What is Pyrography? A Beginners Guide to Getting Started

A woman showing her son how to use a wood burning pen

If you’re a creative person, chances are you’re always on the lookout for different art projects to try out and hopefully create a masterpiece.

In your quest to find your next project, you may have come across pyrography – an ancient practice that dates back to 206 BC. 

But what is pyrography? The word comes from two Greek words, “pur” (fire) and “graphos” (writing), meaning writing with fire. However, in modern times, artists often use pyrography art for drawing rather than writing to create decorative pieces.

In this article, you’ll learn the history of pyrography, what the practice entails, and tips and tricks you can use to get started and create your own pyrography masterpieces.

What is Pyrography?

Pyrography, commonly known as wood burning, is the art of drawing and writing using a burning tool for etching designs onto different surfaces, usually wood.

You can use pyrography to add drawings or writings to wood, gourds, leather, and any other material that wouldn’t be destroyed by the heat from the burning tool.

Because wood is organic, it’s been difficult to determine when exactly pyrography began.

However, there have been estimates. Some people believe that this type of art predates history, where cave dwellers would use a stick to burn wood. 

But according to Wood Finishes Direct, pyrography can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), where it was referred to as Fire Needle Embroidery.

The best thing about pyrography is that there are no limits to the art.

While some people choose to stick to the traditional way of doing it, some artists have decided to add a personal touch.

Some people not only include unique styles but also try out different tools like paints, oils, and stains to create something exceptional.

This freedom of expression has attracted many people to pyrography. And if you are among them, it may be time to try it out and test your creativity.

A Beginner’s Guide to Pyrography

So, you’ve just discovered pyrography, and you can’t wait to get started on your first project. The only problem is that you don’t know how to get started.

Don’t worry! This beginner’s guide to pyrography will let you know what you need to get started and how to create amazing pieces. 

Arm Yourself with the Right Tools

Before you try anything, the first thing you need to do is to get a pyrography kit. There are plenty of options available on the market.

You’ll see kits ranging from $10 to $100. The price difference is mainly due to the quality.

Mid-range priced kits are recommended so that you can get a feel of the art without spending too much money or compromising on the quality of your results. If you decide to do it seriously, you can invest in the high-end options.

Some of the things you’ll need include:

  • A wood-burning pen
  • Tape
  • Carbon paper
  • Wet paper towel
  • Sandpaper
  • Design/artwork to burn on the wood

Familiarize Yourself with the Wood Burning Pen

In pyrography, the most important tool is the wood-burning pen. You need to know how to use it correctly to achieve desirable results. Fortunately, it’s a fairly simple tool.

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This tool is a pen-like device with a metal end through which heat is transferred to a removable tip.

Wood Burning Kit

Most kits (like this one on Amazon) come with an assortment of 4 to 7 tips to give you different options of burning.

You can burn straight lines, round ones, or even shade with these different tips. So, make sure your package includes these options.

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The kit should also come with a metal safety stand so that you never have to place the hot pen on your workbench or any other delicate surface.

To familiarize yourself with the pen, take it out of its packaging, plug it in, and wait for it to heat up for about 5 minutes.

Next, take a piece of scrap wood and test out the different tips included in the kit. Move the pen as you would move a pencil.

Your movements should be slow and steady. If you’re too fast, it will show – the drawings won’t be as neat as you want them to be.

A few things to keep in mind when using a wood-burning pen are:

  • Have a wet paper towel close by to wipe off the wood residue that builds up at the end of the tip.
  • Be cautious when using the pen. It gets very hot. So, be mindful of how you hold it and where you place it.
  • There shouldn’t be a lot of smoke. If there is, the pen is too hot. Cool it down for a smokeless burn.

Select a Design of Your Choice

Simple flower pattern that's great for beginner wood burning

When you’re just starting, it’s best to use black and white illustrations until you get the hang of burning the designs because shading and use of colors is somewhat advanced.

You can Google black and white illustrations and select the one that appeals the most to you.

The Learn to Burn book (on Amazon) is great for beginners and comes with 14 projects, 50 patterns, and how-to photos.

Learn to Burn: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting...

Once you’ve picked a design, the next thing you must do is to determine the right size, which will depend on the size of the piece of wood you are planning to use.

You can easily adjust the sizes of pictures on a computer before printing them out.

Prep the Wood

You can use different types of wood for pyrography projects. However, keep in mind that hardwoods requite hotter pens than softwoods.

Also, if you’re using a raw piece of wood, you’ll need to sand it before proceeding.

Also, decide how you want the grain. It’s much easier to burn with the grain than against it. Alternatively, you can use pre-fab woods or pre-cut shapes to make the process easier.

Place the Design on the Wood, Burn, and Outline

Place the design on top of the wood, then use the pen to trace the design on the wood. Afterward, remove the paper and go over the design again to outline it and make the markings clearer.

Remember to be cautious when using the pen to avoid burning yourself. Finish off by shading the design and enjoy your masterpiece!

Don’t Forget to Protect Your Art

After burning designs on wood, it’s crucial to add a protective layer of wax or oil to protect the design. You can get these products online or at any woodworking shop.

Apart from protecting your designs from damage, the protective layer of wax or oil adds a shine that makes the design more appealing.

Not to mention, it protects the wood, thereby improving the lifespan of your design.

Enhance Your Skills

Practice makes perfect. If you want to be an expert in pyrography, continue practicing with different designs and techniques until you get the basics down.

It also helps to learn tips and tricks from experts to further hone your skills. One way to learn is to follow YouTube tutorials and other DIY pyrography projects.

Pinterest may also come in handy when you’re looking to learn more about pyrography. 

Test Your Creativity

As you can see, pyrography is quite straight forward. If you have the right tools and you’re willing to learn, you can create amazing designs.

But don’t just settle for the basic burning and outlining. Try different styles to see what types of pieces you can come up with.

And if you get really good at it, try making it a business. You can teach people the art or sell your pieces. The sky is the limit. And it all starts with the stroke of a pen!

Last update on 2024-05-28 at 03:58 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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I live on a mini-farm in beautiful North Carolina and am an avid reader. When I'm not busy writing and tending to my gardens and numerous critters, I can often be found trying my hand at various hobbies. I enjoy researching new ventures, and while I may not have mastered every one yet, I have a blast learning and love sharing my knowledge with others. My latest endeavors include woodworking, crafting of all types, soap making, and sewing.