Pyrography Tutorial Back To Basics – Globes & Grapes pyrography for beginners

In this pyrography tutorial, we are going back to the basics to discuss how light interacts on a simple object; a globe.   The tutorial will start with doing an in-depth examination of how 3 different lighting scenarios alters the shadows on the globe.  Afterwards we will create the Cluster of Grapes artwork using the information learned from the globe examples.   

Watch the YouTube tutorial version of the artwork by clicking on the icon to the left. 





Click on the image to the left to watch a time lapse video of the artwork being created. 



So let’s get to work.




  • Writing tip
  • Shading tip
  • 6 x 8 inch (15.2 x 20.3 cm) piece of wood
  • Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed)  Cluster of Grapes pattern
  • Red, Yellow, Orange, and Purple colored pencil (optional)



Our first light scenario is where the light is striking the front of the globe, but there isn’t any reflected light.  In this situation, the front of the globe is illuminated, but the back of the globe is in deep shadows.








The next thing I want to mention is the point of impact.  By that I mean the spot where the light source touches the surface with the most intensity or brightness.  The light diffuses or gets less bright from there.  I marked the spot with a white arrow.







The last thing to point out is the transition line.  I put a white line along the curve of the globe to indicate this is where the light fades and the shadows start.








Let’s burn a practice globe and replicate our findings.







First of all, draw a circle (use a compass, stencil, etc.) and then burn it in using a writer pen tip.  When you burn a circle, it is much easier to keep the round shape by burning a quarter of the circle at a time.  The reason is that your hand moves in a natural arc when shifting from straight out to bending.





If you are right handed, it will probably be easier to start counterclockwise instead of clockwise like I am doing.   Take your time and carefully follow along the line.



This composite photo shows how I burn a quarter of the circle, rotate the wood, and burn in the next quarter of the circle.   




Here’s my circle.   I’m not going to promise you will get perfect results using this method.  I didn’t.  But for most people it does improve the ability to keep the circular shape.




Next switch to a shader and burn a light tan line along the transition line.  MAKE SURE TO FOLLOW THE CURVE OF THE CIRCLE.






Do not burn a line straight down the circle bisecting it in half.  We are trying to create a 3D round surface, so the line must follow the curve of the circle.





Then start filling the backside of the circle with color.  Keep your pen tip in optimal position when working along the edge of the circle as this will prevent you from accidentally burning past the circle’s boundary.  






For me, I needed to rotate the wood to be able to comfortably keep the pen tip in optimal position.  If the area was really small and wouldn’t take long to do, I could twist my hand around to do the burn, but for larger items it is more comfortable to rotate the wood.






Build up the color along the back of the circle.  I used pull-away strokes for this.  Start the stroke on the circle edge and pull it towards the transition line.  The stroke will start dark and fade in color.  How quickly it fades depends on how fast you move your hand.





Once a thick band of color has been burned along the back of the circle, fill the circle with gradient color that stops or fades at the transition line. 





I wrote a blog that covers different ways to get both uniform color and gradient color.  Here’s a link to that blog if you need it.


What I found helpful was to burn circular motion along the transition line and then use a combination of circular motion and uniform strokes to fill in the rest of the circle.





If you are unfamiliar with my terminology, I have a blog that explains them: Using the Shader.    


This photo shows the wide band of color I burned along the transition line using circular motion.






Then the back half of the circle was filled in using horizontal strokes of uniform color and/or more circular motion.






Finishing up the back half of the circle, but, since the front half isn’t burned in, the circle looks a bit flat still.





Now the front half of the circle needs color.  Remember the point of impact where the light is the brightest?  We need to fill in the front half of the circle with gradient color that fades out at the point of impact.





Begin by filling in the top and bottom of the circle with a tan hue.





Continue to fill this half of the circle with tan hue, but avoid the point of light impact.  The point of light impact will remain unburned, so it will be the brightest spot on the circle.




Continued work.






Here’s the final result.  You know, looking at the photo I did a terrible job of blending out the right edge of the transition line.  I do suggest blending that line a bit better by burning lightly along the right side of it.






This lighting scenario has reflected light.  So the light hits the point of impact just like it did in the first example, but there is also some reflected light.  Reflected light happens because there is an object of some sort that is reflecting the light striking it.    The object is behind the globe, so the reflected light from this object is striking the backside of the globe.






Let’s examine the different between the direct and reflected light.  The white arrow is point to the direct light side of the globe and the light brighter on this side.    The yellow arrow is pointing to the reflected light side of the globe and the reflected light is not a bright as the direct light.






The next thing to be aware of are the two brightest spots, or points of impact, on the globe.  Before we do that, let’s talk about the yellow line as it indicates the travel path of the light or angle of the light.  The light source is above and to the right of the globe, so the light is coming in at an angle.   The first, and brightest spot, is the direct light point of impact.    The second spot is opposite of the first spot; it is found on the back side of the globe at the end of the yellow line (aka light travel path or angle of light).   The second spot is the reflected light point of impact and it is not as bright as the direct light.




Lastly, because there is reflected light, the darkest area on the globe is near the middle of it.  Notice how the shadows narrow as they reach the poles (top/bottom) of the globe. 







Let’s burn this globe.  








Again use the shader to burn in the transition lines on the circle.  Since there is reflected light, there are two transition lines.





Then fill in the area between the transition lines with color.   I used uniform strokes to fill the area with color and then used circular motion to darken it up along the middle area. 




Like the first example, the color gets darker the further from the transition line you are.  But, there is a big difference here in that we encounter another transition line.  This means the darkest area is found between them, so you need the middle to be dark and the color gradually gets lighter as you get close to the transition lines.




In this photo I’m using circular motion to re-burn over the center of the shadowed area on the circle to darken it up





Notice how the shadowed band narrows at each at the pole or ends of the band.





Again, I rotated the wood while I worked on the backside of the circle. 





Continued work adding soft tan hues to the backside of the circle.






Remember the information about the angle of light and the reflected light point of impact?  I forgot.  To get ready to fix the problem, I’m using a pencil to represent the angle of light and mark the points of impact.





I drew arrows marking both direct and reflect light points of impact on the circle.






Next I “erased” over the backside of the circle using a fiberglass sanding pen.  The pen is designed for removing rust from automotive parts, so it is very abrasive. 

For a burn this pale, a standard ink pen eraser will also work.




Then I re-burned the backside of the circle making sure to leave the reflected light point of impact in the correction location.





Now fill the front of the circle with gradient color making sure to leave the direct light point of impact the brightest spot on the circle.   I left mine unburned.





Here’s the final results.  Looking at this photo I see that I did a better job of blending the front transition line, but didn’t do so well with the back transition line. 






Our last light scenario has a globe that is receiving direct light on the front, and reflected light everywhere else.   Like example 2, we still have the angle of light and the two points of impact on the globe.  What changes is the location of the darkest area.






With this light scenario, the darkest shadow is found in a circular patch near the center of the globe.  The shadows do not extend to the poles of the globe. 






Let’s create replicate this globe example.








Just like before, use the shader to burn in the transition line.  Make sure the line doesn’t touch the outer edge of the circle.





Then fill in the area between the transition line with gradient color that gets darkest in the center of the circular area.   Just like with the other two examples, I used uniform strokes to give the area color and then used circular motion to darken up the center.




Finishing up the dark area on the circle.  Notice how I didn’t extend the dark area to the outer edge of the circle.  Since there is so much reflected light going on, the shadows never reach the circle edge.





Having learned my lesson from the last example,  I marked my light impact spots.  This time I went high tech and used a ruler.  🙂





After marking the bright spots, then fill in the backside of the circle with color.





Continued work.  





Then fill the front half of the circle with gradient color making sure to leave the point of impact the palest spot on the circle.  





Note that the reflected light point of impact needs to be a couple shades darker than the direct light point of impact, so, if needed, lightly burn over it to darken it up a touch.





Here’s the final results of this example. 





Final comments before we start creating the artwork.  Look at the globes in the composite photo below.  Notice how much lighter the shadows get each time more light is reflected onto the globe.





Here is the grapes photo that I found on pixabay.  I thought I had saved the link to the picture, but I couldn’t find it.  I did try to re-find the picture, but couldn’t find it again. 






I cropped the original photo to focus in on the left cluster of grapes.  It had a nice shape and there was a lot of reflected light on the grapes.  Plus there is a lot of depth to the grape cluster and this alters how the light interacts with individual grapes.







Let me state right off the bat that my goal wasn’t to replicate each grape down to all of the minute detail found on it.  Instead I am using the grapes as a reference to observe the light and replicate that.  Or, put another way, I plan to burn lots of little circle, but will be altering the lighting of the circle to match the reference photo.





Smooth the wood surface by sanding it with sandpaper that it at least 220 grit. 


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. 





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.   









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. 






I want to point out that I used the same method on the grapes that I did on the globes; I burned 1/4 of the circle at a time.  In this photo you can see I have several grapes left to burn in and I’ve burned the upper section of them.





Then I rotated the wood and started working on the next ¼ section, and so on.








The first thing we will work on are the grapes, but I’ll break it down into smaller sections.  With each section I will decrease the amount of explanation as it will become a bit redundant.  With each grape you will need to do the following:

1)  Burn it individually. 

2)  Consult with the reference photo and examine the grape you plan to burn BEFORE you start actually burning it.

3)  Determine which light scenario of the 3 globes matches or closely matches the grape.

4)  Determine how dark the grape needs to be.  Let’s talk a little more about this one. 



In this composite photo, I show the reference photo two times, but the second showing some of the grapes have numbers on them.   The numbers represent darkness levels.   A = pale grape.  B = medium hued grape.  C = darkly colored grape. 

When you are examining one grape, first determine which light scenario it matches and then decide if it is a pale, medium, or darkly colored grape.   Keep in mind, that you might decide a grape is between two color groups.  For example, a grape might be a darker than the pale grape, but lighter than the medium grape. 



Again, I want to point out that I am NOT trying to replicate every minute detail on each grape.  Instead I will be create lots of little globes that have the same lighting characteristics as the grapes on the reference photo.



The first section will be the grapes under the leaves.





Here’s the reference photo for the first section.  Before you start working, just look at the reference photo and start to familiarize yourself with some of the features.  There is a stem that is visible.  There are grapes in the background that are extremely dark, so aren’t receiving much, if any, light on them.  The grapes that are closer or on the outer edge of the cluster have light hitting them, but the light doesn’t strike them all evenly or the same way.


The first grape is the partially seen one under the leaf.  We don’t see the entire grape, but based on the light it reminds me of the globe example 3 as  so there is reflected light along all of the outer edges.  The lower left edge looks a little brighter, so the light source is probably coming from that direction.   Looking at the darkness level, I would put it slightly darker than pale, but lighter than medium.   



Fill the grape with uniform or mostly uniform color using uniform strokes.  Start the strokes at the top by the leaf and pull them down towards the bottom of the grape. 

Do you have to color your grape using the exact same burn stroke?  Heck no.  Use the method that works best for you.       




In this photo I’m finishing up coloring the grape to a mostly uniform color.  The top is a bit darker near the leaves, but that is perfectly ok.







Now re-burn over the grape to darken the center of the grape.   For the re-burning or darkening phase, I used circular motion.   







Finishing up the grape.  Use care when burning near the leaf.  







Now we’re going to work on the dark or background grapes to the right of the stem.  All of these grapes are level C or darkly hued grapes.  Even though they are all very dark in color, we’ll be leaving the edges of the grapes a touch lighter to help its contours, or shape, show up.



First switch to a writer pen tip to burn in the little spot at the top between the leaves.  This spot isn’t on the reference photo since I altered the shape of the leaves for the artwork.






Then burn around the edges of the back grapes that are to the right of the stem.






Due to the size, I used the writer pen tip to color in these two small areas.







Then start working on the grapes located to the left side of the stem.  Avoid burning on the stem.  Again I’m using a writer pen tip to work on the grapes.






Once the edges of the grape are burned in, you might find it easier or quicker to switch to a shader pen tip.







With this last grape, it is actually receiving a little light along the left edge, so leave the left edge a couple shades lighter than the right.







The grape directly behind the first one that we burned is pretty dark in color too.  Burn it to a deep brown color, but make sure to leave the lower edge slightly paler than the lower really dark grapes.





In this photo you can see that my lower edge of this grape is light enough that you can see the edges of it against the darker grapes in the background.  It is not extremely noticeable, but I like to add subtle detail like this.





The next grape is just to the right and it’s another partially seen grape.  Burn it so the right edge is very dark, but the left edge is a couple shades lighter.





Make sure to burn the portion of the grape under the leaf dark too.






Our next grape is a little closer to the front and is receiving some light.  Carefully exam the light and determine where the brightest spot is.  What globe example does this grape resemble?   Granted we can’t see the entire grape in the reference photo, but I’m putting this grape in the Example 3 category, so there is a ring of light along the edges.  With this grape it is very obvious that the lower right corner is the brightest spot on the grape.  Also I would put this grape in the medium darkness category.


Fill the grape with a tan color.   Again, I used uniform strokes for this, but please use the burn method of your choice when burning.





Make the left side of the grape darker than the right since the left side is getting reflected light.






Burn the center of the grape so it is darker than the edges.






The next grape is a dark one in the background, so it’s pretty easy to handle by simply burning it to a uniform dark color.




First burn along the edges of the grape making sure to keep your pen tip in optimal position.







Then color in the grape so it is a deep brown color.  I should point out that on the dark grapes, I use a really slow hand speed while burning uniform strokes.  This produces a really dark burn and I don’t have to adjust the heat setting on my burner.





Also, I want to point out that you should rotate the wood, as needed, to keep your pen tip in optimal position as you work around the edges of the grape.  By keeping the pen tip in optimal position you won’t accidently burn past the lines.




This grape isn’t in the reference photo as I had to make up stuff when I altered how the leaves look.  Let’s keep it simple and burn it to a very dark brown color.  Using a writer pen tip, as I am, might be easier for working in this small space.





This is another grape I added to the scene, so, again, let’s keep it simple and burn it to a dark brown or black color. 






Leave the lower or bottom edge just a slight bit lighter, so it can be seen against the grape behind it.   






Since I’m in “dark” mode, let’s burn what can be seen of this little grape to a dark brown or black color.







Our last grape for this section is the far upper left grape.  Closely examine it and observe how the light behaves on this grape.  What globe example would you equate the light to?  What I see is example 1.  The front of the grape is receiving light, but the back of it is not.  The light is not as bright as the first grape, so it should be darker.  How about the darkness level?  Would you rate it a pale, medium, or darkly colored grape?   I put it as a little darker than medium.



Burn in the back portion of the grape to a brown color.  Don’t make it a really dark brown as you want it to stand out from the really dark grape next to it that is attached to the stem.




Let the color on the grape get gradually brighter as you reach the left edge of the grape.





Next start burning the stem to a dark tan color.  The left side will be paler than the right, so you can also add more color to the right as you’re working.





Don’t worry if the color isn’t uniform.  While the stem is visible, it is not a main component of the artwork.  Plus I doubt anyone is really going to look at the stem that closely.





Continue to add color the stem making the right side darker than the left.






Here’s how my stem ended up looking, and, as you can see, it’s nothing real fancy or elaborate.   








Just to make sure we’re on the same page, here’s how the artwork looks so far.









Now we will work on the middle of the grape cluster.  I did not burn in all of the grapes along the middle of the cluster at the same time.  At the end of each burn session, I take a progress photo and this happened to be where I stopped for the day.



Like before I think it is important to look at the reference photo and start to familiarize yourself with what you’ll be working on.  This group of grapes has a lot more variation on the lighting than the first group we did.




Our first grape is just below the last one we burned in.  Examine it and determine which globe example it best represents.  What did you decide?  Did you pick globe 1?   Me too; so we’ll burn it in such a way that the back of it is darker than the front and there isn’t any reflected light.   What about the darkness level?   To me, it is darker than medium, but lighter than the darkly colored grapes in the background.



Remember to rotate the board when working along the edges so each grape has crisp clean lines.






Fill the grape with gradient color so the left edge is lighter than the right.








The yellow circle indicates our next grape.  Examine it and determine which darkness level and globe example best represents it.  The darkness level was easy as it was already determined it was a medium colored grape.  As the for the globe, I will admit that I was kind of torn between globes 2 and 3, but decided on 3.  Keep in mind that you do not have to agree.  That’s ok.  When you create your artwork, burn it the way that you think it needs!



One thing that might helpful when working on the grapes is to use a stick-um to mark the brightest spot on the grape. 







Fill the grape with color making sure to follow the rules for which globe example you think it resembles.





 This is another grape in the cluster that we can’t see all of.  When this happens you just have to do your best with what you can see.  It is obvious that the lower edge is receiving light and the sides not so much.   Now consider the darkness level.  What do you think about that?  I put it at a medium color hue.



Fill the grape with uniform color using uniform strokes or other burn method of your choice..





Then re-burn to darken it up leaving the bottom the palest area on the grape.






The grape below it is a globe 1 type, but it doesn’t have any real bright impact light spots.  So burn it to a dark tan color along the bottom and a medium brown at the top.






This grape we see very little of and it’s pretty dark, so just burn it to a dark brown color.






Now we get to an interesting grape.  What do you notice about the grape and which globe example do you think it matches?   Did you pick globe 1?   Me too.  I think the light is striking from the lower right, so that is the impact spot and the grape gets darker on the opposite side.




What makes this grape interesting is the spot of reflected color near the bottom of the grape. It could be a blemish on the grape, but I chose to treat it as a little reflection spot.   Lastly, what about the color level?  I chose a medium color level.



Start filling the grape with color making sure the lower right edge is the palest spot.  Also notice how I burned a soft tan line around the circular spot of reflected light.  This is still a transition line, but this time the inside of it will be paler than the area outside of the circular transition line.





Continue to fill in the grape with color so that the upper portion is darker than the lower.






Then burn over the circular reflection making the very center of it the palest.





Our next grape is another one that doesn’t exactly fit perfectly into one globe example.  First really examine the grape and decide which of the globe examples it resembles the most.  Also, were you able to decide the point of light impact?  This grape was a little tougher to pinpoint the exact spot, but getting the spot in the general area will work.  Which globe example did you choose?  I chose globe 3, but did you notice how this grape doesn’t match example 3 completely?


The upper right corner doesn’t have light reflecting on it.  Again this could be a blemish or color variation on the grape, but I think it is because it is touching the grape adjacent to it.  So what we will do is color in the grape using the globe 3 example as our guide, but then we will darken up the upper right corner.   Have you determined the darkness level?  To me it is a pale grape.



In this photo you can see that I’m using the stick-um to mark the bright spot and I burned a transition line for the shadows. 






Continued work.   








Our next grape really makes me wonder what sort of lighting was going on.  I would normally expect the left side to be lit up, but instead the right side is the bright area.  With this grape I chose to treat it like globe example 3.  This grape also has the upper right corner in shadows.    You already know that I picked this grape as a pale colored grape.



While it’s hard to tell from this photo, I did burn a soft transition line and then started filling in the grape with color.






Continued work.






Examine this grape and pick a globe example that you think it matches.  I chose example 1.   Next, determine it’s darkness level.   I’m going with pale edges and medium center.




Fill the top portion of the grape with dark color and let it fade along the lower edge.





The adjacent grape is another case of globe example 1.  The left side is the paler side, so the further from the left you are the darker the color. 







Here’s another progress photo of where we are with the artwork as a whole.









Let’s finish up the grapes.  Now I don’t see anything out of the ordinary with this group of grapes, so I’m not going to explain anything as I’m feeling like a broken record.  I will explain the stem first and then show some thumbnails of the grapes being burned in.







Here’s the reference photo for this section of grapes.









With the stem, burn it to a tan color using the burn method of your choice.







Then re-burn along the back or left side of the stem and on the lower edge of each side stem.





Finishing up the stem.  The process was very similar as the top stem except this time the left side is in shadows.











































Like always, it is a good idea when you are done with an area to look it over and fine-tune any problem areas you aren’t happy with.  In this photo I’m toning down the reflected light spot on one of the grapes.   





Then I decided to darken up the little stem.







Another grape I decided to darken up.








I picked several grapes to add a touch more color to.  Was there anything really wrong with them?  No, but I was just reducing their brightness level.






I didn’t drastically reduce the brightness levels, but instead just added a slight bit more color to them.








Now we’ll burn in the rope frame around the grapes.  There isn’t a reference photo for this as it is just something I quickly drew in.









Use a shader to burn a dark line along the right edge of one strand on the rope.






Then fill the strand with short pull-away strokes.  Start the stroke on the dark line and pull it towards the left side of the strand.






Burn each new stroke or short line adjacent to the previous one.  This doesn’t need to be perfect, so variations and little gaps are just fine.






If you are having troubles burning short pull-away strokes, then burn short uniform colored lines.  Stop burning just before reaching the next rope segment.







Continue to burn in one segment at a time.  Burn a dark line along the right edge, and fill the segment with either pull-away or short uniform strokes.  Stop burning just before reaching the next segment.





If you prefer, you can burn in all of the dark lines on each segment first, and then fill them in.





Either way the rope will look good. 





I think my only complaint with the rope is that I made the segments too small, so there are a lot of the little buggers to burn in.  It didn’t seem that bad when I was drawing, but I felt differently when I started burning it.




Continued work on the rope.





Finishing up.









In this step we will burn in the leaves.  I obviously altered the main leaf above the grapes as I didn’t like how it looked when I cropped the photo.  Truth be told, I rather like the stylized leaves I created as it gave it a more artsy look.








I forgot to burn in the vein lines, during step 3 when we burned in the outline, so I’m doing it here.






Use a shader to burn gently curving lines that start on a vein and end near the leaf edge.  The lines are what could be considered as pull-away strokes, but there isn’t a lot of color variation from the start to the end of the stroke.





The lines do not need to be uniform in color or width.  In fact I think the more variety the better.






If it is comfortable for you, use the side of the shader to burn the lines on the side veins.  Since you need to pull the pen tip down and away from the vein, it might be easier to rotate the wood.  Do what works best for you.






When working in corners where two veins get closer, shorten your strokes.






Also, shorten your stroke length when burning in the corner where two veins meet.






And then pull it straight away from the corner; no curve in this burn stroke.








Continue to burn pull-away strokes or lines that start on a vein and get pulled in a gentle curve towards the leaf edge.






Again, keep your strokes shorter when working near corners and allow the strokes to lengthen in more open areas on the leaf.






Continued work.







Finishing up with the lines being burned along the veins.







Then burn dark short lines along the outer edge of the leaf.  Start the stroke on the outer edge and pull it towards the vein.






Work your way around the leaf burning the edges so they are dark brown to black in color.  






As you burn in the dark lines, vary their length a little too.







Finishing up burning very dark short lines around the edge of the leaf.







With this leaf I decided to burn the edges first.






Finishing up with the dark border around the edge of the leaf.







Then start burning the lines along the veins.  Start the line on a vein and pull towards the outer edge of the leaf.






Continued work.  With this leaf, I was feeling more comfortable or confident with what I was doing, so I added a few more darker lines here and there.






Next, re-burn along the veins where they all join or touch.







Here’s how the leaf looked once I was done.








I liked how the second leaf looked, so I went back to the first leaf and re-burned along the center where the veins touched.







This leaf is the upper right leaf and I started by burning gently curving pull-away strokes along the vein lines.






As I burned the pull-away strokes along the vein lines, I also darkened the center of the leaf.






Rotate the wood, as needed, while you work to make the burning comfortable.





As you can see, I added a lot more color variety with the burn strokes on this leaf.  I do want to point out that I don’t adjust the heat setting on my burner for this.  Instead I just slow down my hand speed.





Finishing burning the lines along the veins on this leaf.







Then add the dark edges on the leaf.






Again, the edges were created by burning short dark lines that start on the edge and get pulled towards the veins.






When I got near the dark grape, I reduced the color on the leaf to a medium brown.







Repeat the steps of burning gently curving lines along the veins.






Vary the color and length of the lines.






Finishing up.





Then add the dark border around the leaf.






Last leaf and it gets the same treatment of curving lines burned along the veins.






Continued work.






Continued work.






Finishing up.






Again, when burning near dark grapes, lighten the leaf edge slightly to help it show up.