Pyrography – Tejaa’s Mandala Christmas Postcard wood burning tutorial

In this blog I’m going to explain how to create the Tejaa’s Mandala Christmas artwork that I did.  The artwork is based on a drawing by Tejaa Artists.  Tejaa specializes in drawing mandalas and it’s an art form that I have really taken a liking to.  The mandala style of this drawing is what attracted me to it.  I think it makes a wonderfully unique addition to the Christmas postcard series. 

The majority of the design work on the tree is accomplished by drawing lines with a writer pen tip.  Because of this I’m rating this project as suitable for a beginner who has a little experience.  Todd tells me that I am a horrible judge of difficulty levels, so you’ll have to let me know what you think.  

Here is the drawing by Tejaa.   Be aware that this is the pattern for the artwork.  I didn’t see the point in printing out the drawing and scanning it to create a pdf file when the photo works just as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original drawing is a square and the board I was using is rectangular, so I elongated the photo to make it fit a rectangular board.  As you can tell from the final artwork, I did more than elongate the original drawing.  I scanned the pattern I created and that is available in the materials needed section.

Tejaa entered my 2019 Draw It / Win it contest, and even though her drawing wasn’t the winning drawing I liked it so much that I incorporated it into the series anyway.    What’s the difference between the winner and this drawing?   I finished and shipped out the artwork for the winning drawing in 2019.  With this project I didn’t even start working on until August of 2020.  Other than the timeframe that I got the artwork done there isn’t a difference.

 

 

Watch a video version of this tutorial by clicking on the image to the left.

 

 

 

 

Tejaa has a youtube channel called Tejaa Artists.  Click on the image to the left to check out her channel.   

Now, let’s get burning.

SKILL LEVEL: 2

MATERIALS NEEDED:  

  • Writing tip
  • Shading tip
  • Skew or rounded heel (optional as a writer pen tip can be used instead)
  • Medium Ball tip (optional as a writer pen tip can be used instead)
  • 4 x 6 inch (10.2 x 15.2 cm) piece of wood
  • Embossing Tools
  • Pattern – note that this is my modification of the original drawing Tejaa Tree pattern
  • White Charcoal Pencil

Embossing tools are also called ball stylus tools.  They have a grip with metal prongs at either end.

 

 

 

The prongs have a rounded ball tip on them and they come in an assortment of sizes.  Here’s a link to a set on Amazon:  Embossing Tools

STEP 1 – PREP THE WOOD

Wood burning is much easier if you take the time to prepare the wood surface.  Always 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. 

The board should be damp to the touch, but not soaking wet.

Let the board dry and then sand again.

 

 

 

This piece of plywood board is broken up into three sections.  The far left section is how the board looks without any prep work.  The board has a rough texture.   The middle section of the board shows how it looks after it was sanded, and the surface is a lot smoother.   The right section of the board shows it after it was lightly misted with water and allowed to dry.  Notice how rough the board looks, but a quick sanding will remove that and leave an ultra-smooth board.

Doing the 4-step process (sand, mist, dry, sand) produces a super smooth surface, and the smoother the surface is the better the burn results will be.

 

 

STEP 2 – BACKGROUND

First off transfer the pattern to the board, paper, or whatever surface you’re burning on.   To do this print out the pattern on regular copier paper, then coat the back of it with graphite.  I like to use a pencil that is in the B range.  Place the paper graphite side down onto the board, secure in place with two pieces of tape, and trace over the design.

 

 

 

 

 

Begin by burning in the trace lines with a writer pen tip.  Keep the color of the lines in the tan range.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the trace lines are burned in, the rub over the surface with a pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next draw a thick line around the edges of the mandala Christmas tree using a white charcoal pencil.  The pencil line represents the no burn zone. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now use an embossing tool and press the tip very firmly into the background to create a deep divot.  The divots will become the distant stars in the sky. 

 

I placed the board flat on the table so I could exert a lot more pressure with the embossing tool.  Previous experience has shown that shallow divots disappear when burning darkly over them, so I strive to make really deep divots.

 

 

 

Here’s how the board looked once I was done using different sized embossing tools. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next use the shader of your choice and burn the background to a dark brown or black color.  When working along edges make sure to keep your pen tip in optimal position so your lines stay crisp and clean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rotate the board as needed while you work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I chose my shader based on the size of the area I’m working in.  In really small areas I will switch to a writer pen tip to make sure I don’t burn past the lines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In larger more open areas I use a larger shader to get the burning done faster.  I will also mention that burning with the grain line is easier than burning across it.   The board I’m burning on has a horizontal grain line, so I’ve rotated the board to facilitate burning with the grain line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erase the white charcoal lines after you have burned around them.  At that point they are no longer needed.   Yes, you can finish the background first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finishing the large open area on the background.  Since I created deep divots I did not lose many of them when I burned over the background.  Some aren’t as bright as others, but I like the variety.  The less bright ones are shallower divots that had started to char.

 

 

 

 

 

Again a reminder to use the pen tip that best fits the area.   Some people really like using the ball tips, so you might try that if you have one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I added a ring around the design and used a writer pen tip to burn it to a dark brown or black color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I worked 1/4 of the ring at a time and then rotated the board to work on the next quarter.  This allows me to work with the natural arc movement of my hand, and I think this produces better results when working on ovals and circles.

 

 

 

 

 

Also drawing or burn a really dark line along the outer edges of the Christmas tree.  This will define its outer edges and combined with the unburned line next to it will help the tree stand out from the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next fill the area between the design and the ring with dark lines.  A reminder that I am explaining the steps I took to create the artwork.  When you create your versions, feel free to experiment.   You might prefer that this area be left unburned, so leave it unburned.

 

 

 

Lastly burn over the board outside of the design.  The reason is to shift the focus back to the tree.

 

 

 

 

How dark you burn the background is your choice.  I started out with a tan color and re-burned to a light brown one.

BORDER CONSIDERATIONS

When I working on this project I posted progress photos and I had several people tell me they liked how the artwork looked without the edges of the board burned in. 

When I look at this image the first thing I notice is the bright unburned wood around the design.   The unburned wood is not the focal point, so this is a problem to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I burned the edges of the wood to a tan color and that helped.  I still felt that the background stood out more than the focal point.

Do a test burn!   Normally I do test burns with mandala designs to work out the contrast and patterns, but I did not with this one. 

 

 

 

 

 

In this photo I’m starting the process of re-burning along the edges of the board.  The reason is that to me I still noticed the edges before I noticed the design.  Again it just emphasizes the need to take the time to do a test burn.  If nothing else just creating a pencil version would have solved a lot of the contrast issues

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point I’m almost done.  What I dislike with the board now is the lack of contrast.  Looking back I should have darkened up the edges of the board a few more shades.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With that in mind, I did little photo editing and darkened up half of the board edges.  I find that creates a much better appearance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After darkening up the edges of the board digitally I like the overall artwork a lot better.  The trees stand out more and the main focus is the mandala tree because it has the most contrast.  

I really wish I had taken the time to darken up the edges a bit more!   I do highly recommend burning the edges of the board much darker than what I did on the actual artwork.

STEP 3 – THE LEAFY TREE

Now let’s work leafy tree found on the right.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use a writer pen tip and burn lines that start at the base of a leaf and radiate outwards towards the edges of the leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue to burn in lines on the leaf until it reaches the color you want it to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make the base of each leaf darker than the edges.  Also burn each leaf individually.

 

 

 

 

 

The great thing about using a writer pen tip is the precision you get when burning in the leaves.  It’s very easy to stay within the boundaries of each leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to try a small shader.  With the shader, burn short pull-away strokes on the leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start the stroke on the base of the leaf and pull it towards the outer edge of the leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is easier to burn pull-away strokes in the direction that allows you to pull the pen tip towards yourself, so rotate the board as needed to accomplish this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I like about using a small shader is that the leaves are smoother looking and it’s quicker to burn them in. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you do not have a small shader, just remember that a writer pen tip works too.  Heck, you may prefer the more textured look that using a writer pen tip creates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the leaves are all burned in, then use a writer pen tip and burn over the branches using circular motion.  Or burn curving lines that span the width of the branch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t worry about making the burn strokes even in color.  The variety will add to the texture of the tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the branches get bigger just increase the size of your burn stroke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you get to the tree trunk, then burn in patches or clumps of circular motion. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-burn over the tree as many times as needed until the desired darkness level is achieved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also re-burn along the right edge to create a soft shadow that will give the tree a slight rounded shape.

STEP 4 – CHRISTMAS TREE 

In this step we will burn in the mandala Christmas tree. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are using my modified design, the tree is has 6 levels or tiers as I call them.  The original drawing has 5.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are 3 designs that appear twice on the tree.  Again, if you are using the original drawing, then tier 3 only appears once. 

I’m going to group the burning into sections by the designs.  We’ll start with the garland and trim, which is represented by the yellow color.   Then we’ll work on tiers 1 and 5 (green), 2 and 4 (red), and lastly 3 and 6 (no color).  As we progress you will see that items have been burned in that I haven’t discussed yet, but don’t worry as I will get to them when I cover that tier.

 

 

 

 

Starting with the garland, burn in the small balls to a dark brown or black color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then use a skew or rounded heel and burn thin parallel lines on the trim.  If you do not have a skew or rounded heel pen tip then use a writer pen tip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next use a shader and burn pull-away strokes along the upper edges of the trim.  Start the stroke on the upper edge and pull it down towards the bottom.  Stop the stroke a short distance after starting it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s how the tree looks so far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now use a small shader and lightly burn over the large balls on the trim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly use the front edge of a shader or a writer pen tip and burn a dark line just under the garland.  Also on the tiers that have the white band below the garland, burn a dark line along the lower edge of the white band.  This will help the white band stand out.

I know I already said this, but I highly recommend doing a test burn.  This is something I did not do.  As a result I had to do a lot more re-burning to adjust contrast levels, scraping to remove burn strokes that got too dark, and fumble around as I tried to figure out what to do.  With a test burn all of the technical aspects would have gotten worked out.  

Now let’s work on tiers 1 and 5.  These 2 tiers are filled with rings of concentric circles.  I’m going to warn you that with the first tier I fumbled around, and this resulted in doing more steps than was necessary.  Because of this I’m only going to explain tier 5.

 

Use a writer pen tip and burn darkly around all of the designs on the tiers.  This includes burning around the large balls on the garland.

 

 

 

Next burn every other ring to a light brown color.  I am burning a continuous line that travels back and forth over the ring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fill In the area behind or between the concentric rings.  Begin by burning darkly along the last ring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the color fade a bit as you get away from the rings.

 

 

 

 

 

Lightly burn over the remaining rings using the same continuous line method we used on the darker rings.

 

 

 

 

Lastly use a shader and burn a dark band of color along the top of the tier.  This will create a cast shadow from the tier above. 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m using uniform and pull-away strokes for this.   This step is only done on tier 4.  Don’t do this step on tier 1.

 

 

 

 

Now let’s work on tiers 2 and 4.  Here’s a close up of tier 2.

 

 

 

 

 

Begin by using a writer pen tip and applying a layer of dark tan or light brown tiny dots on the background behind the designs.

 

 

 

 

 

Then Burn in the decorative dots to a dark brown or black color. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next burn in the border around the leaves to a medium brown color. I’m using a really small circular motion for this. 

Note that at some point I re-burned over all of the leaf borders making them dark brown color.

 

 

 

 

Make sure to re-burn the lines along the edges to help the leaf stand out. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then add the cast shadow along the top of the tier.  Yes, you can do this step at the very end as either way works.

 

 

 

 

 

Fill the leaves with parallel lines.  You can decide how you want to angle the lines.  You can make them all the same or vary them.

 

 

 

 

 

Now burn the very center of the flower to dark brown or black color.  Then fill the inner petals with dark tan lines.  The lines radiate outward from the base of the petal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightly burn over the ring around the center of the petal.  I used circular motion for this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If desired, re-burn around the outer edge of the ring to create a hint of a shadow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then lightly burn over the canes.   Once done the only thing that will be unburned on this tier are the outer petals on the flower.

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards, burn really short dark lines along the base of the inner petals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a close up of tier 4.  We’ll make it look similar to tier 2.

 

 

 

 

 

Add a layer of tiny dots to the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn the 3 left flowers identical to how we burned the one on the second tier.  The center is burned to a dark brown or black color, the ring is lightly burned over, the inner petals are filled with lines that radiate outward from the base, and the outer petals are left unburned.

 

 

 

Fill the borders of the leaves with a dark brown or black color.

 

 

 

 

Then add the parallel lines in the center of the leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn darkly around the lines on the large flower.  Then add tan lines on the second row of petals from the outer edge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next burn dark lines on the large ring on the flower.  Also burn the center to a dark brown or black color, and lightly burn over the center ring.   The innermost and outermost petals remain unburned.

 

 

 

 

Lastly add the cast shadow along the top of the tier.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a close up of tier 3.  Tiers 3 and 6 are very similar to 2 and 4.  The difference is that the tiny dots are paler in color and the canes are darker. 

Be aware that tier 6 only exists on my modification of Tejaa’s drawing, and that version is the pdf file you can download.  It’s found in the materials needed list.

 

 

Let’s begin with the tiny dots.  Burn the dots to a tan color that is several shades lighter than the dots on tiers 2 and 4.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then burn the canes to a light brown color.

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards burn the parallel lines on the leaves. 

If you haven’t noticed, I seldom do things in the exact same order.  Most of the time the order in which things are burned does not matter.

 

 

 

 

Add dark lines on the outer petals and the inner ring on the large flower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn the center of the other flower to a dark brown or black color.  Plus darken up the line that runs along the center of each petal.  I made the little dot at the end of the line a little larger.

 

 

 

 

 

Fill the inner petals on the large flower with tan lines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightly burn over the inner ring on the smaller flower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now burn the outer borders on the leaves to a dark brown or black color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn some tiny tan dots on the center of the large flower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly as the cast shadow along the top of the tier.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a close up of tier 6, and it gets the same treatment as tier 3.

 

 

 

 

Add a layer of tan color dots over the background.

 

 

 

 

 

Then start burning in the flowers and leaves using an assortment of lines.

 

 

 

 

Burn the canes to a light brown color and the borders on the leaves to a dark brown or black color.

 

 

 

 

And, of course, add the cast shadow along the top of the tier.

STEP 5 – FLORAL ACCENTS

Now we will work on the floral accents adjacent to the trees.  We’ll start with the leaves to the left of the Christmas tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Begin with the leaves by filling them with tan strokes of color.  Start each stroke at the base of the leaf and pull it out towards the ended of the leaf.  Darken up the base and right side of each leaf to provide a little contrast with the adjacent leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work your way down the stalk burning in the leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then lightly burn over the stalk and the nearby canes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards rotate the board and burn pull-away strokes along the left (now upper) edge of the large leaf.   Start the burn stroke on the upper edge and pull it down towards the lower edge.

 

 

 

 

Continue to burn pull-away strokes over the leaf until it becomes the color you desire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now let’s work on the flower dome, leaves above the flower dome, and the flower to the right of the dome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start with the leaves.  Burn them the same way we did the leaves to the left of the Christmas tree.  Make the bottom of each leaf a bit darker than the top.  I’m using uniform and pull-away strokes for this.

 

 

 

 

 

Burn the short leaves so they are darker on the bottom.  I used uniform strokes and circular motion on the shorter leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rotate the board and burn short pull-away along the inner edge of the stalk that arches over the flower dome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn the center of the right flower to a dark brown or black color.  Then add dark lines along the outer petals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now burn pull-away strokes along both edges of the vein line on each leaf.  Start the stroke on the vein and pull it towards the outer edge of the leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rotate the board as needed while you work.

 

 

 

 

 

Because I was too lazy to switch back to the writer pen tip, I used the shader to lightly burn over the inner petals.  Make the base or inner edge of the petals darker than the outer edge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use a writer pen tip and burn in the background along the lower portion of the dome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m drawing in highlights on the dome with a white charcoal pencil.  Do not bother with this step.  I’m only showing it to you so that you will know where the white marks came from.   

I had this idea of turning the dome into a snowglobe.  My idea did not work out, and I eventually remove all evidence of the marks.  Thus the reason I tell you not to bother with this step.

 

 

 

Now start burning in the flower using an assortment of lines or dots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burn pull-away strokes along the edges of the veins on the leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the leaves along the top of the dome, burn them just like we did the leave to the left of the Christmas tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rotate the board as needed while you work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you work, burn the background of the dome to a tan color.  Keep your pen tip in optimal position when burning around the edges of the flowers and leaves.  

 

 

 

 

 

Use a writer pen tip and burn gently curving lines on the leaves.  The lines should arch outward from the center vein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finish burning in the flowers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continued work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did use a small shader on the larger flower petals. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use either a medium ball or writer pen tip to burn circular motion over the small branches at the bottom of the dome.  Burn them to a very dark brown or black color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m re-burning over the background on the globe to provide a bit more contrast for the flowers.  Also, the white charcoal has been erased and I’m slowly burning over the area.

 

 

 

 

 

I did not leave anything unburned on the dome.  The reason is that the dome is an accent piece, so I didn’t want to compete with the Christmas tree.  By burning over everything it helps push the dome into the background.

 

 

 

 

 

Now you can’t tell that there was a charcoal highlight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I darkened up the leaves and added some shadows along the base of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly I used the tip of a sharp knife and scratched in a very thin highlight to represent light reflecting on the glass.

 

 

 

 

 

I also created a smaller highlight along the lower left side of the dome. 

Be aware that you can’t undo scraped in highlights.  So if you are unsure if you like them, then leave them out.  You could probably draw them in with a colored pencil and test it out, but I can’t promise the colored pencil will erase completely as there are too many factors involved.

 

 

 

 

IN CONCLUSION

That is it for this tutorial.  I hope you liked the artwork, and will try it for yourself.   This was a really fun and unique image.   For those of you who love to add color, this project has unlimited possibilities for color schemes.  I’d recommend taking a photo of your artwork, print it out, and test out color schemes on the paper.

I mentioned in one of my community posts on YouTube that mandala artwork is a great place to test out pen tips.  I like to do test burns and during the test burn my goal is to create as many different textures as I can.  This involved trying out different ways of using pen tips, layering burn strokes from different pen tips, layering different types of texture, etc.   Tejaa has a lot of beautiful mandala designs on her channel.  Plus she has a number of mandala design patterns and how to create your own mandalas, so I recommend checking out her channel.     

To answer some common questions I get.  The scene was burned on birch plywood that measures 5 x 7 inches (12.7 x 17.8 cm).  It took me 8 ½ hours to create the artwork.

Until the next blog,

Brenda

Dec 15, 2020

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4 thoughts on “Pyrography – Tejaa’s Mandala Christmas Postcard wood burning tutorial

  1. Hi, I just recently started pyrography. It came about because I wanted to make Christmas gifts for my family while saving money. My wife is very artistic and does a lot of different crafts. She had a craft burner so I used it to do some wood burnings. I fell in love with it. I’ve done mostly pre designed patterns. I watch your tutorials almost everyday. You do amazing work. I never would have thought you could get a realistic look with wood burning. I wasn’t sure how to message you but I saw this comment option so I’m gonna try here. I was wondering if you have a pattern for my favorite bird, a toucan. If not would you be willing to? I hope this is okay to ask. I also purchased some of your patterns from Etsy and I can’t wait to try them. Also, your tutorials are fantastic. I haven’t tried one yet but you are very detailed in your instructions. Thank you so much for sharing your talent. God bless.

    1. Hi Blake,
      First off let me welcome you to the fantastic artform called pyrography! I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I do!
      Thank you for purchasing some of my patterns. I really appreciate it.

      I do not have access to a toucan at zoo’s near me, but I do love to visit zoos so if I come across one in my travels I will keep your request in mind.
      I will mention that you can always make your own pattern. What I do is print out the photo on regular copier paper and than trace the image onto the board or paper.

      I have a video that shows how I create patterns on youtube: https://youtu.be/NxuBCosZP20
      Also I’ve created several portrait tutorials that explain what I do and why. All of the portraits are in written and video format.
      While you might not be interested in doing portrait work, the tracing information can be used for any subject matter.
      Brenda

  2. I find that my pyrography fades away after a few months. How can I prevent this. I use Varathane outdoor UV weather resistance, spray can. Is there something I should be doing prior to sealing? Why is my work disappearing?

    1. Hi Carmen,
      The pyrography isn’t fading. Instead the wood is aging; or more specifically it’s oxidizing. As this happens the wood darkens to a tan or a yellowish tan color depending on the wood. The more the wood oxidizes (turns color) the harder it is to see the pyrography artwork; especially the tan colored burn strokes. This is because the wood and the burn strokes are now the same color.

      Wood finishes help slow this process down, but they can’t completely prevent it. Also some finishes, like zSpar Urethane which the brand Varathane is, tends to add a yellow hue as it ages. Unless the artwork is being hung outdoors, I’d quit using it. For indoor artwork I use either lacquer or polycrylic. My test panel of wood finishes have shown those two are much better about staying clear.

      I wrote a community post on my YouTube channel discussing this and it has some ideas I’ve thought of but haven’t tested out yet to help prevent this problem: https://www.youtube.com/post/UgyutPhIGUQ_Ms3Tt5t4AaABCQ

      The only way I currently know of to prevent this is to burn on acid-free cotton pulp paper. Avoid wood pulp paper as it will yellow over time.

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