Pyrography for Beginners – Jaguar background wood burning tutorial (part 3)

This tutorial is the last of a 3-part series.  In part 1 we created a beginner friend jaguar.   In part 2 we built upon the artwork completed in part 1 giving it more tonal depth and a better 3d appearance.  Now we will add a background to the artwork.  I did my best to keep the format similar to the jaguar in that we start out with basic steps and build upon them.

The background will be done in 3 stages; each stage gets progressively more difficult.   Stage one creates vague tree trunks and is very beginner friendly.    Stage two adds color to the background.  It is beginner friendly, but a touch more challenging because it relies on the ability to create smooth and fairly uniform color.    Stage three adds the out-of-focus underbrush.  Depending on your skill and/or comfort level this might be challenging to do. 

For this tutorial you need the completed artwork from either part 1 or part 2.  The image to the left shows the artwork from part 1.  

Here’s a link to the part 1 tutorial:

Here’s a link to the part 2 tutorial:




Click on the image to the left to watch a YouTube video version of this tutorial. 

Now, let’s get to work.





  • Shading tip
  • Completed artwork from part 1 or 2


The first thing we will do is create the dark tree trunks in the background.







Use a graphite pencil and draw in some tree trunks onto the background.








I purposely avoided drawing any trees behind or around the jaguar’s head. 






Next draw some leaf shapes on some of the trees.  This is optional.  I’m really undecided if the leaves add anything of value to the artwork.






I didn’t add very many leaves to the trees.  Plus I only added leaves to a few of the trees.







Now use the shader of your choice and burn in the tree trunks.







Use the flat of the shader to avoid getting crisp lines.  I’m using circular motion and uniform strokes as my burn methods.  Don’t worry if your lines are a bit crisp as we can fix that.








The color does not need to be uniform on the tree trunks.  Also, the trees to not need to be uniform on width. 








After a tree, or group of trees, are block in, then rub over the area with a pencil eraser to remove any residual graphite.








Once the graphite is gone, then re-burn over the tree trunks to darken them up.  If you have any crisp lines then burn circular motion along the edge to soften it up.








Rotate the board and burn along the base of each tree trunk.  This will put your pen tip in optimal position so that you don’t accidently burn over the log.






I tend to block in the trees and leaves using uniform strokes.  Then I reburn over them to darken and blur their edges using circular motion.








Here’s a progress photo.   Yes, I had started to add color to the background along the lower left of the board.  Fortunately I remembered that I wanted it to be a separate step and stopped.  Just ignore that for now.





If I had been thinking far enough in advance, I would have burned the trees where they appear above the jaguar while the board was rotated before.   So I do recommend doing that.






Again, do not worry about making the trees uniform in color or thickness.  The irregularities will help make them appear out-of-focus.  Also the slight blurriness will help push them into the background.






Once all of the trees are burned in rub a pencil eraser over the area to remove any residual graphite.

STAGE 2 – BASE COLOR        

Now we burn a base color on the background.   







Use the shader of your choice and burn in the background.   Keep your pen tip in optimal position when burning along the edge of the jaguar.







As for the tree trunks, burn right over them if that’s easiest.  I did.  We are not creating a dark color, so it won’t impact the trees at all.





I am using the flat of the shader as I burn uniform strokes.   Uniform strokes are easier to do if you burn with the wood grain.  My board has a horizontal wood grain, so that is why I rotated the board.







I did make the color a bit darker near the log.  The color got lighter as I neared the top of the board.







2b4.  I switched to a large shader to get the background done quicker.  Because I’m not comfortable doing detail work with this shader I left a border around the face unburned.






I used a smaller shader that I felt more comfortable with to burn next to the face.  







How dark you burn the background is your choice.  I didn’t make mine very dark because I knew I’d be adding the underbrush.  The underbrush will darken up the background by a number of shades.   If you don’t plan to do the underbrush then you might want to burn the background darker than what I did.







Continued work on the background.








Finishing up the background.


The underbrush is the last thing we’ll add to the background.  This is an option step.  if you feel like this is too difficult or more work than you want to do then don’t do it.  Heck the jaguar with just the dark tree trunks looks pretty good! 






I started by the back leg because it was the smallest section and the far from the face.  This area isn’t that noticeable, so perfect place to experiment.   Which is what I did.  I will explain what I did, but keep in mind that the process is clearer in the next section I work on.

Begin by burning small random shaped patches of circular motion to break up the uniform color. 




The patches of circular motion should vary in size and color; including some very dark patches.  








Then I burn some hints of branches and twigs.


I highly recommend starting with the small areas under the body.  These areas aren’t the focal point, so they won’t receive as much attention as the focal point does.  That makes them the perfect place to get familiar with the underbrush creation process.  I’m sure you know that the face is the focal point.  



With the next section I started out burning the thin branches and twigs.  My underbrush isn’t near as dark as the tree trunks.  Should the underbrush be darker?  The darker it is the more the jaguar will stand out, so you can decide if you want your background darker than what I made mine.






Afterwards I started re-burning over the area using circular motion and uniform strokes to darken up the color and add irregulates to the background.






I purposely made the lower portion of the board much darker than the top.  This was done by adding more branches, twigs, and blotches or patches of darker color.






Continued work.








With the really dark blotches or patches of color I put them randomly on the background.  I didn’t add a lot of them.  Just keep in mind that the more you add the darker the overall color of the background will appear.  If you want a darker overall color, then adding more blotches is an easy way to do it.







In this photo I’m finishing up the section of background under the jaguar’s body.







By the time I got to the larger and more noticeable sections of the background I was feeling comfortable with the process of creating the underbrush.  Hopefully you will have a similar experience.   






Work your way along the bottom of the board adding in the underbrush. 








There isn’t a set order that you have to do things.   You can create the dark blotches of color first, and then add the twigs and branches.






Here’s a progress photo.  I do like how the darker background is helping the top of the log stand out a bit more.   In a way I also like how the jaguar stands out in this photo.   If I had noticed this while I was working on it, I might had stopped burning the underbrush as this point.   Ok, no I wouldn’t have because it’s too abrupt, but I might have just darkened up the upper portion and not bothered with the underbrush.




I mentioned before that as I got near the top of the board, I made the underbrush lighter in color.   My reasoning is that I figured the foliage was getting more sunlight.








I did rotate the board to work along the top of the jaguar.  This direction allowed the pen tip to stay in optimal position reducing the chances of accidentally burning over the jaguar.







I purposely kept the area around the face mostly free of underbrush.  What underbrush I did burn in I kept fairly pale in color.   I did this to keep the area around the face distraction free.







Continued work on the background underbrush.







As you can see the overall color along the upper portion of the board is considerable lighter than the bottom.  Again you may or may not like what I did.  I’m just explaining what I did, so feel free to make changes.





Finishing up the underbrush.








The very last thing I did was create some whiskers on the jaguar.  I didn’t do this before because the background wasn’t in place, so some of the whiskers wouldn’t be seen. 






Using the tip of a sharp pointed knife and scrape in some whiskers.







To the same on the other side of the face.  I didn’t make the whiskers super obvious.





The below photos show the artwork after different parts and stages have been completed. 



We are done with the jaguar tutorial series.   I am very curious what you thought about this series.  Did you like it?  Hate it?  Want to see more projects presented in this format?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Before I go, I’ll answer a couple of common questions I get.  The artwork was burned on birch plywood.  It measures 4 ¾ x 6 ¾ inches (12.1 x 17.1 cm) and the background took me 4 1/2 hours to create.  Part 1 took me 2 1/2 hours, part 2 took me 3 hours, so my total time on this artwork is 10 hours.

Until the next blog,


Apr 6, 2021

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6 thoughts on “Pyrography for Beginners – Jaguar background wood burning tutorial (part 3)

  1. Thank you so much for the Jaguar project. I looked forward every week for the next lesson. You are so generous to share you talents!


      1. I loved the weekly lesson…I always looked forward to it…like a gift, which essentially it is!

        Thanks again!

  2. Salut Brenda, j’espère que tu comprend le français, car moi je ne comprend pas l’anglais, ( j’ai un traducteur sur mon ordi ), j’adore ce que tu fait et j’espère d’autres tutoriels. peut import le sujet , pour moi c’est une mine d’information et de détail de comment m’y prendre pour pyrograver. Merci et continue ton beau travail. Diane

    1. Bonjour Diane,
      Merci pour vos commentaires adorables! Je ne parle pas français, mais j’utilise google translate. J’espère que cela fait du bon travail. Je n’ai pas l’intention d’arrêter de créer des tutoriels de sitôt. Passe une bonne semaine.

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