After you have burned along the edges of the spot, fill it in, but avoid the little loop peeking through.
Next, burn the little loop so it is dark tan in color.
Now we’re going to work on the far left bottom loop as indicated by the yellow circle. There isn’t a lot of this loop showing, but it has a large brown band in the center. Another brown band is just above it and a thin tan band separates the two. There are tan bands on either side of the brown bands and the lower edge has a dark tan band. This loop doesn’t have any pale tan bands on it.
Begin by burning in the dark space next to the loop.
Burn in the dark tan band on lower edge (right edge with this photo) and burn in the large center brown band.
Burn in the thin tan band that is located between the two brown bands. Next, burn in the brown band to the left of it. In the photo, I’ve burned along the right edge of the brown band and I’m currently starting on its left edge.
Burn in the large tan bands on the right side of the loop.
Lastly burn in the pale tan band along the left edge of the loop.
Now I’m going to just show photos of the more loops getting burned in, so let’s recap the process first.
- Look at one loop on the reference photo or my artwork, analyze what you see, and then replicate it.
- Burn in the brown bands or band, as there may only be one.
- Burn in the dark tan bands or band.
- Burn in the tan bands or band.
- Burn in the pale tan bands or band.
- Remember, not all colors are present on each loop.
- Rotate the board, as needed, to keep the pen tip in optimal position and ensure the edges are clearly defined.
Another method to consider is to burn a loop working left to right or vice versus. To do this:
- again concentrate on one loop in the reference photo and analyze the colors.
- burn in the first band of color.
- Then burn the second band of color.
- Repeat until the loop is completed.
- Rotate the board, as needed, to keep the pen tip in optimal position and ensure the edges are clearly defined.
Either method will work, so you have to experiment and see what is best for you. Below are the photos of the remaining loops getting burned in.
I want to show more of the center bow getting burned in, so here is how the artwork looks so far.
The area we are going to work on is the center, and I put a big yellow line around the area.
Here’s the area burned in, so let’s analyze what we see. The loop in this section is mostly a large pale tan band, but there is a brown curved reflection along the top (marked with a red arrow). There is a slight depression on the left of the loop (green arrow)) and along the bottom of the loop are curved bands of color. The dark bow center has part of a loop peak through along the lower portion of it as indicated by the yellow arrow. Let’s burn in the center.
First burn in the brown curved reflection along the top of the loop.
Next Burn the edges of the dark bow center.
The loop that is peaking through has a darker left half on it, so burn a line along there.
Burn in along the left side of the line we just burned.
Next burn in the dark bow center above the little loop peeking through.
The last thing to do is burn the little loop peeking through.
Now let’s finish burning in the loop in the center of the bow. Start by burning in the tan depression along the left edge of the loop.
Then burn in the brown curved band near the lower edge of the loop.
Next burn a tan band along both sides of the brown band.
Lastly, burn in the pale tan bands.
Here’s how the bow looks so far. Now I’m going to show pictures, no explanation, of the remaining loops being burned in.
STEP 6 – TAG
First burn along the outer edges of the tag border, keeping the pen tip in optimal position.
Next burn along the inner edges of the tag border.
Burn pull-away strokes along the end of the ribbon. A pull-away stroke starts on the right edge of the ribbon and is pulled towards the tag. Make the stroke approximately ¼ inch (0.64 cm) long and lift the pen tip up and away from the wood. Repeat until the end of the ribbon is burned in.
Burn pull-away strokes along the other end of the ribbon. Start the stroke on the tag line and pull the stroke towards the center of the ribbon. Make it the strokes the same length as the other end of ribbon.
Repeat the process on the other piece of ribbon.
Continued work. By burning along the ends of the ribbon and leaving the center pale, we will create the illusion of the ribbon being curved or slightly bowed.
I decided to darken up the ribbon ends a little bit more.
Switch to a writer pen tip to darkly burn in the little rectangle that the ribbon emerges from.
Burn the rest of the tag so it is light tan to tan in color using uniform strokes to do so.
STEP 7 – EMBELLISH (optional)
I believe in giving you the instructions on how I create my artwork, but I strongly encourage you to let your creative side out. With that in mind, I’m going to mention some ideas that you can use, or not, to customize your postcard.
- Paint the ‘wrapping paper’ on the package.
- Add glitter. Christmas is always better with some sparkle. Carefully paint a thin coat of glue (like Elmer’s) over the ‘wrapping paper’ 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. A color pencil overlay on the bow and ribbon would be nice.
- Drill a couple of tiny holes at the top (one on 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 my making several postcards and stringing them together
- Enlarge the pattern and make a wall hanging with a holiday message on it.
I ended up burning this postcard two times. Not because I liked it so much, but because I had a user error with the video camera. I thought I had turned the camera on, but apparently not. As a result of my oops, and most of the bow didn’t get videotaped. I use the video to get the pictures I need for the tutorials, so this presented a problem. To fix the situation meant I had to re-burn the project. The reason I mention this is to show you what taking your time can do. Below is a photo with the first and second artwork creations. The first, or original, took me 4 hours to create and the second one 2 ¾ hours.
The two aren’t hugely different, but bow and ribbon in the first artwork is a little smoother looking. The bow looks more polished and metallic than the bow in the second artwork. As I said, the first one took me 4 hours to complete and the second 2 3/4. The hour plus time difference between the two versions was mostly spent on the bow. The picture below shows a close-up of the bows for comparison.
We’re done. I hope you enjoyed this project and that you didn’t find it to be too complicated. I know I enjoyed it! Ok, I have to be honest and say that the second time around it wasn’t near as much fun as the first. One of the things I like about this project is the metallic bow. I will admit that I have a fascination with creating a metallic look in artwork.
I do want to reiterate that when you’re working on the bow, take your time and concentrate on just one loop at a time. When you break the subject matter down into smaller pieces to work on, it becomes a lot easier to deal with. If you try this artwork, send me a picture of it. I love to see your work, and, if you’re okay with it, I’ll post it to the bottom of this page.
Now to answer a couple of questions I get asked frequently. This artwork was burned on die-cut birch plywood that measures 4 3/4 x 6 1/2 inches (12.1 x 16.5 cm). It took me 4 hours to complete the artwork the first time and 2 ¾ hours to complete it the second time. Remember that I only put how long a project takes me as I get asked that question a lot. I’m not trying to make this a contest. You may get this done faster or slower, but that doesn’t matter. What’s important is you’re creating pyrography artwork, and hopefully having fun while doing so.
Until the next blog,
Apr 13, 2018