Dragonborn on Leather Pyrography Artwork wood burning

In my last blog I discussed the Skyrim Logo artwork I did on a business card holder for my brother Matt.  This blog is going to discuss the Dragonborn artwork on the other side of the holder.  I actually picked out the image to use as Matt seemed to be having a little difficulty deciding.  Mostly I think he was having a problem picking out something simple enough that he figured I could replicate.  Dragonborn is another image from the Skyrim video game and was going to be a lot more challenging than the logo was.

If you are interested in reading my blog about the Skyrim logo, here’s a quick link to it.   SKYRIM LOGO.   

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



This is the reference I used for the artwork.  The picture is of a life sized replica bust of the character in dramatic lighting.  At the time of writing this blog, July 2018, the bust was actually for sale. 






With leather, I can use the same tracing method that I use to transfer images onto wood.  The only difference is that leather is a lot softer, so it is easy to impress or engrave the trace lines deep into the surface of the leather.  To prevent this, use light pressure when tracing.





Here’s the artwork after I was done burning trace lines.  I didn’t burn all of them in at this point as I was still debating about combining this reference photo with another that had arms and a torso.








After I got the major traces lines burned in, I started working on the background.  I didn’t burn this side of the business card holder near as dark as I did the Skyrim logo side.





I still use my “junk” pen tip for this process though.  This pen tip is great for dark backgrounds on leather as it has a fairly large flat surface that I can press to the leather.  Leather tends to tear when a pen tip is rubbed across it at high heat.  My solution is to press and lift the pen tip instead of pull it along the surface.  

Press and lift means I press the pen tip to the leather, briefly hold in place without moving the pen tip, lift the pen tip straight up, shift it to one side, and press it to the leather again.  I repeat this process until the entire background is burned in. 

Here’s how the artwork looks so far.  I did burn the background on the lower portion of the leather in case I decided to add arms to the image.








With the background done I started working on building up the shadows on the helmet.








I also burned in a few more of the trace lines.






If leather gets hot, the surface becomes like soft butter.  By that I mean the pen tip tends to push and mold the leather around instead of burning over the surface of it.   To counteract this I don’t burn for a long time in one area.  In this photo I’m letting the helmet cool back down as I work on his throat.





Since the image was so small, there was a limited amount of fine detail I could include.  The horns had a lot more texture to them than I was able to replicate, but in this photo I’m adding the shadows at the end of each growth ring.





I was also able to add the fine cracks along the horns, but that was the limit of what I could do without turning them into a brown mess.






Since the helmet was cooled back down, I’m extending the shadows along the curved front of the helmet.







At some point I added a pitted texture to the helmet, but the video card must have gotten full.  Either that or I forgot to hit the record button.  I’m going with the video card being full.   In this photo I’m building up the darkness levels on the throat.






Because of the dramatic lighting on the bust, most of the helmet front was in shadows.  The raised edges around the eye openings received enough light to shine and it made for a nice contrast.   






Here’s how the artwork looks so far.









On the rivets, I used a micro writer pen tip to burn a circle to mark their location. 







With the edge of his leather shirt, I burned dark dots and attached a curved line to it.  This gave the impression of stitches.







Having decided I wasn’t going to add arms to the image, I began burning in the rest of the trace lines.








Continued work.









In this photo I’m adding the ‘leather’ texture to the shirt by burning in small irregular shapes on its surface.








Adding the cast shadows under the shoulder shield.







Burning in the rest of the background.








Continued work. 








This is another progress photo of the artwork.









This photo shows the moment I discovered the wonders of a polished pen tip!  I was testing out different pen tips to see which one or ones would work best on leather.  When I tested out the polished tip, I was in love.






Colwood will professionally polish the pen tips for a few extra dollars.  The polishing makes the metal shiny and very smooth, so it glides across the surface of the wood better.  In this photo, the pen tip on the left is the standard, unpolished tight round J shader.   The pen tip on the right is the polished version of the same tip.  Truth be told, I didn’t think the difference was worth it for wood, but leather is another story.  Using a polished pen tip made burning the leather so much easier.  The tip didn’t gunk up very easily and it was a LOT easier to clean up!


When I did this project I only had the one polished pen tip that you see in the photo.   Now have a couple of polished pen tips that I use exclusively for leather. 








If you look at this photo you will see that the nose guard appears to have a raised center on it.   To create this illusion I burned along both sides of the center, but left the very center unburned.  The combination of a pale center with shaded sides creates the illusion of it being raised.






The same basic concept applies to the rivets.  The rivets are much paler than the area around them, so this makes the rivets seem like they rise up from the surface.







Taking care of the rivets on the other side of the helmet.








I used a small ball pen tip to burn along the lines I created earlier on the leather shirt. 








This thickened the lines and created a pebbled texture.









In this photo I’m making the eye openings a lot darker.  I also darkened the background around the helmet to increase the contrast.






I’m burning over the entire surface of the leather shirt to reduce the contrast.







The leather harness had rolled edge on it, so I’m working on creating those.







Continued work.







Like the helmet, the dark background on the harness will make the pale rivets appear raised up from the surface.







This area I’m burning on in the photo was really dark on the reference photo, so I’m not sure what it is.







Continued work.








Re-burning along the harness to increase the darkness level.








On the shoulder I burned in the texture first.  If you haven’t noticed, I don’t tend to plan these things out.  Instead I just “wing it” and hope for the best.







The rivets need cast shadows to finish the illusion of being raised up from the surface, so I’m adding them with a micro writer.








I also used the micro writer to burn the trace lines on the shoulder shield.  It had an elaborate raised design on it and I made an attempt to replicate it.






Continued work.








I have no idea what this center chest piece is, but it had a raised design and rivets securing it to the leather harness. 








I’m working around the dark outer ring that housed the rivets.









It also had leather straps that were secured to it, and the side I’m currently working on had a belt buckle fastener.  There were a lot of little details on the reference photo that increased the challenge of creating this artwork.






I’m burning over the surface of the leather shirt to reduce the contrast along the shoulder area.








The exact same principles used on the rivets are used on the shield to make the design appear raised.






I used a micro writer to add lots of tiny dots for texture.







I accidently dotted over one of the raised lines, so had to scrape away the burn to restore the line.   







Here’s another progress photo of the artwork.









Adding shadows to the shield.






Continued work.







Working on the right harness strap.







Adding the rolled leather edges.








In this photo I’m burning in the leather strap that goes across the lower portion of the chest metal thing.







Adding some shadows along the harness.







Burning around the rivets.







I’m darkening up the top of the harness to make it seem as though it is curving up and over his shoulder. 






This is another photo of the artwork so far.









Burning in the next dark ring on the chest medallion.








The next ring is much thinner, so I had to switch to a micro writer.







Now I’m burning around the raised design on the chest medallion.







Continued work.








Next I lightly burned over the surface of the medallion to reduce the contrast.






Increasing the shadows along the bottom of the medallion.







Continued shadow work.






Adding the final touches to the shield.






Finishing up the helmet.









A composite photo below shows the final artwork next to the reference photo for comparison.  

As you can see, it’s not an exact replica.  I like to think that, given the small size I was working with and the complex subject matter, the artwork turned out pretty good.


This side of the business card holder was a lot more challenging than the Skyrim Logo side.  I really think you learn the most when you push yourself to the limits of what you know to do.  I learned a few things with this project, so that is a good thing.  

From my brother’s perspective, he gained a one-of-a-kind business card holder that he likes the artwork on.   Hopefully it will weather well.  Matt is my guinea pig on this project.  He will be letting me know if the image fades, wears off, etc., so I will try to update this blog ever so often to let you know how it weathers.

Now to answer a couple of questions I get asked frequently.  This artwork was burned on Vegetable Tanned Leather that measures 3 x 3 7/8 inches (7.6 x 9.5 cm).  It took me 5 3/4 hours to complete the artwork.  

Until the next blog,


Aug 3, 2018

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2 thoughts on “Dragonborn on Leather Pyrography Artwork wood burning

  1. Just fyi, this video is on youtube under Anak Mama. We don’t know if the person is just sharing ihr claiming this to be theirs.

    1. Thank you so much for the information. I really appreciate you letting me know. I’ve submitted a copyright strike against them as I didn’t consent to my video being on their channel. Have a great day!


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