Pyrography Tutorial Leaping Trout shading techniques wood burning

In this tutorial I’m going to explain how leaping trout lake artwork that I burned onto a maple cribbage board.  The artwork is more stylized versus photorealistic, but I think a stylized version is easier to replicate.  Plus the subject is a popular theme, so makes a wonderful gift.

I’m only going to explain how to create the trout and the lake in this tutorial.  The distant mountains and tree covered hills were created using the techniques that I explained in great detail with my Mountain Lake tutorial.  

To watch a YouTube version of this tutorial, click on the image to the left.

Reader submitted art is at the bottom of the blog, so make sure to check that out!



Here’s a picture of the entire cribbage board.  It is only 4 ½ inches wide (11.4 cm), so I didn’t have a lot of room.  Let’s get to work



  • Writing tip
  • Shading tip
  • Pattern (enlarge or shrink as needed)  Leaping Trout pattern
  • White Charcoal Pencil (I use either General or Conte a Paris)

I will be using terms like pull-away strokes.  If you are unfamiliar with my terminology, I have a blog that explains;  Using the Shader Pen Tip 


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

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. 







Here’s how the fish looked after I was done.






After you have burned in the trace lines, rub over the surface with a pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite. 







We will start with the trout.  I do want to mention that in the trout’s tail will be the last thing we finalize, and that will happen near the end of the tutorial.








Use a shader pen tip and burn along the inner edge of the upper or dorsal fin.







Then burn very short pull-away strokes on the fin.  Start the stroke on the inner edge and pull it towards the outer edge of the fin.  Add a few darker strokes here and there.





Next burn along the upper edge of the fish body.






Extend the burn along the top of the head.  Burn a dark line that extends from the left corner of the eye and follows the curve along the upper edge of the cheek.  Then burn in the rest of the head.





Then burn the tip of the lower lip.






Reburn along the upper edge of the body to extend the color down the side a little ways.







Burn a thin line behind the gill along the edge of the face.







Next, burn a band along the upper side of the body.  If it touches the color you’ve already burned along the top of the body, that’s fine.






Rotate the board, if needed, and use the razor edge of the shader to burn really thin dark lines along the dorsal fin.








Burn pull-away strokes along the curving left edge of the body.  Start the stroke on the edge and pull it towards the head.






Follow the contours of the body and you burn the pull-away strokes.  This means the strokes should have a slight curve to them.







Now burn a thin dark line along the outer edge of the tail.







Then burn pull-away strokes along along the upper two-thirds of the tail.  Leave the lower 1/3 unburned as we will finalize that when we work on the water spray.





I’m using just the corner of the pen tip, so the burn strokes are pretty thin.






Now burn over the side of the trout from the dotted line up; the belly will remain very pale.







Use the burn stroke of your preference to color the side of the fish to a tan color.





Then re-burn a streak along the center of the body to represent the pink or reddish streak that rainbow trout have.





Continued work.






Next, burn over the cheek using circular motion.






Reburn as needed to build up the color.






Here’s a progress photo.






Like most artwork, I often have to fine tune areas to get the color and contrast correct.  Here I’m re-burning over the red streak to make it stand out more.






Then I darkened up the top of the body.






Continued work.






Here’s another progress photo.






Now re-burn over the side of the fish, if needed, to darken it up slightly.






Then lightly burn along the lower jaw.







Continue to burn so that you color in the side fin.






Very lightly burn over the belly.   






Also, burn in the two fins along the lower portion of the belly.  In this photo I’m working on the left fin.   






Now I’m starting on the right fin.






Burn the inside of the mouth.  Note that it might be easier to use a writer pen tip for this step.






Here’s how the fish looks so far.






Next, burn along the edge of the upper lip.






Then burn along the edge of the lower lip and burn the rest of the lips to a tan color.





Burn a thin line in front of the eye and then lightly burn over the eye so that it is a tan color.






Switch to a writer pen tip and burn in the iris of the eye to a very dark brown or black color.





Then burn tiny dots over the side of the body.






Including the cheek.





And the dark areas along the back of the body.






If needed, touch up the corner of the mouth where the shader couldn’t reach as well.





Burn a few lines for gills under the jaw.






Use the razor edge of the shader to burn along the edges of the fin located near the face.  Also burn in a couple of thin dark lines on the fin.







If needed, reburn the lines on the dorsal fin.


Now I’ll explain how I created the lake and we will also finish up the fish’s tail.





First, burn a dark thin line along the edge of the land masses around the lake.





Then start filling in the lake using horizontal zigzag strokes.  Zigzags are lines that are burning in a back and forth or left / right direction.  I find the strokes are easy for me to burn in a vertical direction, so I have rotated the board to enable me to burn that way.






Now start burning zigzags along the edge of the land mass on the right side of the lake.  I recommend rotating the board in different directions to see which direction is the easiest for you to burn zigzags.   







Use the tip of a sharp pointed knife, like an X-acto knife, to scrape a thin line along the edge of the land mass.  The purpose is to let the viewer easily see where the land ends and the water begins.  





Here’s a progress report.  The plan is to burn the lake darker along the edges and to leave the area near the middle much lighter so it seems like it is receiving sunlight. 




I want to point out that I left a really thin white line (un-burned line) just above the contours of the fish to help it stand out against the dark trees in the background.





As you burn in the zigzags, keep the strokes short as this will create the look of choppy water.






Put a little mountain reflection on the water. 





Since we are creating choppy water, keep the reflection very minimal.  I burned in the basic contours or outline of the mountain along with a couple of vertical lines to give a vague impression of mountain features.





Then resume burning zigzags on the lake.  You might have noticed that I don’t have a white line along the right edge of the land mass.  For some reason I didn’t create the white line until the very end on this side.








As you burn the zigzags, keep in mind that we want the lake to be darker along the sides and lighter in the center.  To build up the color along the sides, just re-burn over it using zigzags strokes.








Burn the lake before or under the water spray from the trout dark.  Re-burn as needed to build up the color.  The water around the spray needs to be dark so the spray will stand out.




Also darkly burn the lake that is to the left of the water spray.





Continued work.




Use a white charcoal pencil and draw along the edges of the spray.  Also draw a couple dots near the upper edges of the spray.  This is not an absolutely necessary step, but I find that it helps me easily see and avoid the areas I don’t want to burn on.  




With the spray we want all of the outer edges to be un-burned.  The little red arrows are pointing to spots I drew in that are near the spray, but not touching the spray.




Now, reburn around the spray to dark up the lake around it.






Continued work.





Finish burning some zigzags on the center of the lake. 





Also, I want to point out that I left an unburned horizontal band on the lake that starts at the spray and extends a little ways to the left of the spray.




In this photo I’m closing the end of the lake by adding trees between the lake and the distant mountains.




Import. Make sure your burner is on low as we’re going to work on the spray and the color needs to remain in the tan color range.



Begin by burning along the dividing line between the front of the spray and the right side.  Vary the color of the burn slightly.  Tap the pen tip here and there to add just a little color variation.




Now add some color to the front of the spray.  Again vary the color slightly.  Tip.  I am actually burning really small semi-vertical zigzag strokes on the water, but I from the feedback I’ve gotten, zigzags are one of the more difficult burn strokes I use.  Instead, you can tap the flat of the pen tip to the water to get the same effect.  Just make sure to tap the pen so the lines are almost vertical.



Now start darkening up the lake water to the right of the spray.





Rotate the board, if needed, while you work if that makes it easier to burn the zigzag lines.








Make sure to avoid the white charcoal marks.








After you’ve burned around the spray, then erase the charcoal.








Here’s a progress photo.





Now re-burn around the spots or dots to increase the contrast.






Use a white charcoal pencil to draw dots and/or really short lines on the tail.






Here’s how the tail looked after I was done.






Carefully burn around the white charcoal marks with a shader or a writer pen tip.





Progress photo.






If needed, re-burn around the spray to increase the contrast between the pale spray and the surrounding lake water.





Use the writer pen tip to burn in the fins near the tail.







If needed, darken up the lake water to the right of the spray.






Add a little more color to the front of the spray






Continued work.






Darken up the back spray on the left side.






Progress photo.




Look at your artwork and decide if anything needs to be fine-tuned.  I felt the water along the left side of the fish needed to be darkened up.




Lastly, if you left out the white line that separates the water from the land, then use an X-acto knife to scrape one in.





Finishing up.









Here’s the final artwork. 





Here’s a close-up of the trout.










We’re done.   I started burning the leaping trout onto cribbage boards that people were ordering for Christmas presents.  I lost track of how many I burned, but it was definitely a popular theme for a bit. 

I hope that I was able to explain things well enough so you could follow along and that the trout design will be useful with your art projects.

Now to answer a couple of questions I get asked frequently.  This artwork was burned on a maple cribbage board that my husband created.   The artwork measures 4 ½ x 2 1/2 inches (11.4 x 6.4 cm).  It took me 2 1/2 hours to complete the artwork.   That said, this is not a race or contest.  I only put how long a project takes me as I get asked that question a lot.  You may get this done faster or slower, but that doesn’t matter.  What’s important is you’re learning to create pyrography artwork, and hopefully having fun while doing so.

Until the next blog,


July 12, 2019

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This wonderful piece of artwork was done by Trish.  Trish is has created a lot of pyrography art and really incorporates a lot of detail to her work.  I love all of the water droplets or spray around the tail.  Fantastic job keeping the drops of water white.  Trish, thanks for sharing with us. 







This fantastic artwork was done by Martin.  I love Martin’s creative take on the artwork like his addition of the house.   The water spray from the leaping trout is awesome as it looks so explosive.  It makes me feel like the trout really lept out of the water with considerable force.  Very well done, Martin, and thank you for sharing with us!   




This great piece of artwork was submitted by Deb of Wichita.  I love how Deb used the board to her advantage, so the mountains and hills were drawn in to fit wonderfully in the background.  Plus the wood grain helps with the illusion of water.  Deb did a great job with the leaping trout and I love the spray.  Thank you for sharing with us, Deb!

4 thoughts on “Pyrography Tutorial Leaping Trout shading techniques wood burning

    1. Thank you. I’m working on the video version of this tutorial, and, if all goes well, I’ll have it ready by the end of the month.
      Thanks again for the lovely comment!

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