Picture of Pyrography, or How to Wood-Burn Art
"Pyrography is the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks resulting from the controlled application of a heated object such as a poker." -Wikipedia

In this Instructable I will show you how to take an image and burn it onto a piece of wood by hand. As an example I used the heraldic lion of the House of Lannister from the book/TV series "Game of Thrones." 
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Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies
-Wood, cut to size (I prefer to use Pine. It is soft enough to burn, but not too soft like Basswood)
-Sandpaper, 320 grit
-Pyrography Pen
-Graphite Transfer Paper
-Colored Pen
-An Image to wood burn 

Step 2: Preparing the Wood

Picture of Preparing the Wood
Once you have your piece of wood cut to size, inspect it to make sure there are no dents or markings on it. If you do happen to find any relatively shallow nicks or dents, simply take a damp wash cloth, fold it at least once, and place it onto of the defects. Then use a hot clothing iron to press down onto the wash cloth. Continue this process until the dents in the wood have been raised. Let the wood dry.

Now, take your sandpaper and sand the wood to a nice, smooth finish. I would recommend wrapping the sandpaper around a flat wooden block to make sure that you get an even surface.

Step 3: Transferring the Image (for those of us who can't draw/freehand)

Picture of Transferring the Image (for those of us who can't draw/freehand)
Now that the wood is ready, prepare your image however you like and print it out. I did some basic photo shop just to remove the background and save ink. Cut your graphite paper to size with the image and tape the image on top. Make sure that you put the 'transfer-side' facing down.

Take your brightly colored pen and simply trace over the image (see picture 4). Only go over the parts that you want transferred onto the wood. I would recommend no tracing any areas that you want to do shading.
dollarseed20 days ago

First, in regards to the comment below mine. A soldering iron is not the same thing as a wood burning iron. Most wood burning irons come in kits with all kinds of cool tips to play with, and run at a higher temperature. Now back to you Scott. I prefer to work from the outside of a piece in, so as to not have a sweaty hand smudging the graphite. Also, once a piece has been outlined with the burner, that wood is now sealed off from the rest of the piece. This gives you the opportunity, say on the mane or tail etc, to use regular wood stains without fearing they would bleed into surrounding areas.

kootamaa26 days ago

Hi, I'm a newbie in pyrography so I'm looking for some tips and... here I am :D
Here is my latest (anf first being honest :P ) pyrography artwork, hope you'll like it ;)

jamier2 made it!1 month ago
That is brilliant, I`ve done a picture of a lighthouse in a similar way but id like to draw that lion it looks epic! 21 stars out of 10, this may not be possible but its just an awesome lion! well done!
Ellie108324 months ago

Thanks for the help with shading!

Also. You don't have to use transfer paper :) I ran out a little while back and just used a heavy leaded pencil and colored the back of the picture. It makes it kind of nice actually and now it's the only way I do it. I noticed with the transfer paper that it can rub off in unwanted places that you don't intend to burn on. And it was very hard to remove if I succeeded at all haha. When you color the back of the picture instead of using transfer paper, just tape it to a window so you can see the image clearly and only color where the lines you want to transfer are. I swear by it. Just a little tip to throw out there.

TravisP17 months ago

Novice question: Can I still pyrograph if the wood has been stained or should I stain afterwards?

I can see I'm two months late on this one but I would definitely not recommend that haha. I tried it once and it made me absolutely sick not to mention it doesn't burn very easily or beautifully. Even in a well ventilated area, the smoke that came from burning the laquer or whatnot made me vomit and feel sick for days. It made it to where I almost couldn't stand burning on any wood at all because of the lasting effects. What I ended up doing with the finished wood that I very much still wanted to use, was sanding it completely, then burning what I wanted, and then re-finishing the wood. I wouldn't recommend only sanding the part you want to burn, as it will look uneven and less clean when you laquer the parts that have been sanded. Haha I kind of went on but I just thought I'd throw that out there.

Beautiful! I really like the tree you have up in ETSY too. Yes, you can use colors but I would use them sparingly the idea here is to show off the burning. Thanks for the wonderful tutorial and awesome artwork.

Amazing 'ible but why Lannister =(

jwagner161 year ago

If your design isn't too detailed, you don't have to transfer it at all. I just tape the design to the wood (just the top like a hinge) with painter's tape and burn straight through the paper. Your work is beautiful.

trainone1 year ago
Very nice ible and work. Word to the wise with dark stain, I made my little boy a toy box and burned a train on the front, and after using a cherry wood stain I found that the shaded spots accepted less stain and came out brighter. Keep that in mind when choosing a colour or you may have to make your shading darker.
ahead1 year ago
Inspiring instructable. Need to pick up my pyro pen again now that its Fall season. Thanks for the transfer technique.
KMCopeland1 year ago
Lots of pictures always make the instructable for beginners, and you did a beautiful job of matching your explanations with your pictures. I loved the tight shots that showed what nib you were using, and what part of the lion you were using it on. Just a great instructable.
Hear me roar -House lannister :3
EvilSnowMan2 years ago
Something I picked up in art class when I was in middle school and still use frequently. If you don't have or don't want to buy carbon paper, just flip your print out over and shade in the entire back side with the edge of your pencil tip. You are just putting a layer of graphite all over the back of your print out. Then tape it down and trace like you did. It won't leave real dark lines, but it will give you the entire outline just the same.
wood is the word (author)  EvilSnowMan2 years ago
This is a great idea. Graphite paper can be expensive or hard to come by. This is a great alternative!
Yandle2 years ago
Now I have to try this! My wife is going to be so pissed lol
Thanks for this tutorial. I saw some old ladies doing this and was taken by it and my partner got me a soldering iron to give it a try.
I love the look of laser cut works but it bothers me that everyone just designs something and sends it away to be made. I want that look, but I was to design and create the entire piece myself.
Good to see how someone else is doing it and what kinds of techniques and materials they use.
The old ladies were doing an amazing job of it.

pfred22 years ago
Your pyrography looks very nice. I am wondering if you could transfer the pattern using laser toner? Like is done to etch circuit boards. Although the heat of the iron may color the wood too. I also thought it might be easier if you used a different color of carbon paper maybe. In the pictures the transferred pattern, and the burnt design are difficult to distinguish from one and another. Maybe looking at it in person is easier? I've used a torch on wood myself to color in routed letters. So you might want to try a torch for some shading effects. I bet you could heat up all kinds of metal to brand the wood. Stuff like say expanded metal, for a cross hatch effect. Just thinking out loud there.
pocmarck pfred22 years ago
It's actually really easy to do with toner. While not as textured as the pyrography, it still looks great. I did several last year as Christmas presents. Search "wood print photo" for more info.
wood is the word (author)  pocmarck2 years ago
@pfred2: Thank you. Unfortunately i don't have a super high-resolution camera, but in person it is fairly easy to distinguish between the graphite transfer lines and the burned lines. It is sort of comparable to a pencil line and a black pen line. I think using different types of metal would be a great way to diversify a pyrography. I have seen people who make a personal branding mark out of a wire hanger.
Oh, this is excellent. I think I'm ready to give my woodburner another go!

Could I use, say, watercolor or thinned transparent oil paint over my burnt in marks? Or would those obscure the lines?
wood is the word (author)  AdamVanMeter2 years ago
I have actually never tried to do any coloring to my works, but I have seen it done before. Here is an example of another person using watercolors on their pyrography:
pocmarck2 years ago
Great job! Love the detail.
Tomdf2 years ago
Wow those turn out looking really clean. Cool stuff!
samalert2 years ago
Great Ible ! Thanx for giving an insight of the Wood Burn Art
BrittLiv2 years ago
It turned out really nice! I especially like the shading.