Wood Burning Portrait

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Introduction: Wood Burning Portrait

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Valentines Day is almost upon us and I had an order from a coworker for a Valentines gift for her husband. She wanted something custom and artsy so I went with a wood-burning. 

I love to wood burn. It is a quick, kinda free art form. One you cant erase so you have to live with the marks you make, which for those of us out there who keep erasing and correcting to get it just right, it's a nice way to let go. And not to mention is smells great.

First things first: gather your materials:

a wood burning tool
different tips (optional)
a piece of wood
transfer paper
tape
an image you want to burn

Step 1: Prep the Wood

When you have decided on an image and printed it to a size that fits on your wood its time to transfer the image over.

Cut out a piece of transfer paper that is as big as the image.
Tape the transfer paper to the wood with the darker side (graphite) down to the wood.
Tape the image to the wood over the transfer paper.
Trace over the image with a little more than normal pressure to be sure it transfers fully.
 * when tracing over people, it's a little harder than objects. You must choose which lines to trace over, which are important for the               structure of the face. Some places you trace aren't lines, but implied lines shadows make. *

When you are satisfied you have traced all the lines, remove the image and the transfer paper.

Step 2: Get the Burner Ready

Plug the wood burning tool in to allow it to heat up.

Lay out your wood in your work area and wait for the tool to get hot enough.

Before you start burning the image, it is best to test the tool first. If you don't have another piece of wood laying around, just turn your piece over to the back and use it to test your tool.

I wrote " Valentines 2014" on the back for my test. 

You want your tool to be hot enough that it takes little to no pressure and brief contact to see results. If you have to hold the tool against the wood for longer than a second, it isn't hot enough yet.

If you are new to wood burning, this is also a great time to experiment with the tool and see how to make different lines and different values.

The longer you keep contact, the darker and deeper the line. The briefer the contact, the lighter and shallower the line.
The same with pressure. More pressure= darker, less=lighter.

Step 3: Get Going

Time to get to work. Flip the wood back over to the design side and get to it.

The main lines are easy. Just trace slowly with the burner to get a nice dark line.

To do the shading, it's a matter of quick, light strokes. Gently, barely brushing the wood, and using quick strokes, slide the burner against the wood, like coloring lightly with a crayon. This should make a light shade. Repeat this again and again until you get the shade you want. Be careful not to let the burner stay in contact with the same spot on the wood for too long or you will get a dark spot there.

Step 4: Other Works

Just a couple more examples.

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    14 Comments

    Very neat! I have never used transfer. I've always doodled with freehand. I think I'll pick some up soon. (:

    1 reply

    free handing is great too! I'd love to see your work when you are done

    Nice job. I have always found it difficult to make my burns look like the photos but yours looks incredible. Did you put any sort of finish on the wood to protect it?

    1 reply

    thank you! no, i didn't use a finish but it would look great

    check my woodburnings on facebook. my page is www.facebook.com/deepelemburns

    2 replies

    nice work! how long have you been doing those?

    im coming up on a year :) thank you!

    thanks a bunch :)

    Thank you very much :)

    Very cool, and a great tutorial. Worth a try!

    1 reply