15 Wood burning techniques you need to know to level up your art

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Written by Jared Watson

Jarred Watson is a pyrographer with 10+ years experience and has worked with brands like BOSCH & FORD. He is always looking to learn and share his passion of wood burning with others.

Wood burning, also called pyrography, is the art of freehand designing and decorating wood by burning images and patterns on the wood surface. The designs are etched on the material with the help of heated tools such as poker. Traditionally pyrography was done with any kind of heated metal implement. There are numerous wood burning techniques that the artists can resort to. Each of them have their own benefits and specialties. 

15 Wood burning Techniques

1. Basic Outlining

Outlining is one of the most fundamental wood-burning techniques. An outline is required to bring a design to life. Outlining is similar to drawing with a marker or pen. The artist can use a universal pen tip or a spear for outlining. 

The trick is to make sure and trace along the surface of the wood in one even stroke and do it at a slow pace. The line can be made more defined by pressing harder into the wood. 

2. Silhouette Filling

As the name suggests, silhouette filling involves filling the design completely black with a lighter background instead of applying any shade. This technique is beginner friendly as the filling is much easier than making gradients. 

The pyrographer can use a flat gradient tip with medium heat. Ensure the heat is not too high, which can result in harsh burn lines. Work in a soft circular motion with medium heat to create a sharp, smooth finish. 

3. Gradient-Shading Effect

This technique involves applying shade and gradient to the design. It requires less heat and more refined control. A flat tip is best suited for this job. A temperature level of 4 or 5/10 is optimum for most woods. To maintain a light shade, work in quick circular motions. Turn up the heat to make the shading dark.

Pulling the pen tip in one direction can come in handy to shade a large area of one tonal value. However, it can be tricky as there is much less control. Shading can also be created by dotting on the wood. Although this method is time-consuming, it provides more control and gives a unique finish.

4. Hatching

Hatching gives an elegant effect of texture and shading without the hassle of making gradients. It works even better when the wood is grainy. A tracing tip is best to be used for this technique.

Hatching should be done by drawing thin lines in one direction, starting at the edges. To create a darker effect, cross-hatch with lines[1] in the opposite direction. It can be used for shading as well.

5. Texturing

Add texture to your design to bring more dimension and depth. The artists can do many texture styles by burning. If you like to design animals, you can add hair, feather, scale or fur textures to give them a more realistic touch. This job uses a skew tip, flat top or shadier tip. To create a lighter texture, use less heat and faster strokes. Apply more heat and pressure to make the texture dark and more pronounced.

6. Background Creation

Giving a background to your main design can enhance its overall look. Backgrounds can be created using various methods, such as dotting, filling, and shading. The background can be filled with a wide-tip pen for a smooth, even background using long, even lines.

To bring an interesting effect, you can also shade. Adding a darker shading at the border will bring more visual focus to the design. Dotting can also be used to create a background. To give a vintage effect, you can also use a heat blower. Be careful while using a heat blower, and don’t heat an area for more than a second.

7. Add Color

When you get comfortable, you can start experimenting by adding colors to your images. Colors can be added by using acrylics, inks, watercolor pencils, and stains. In what way you will add color depends on the look you want to achieve. Using ink and watercolor pencils will be more convenient for a beginner.  

Watercolor pencils provide more control and are very efficient if you want to color a small space as they add a subtle amount of color that can be blended. Inks, on the other hand, are not the best option for filling spaces as it bleeds into the wood grains. Inks can be used as a stain or to add a color wash.

8. Lettering

Lettering can be done using techniques such as shading, dotting and filling. One of the ideal ways to start with lettering as a beginner is by using a stencil and tracing it on a wood surface. The best pen tips for lettering include straight edge, wire and rounded tips.

Straight-edged tips are best for etching straight lines in your lettering. For curved lines in small spaces, use a round tip. To do outlining effortlessly, use a wire tip. Trace the outline of each letter on the wood surface using the desired pen tip and fill in the letters to add texture.

9. Pulling & Swinging

The basic idea here is to pull the burner in your direction. You can pull it toward your wrist, elbow etc. The key to making even, straight lines is to make a pulling motion, not a pushing one. Pushing the nib into the wood can result in blobby lines and gauge holes while working against the wood grain. For better results, work in a downward motion.

Being new at wood burning, you can have hesitation while burning. Blobs are formed when you put the burner on the wood. Use the swinging technique to avoid unwanted blobs at the beginning and end of burned lines.

It involves moving the pen tip back and forth in a swinging motion, which helps achieve smooth, tapered lines. Swinging can also be used to fill spaces that did not burn well.

10. Touch

The central idea here is to make a dot by barely contacting the wood. It is used for stippling, adding texture, filling letters or shading. Making less contact will create a lighter dot. To make it dark, don’t add pressure; instead, hold the pen on the spot for some more time. The touch technique can help improve pen control and blobby lines.

11. Sweeping

This is the technique when you become a little more proficient with the other more fundamental and simpler wood-burning techniques. The technique of sweeping in wood burning is used to bring more detailing and precision in depicting eyelashes and glasses.

This technique makes these components look more realistic. This technique involves starting off drawing the lines slowly initially and then speeding up that stroke. And this is how the artists get a wonder line or stroke at the beginning and a tapered and narrow end at the end, just like the structure of eyelashes and grasses.

12. Scumbling

Scrolling is as unique and exciting a technique as it sounds. It is even a fun part for the programmers to perform scumbling techniques. It is similar to doodling. The technique involves drawing small circles continuously with the tip of the pen. One can use different types of pens to bring more texture and shades. And using shader tips helps in making smooth and even burns.

13. Drawing Guidelines

Drawing guidelines is another technique best suitable for beginners. It helps you create a map you can follow throughout your process of pyrite pay. The technique involves the artist drawing out the sketch of the entire design, pattern or texture they would want on the piece of wood. And this will be their stencil for their work. And then, pyrography follows the guideline or stencil they have drawn. And thus, it is a great way to begin the journey of pyrography, and any beginner can use it to grow as a pyrographer and master the technique of it.

14. Rust

It is not just one of the best wood-burning techniques for beginners but also one of the most time-saving ones. It requires the artist to get certain rusted screws and sandpaper to remove the rust fillings or dust from the screw. And then, one can use their fingers or cotton balls to put that rust dust on the areas of the wood burns necessary. This helps in better shading and creating a gradient.

15. Heat Blower

Hewat blowers can readily help in obtaining the vignette effect. The artists are required to move along the edges of the wood piece. They also have to ensure they do not blow at the same spot for a long time. The maximum time they can blow at one spot is not more than a couple of seconds.

You have to move the blower evenly throughout the entire area. Lastly, one needs to wait for some time before the results show. It is yet another effective way of creating great shading effects on your art piece.


The above-mentioned wood burning techniques are some of the main techniques for wood burning that beginner pyrography artists can use. To create high-quality projects, learning these foundational wood-burning techniques is important. The key to mastering the skills is to practice them consistently. Mastering these techniques will help the artist to advance to more complex projects and designs.


  1. BURNT by Holly Pyrography. (2022a, March 2). Top Wood Burning Techniques // Using Drawing Techniques with a Wood Burning Pen [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7gkakVTMM4

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