Mapping Your Pyrography Pattern

Planning or mapping your burning layers


When I begin a new burning I like to map out the stages or layers of work that I will need to complete the project. As a general rule I will first burn the areas that have the darkest tonal values in the design. At the same time I make notes on my pattern paper where my unburned highlights will fall in the pattern. The second burning or second layer of work is used to create the general shape of the large areas or elements in the design. Texture work is done during the third layer of wood burning with the fine detailing done is the last or fourth layer.


Mapping the darkest values and the highlights

This flamingo has a beautifully curved neck with his beak resting behind the lower bend near his chest. The back of his neck rests in between his wing shoulders. The front wing is grouped into five separate feather sections – the upper section of medium length feathers, a lower section with long feathers that curve in a half circle, a central section on mixed length feathers that overlaps the long feathers, a section of small shoulder feathers and a bottom section of small feathers.

In planning the first layer of burning I want the light source coming into the design from my upper left side. This will create a dark shadow on the right side of the neck, the right side of the head, along the upper eye lid area, and a shadow area on the low right side of each of the wing feather section. Because of the neck bends there would be a dark cast shadow on the lower left shoulder area of the front wing where the neck blocks the light to that area.

These are my darkest tonal value areas so I mapped them out with a medium to dark temperature burning. For the neck area I have used a short line stroke and for the feathers a long line stroke.

Even though I do not burn highlights but instead allow the raw wood to become my bright area I want to mark on my pattern paper where they will fall in the pattern. With the light source coming from the upper left this places a highlight on the top left of his head, the front left side of the beak and through the center line of the neck. In the front wing area the highlights would fall on the left side of the center missed feather section and on the bottom small feathers. These two sections of the wing stand in front of the other three areas and therefore would catch the light.

Creating the general shape of an area

Pyrography Mapping Step

Now that my dark tones are established I begin to shape each area with mid-temperature burnings. The neck rolls as a tube so it would have some mid-tones on each outer edge of the neck. As the neck falls away from the light source to join the body it would become darker so a medium-dark burn has been added. The flamingo’s face and beak are slightly turned away from the light so most of these two areas would fall into a medium tonal value.

I have worked each feather group as one unit adding shading to the right side and lower area of each. The grouping of long feathers is behind the upper feather section and the mixed feather should section so it will fall into the deep mid-tones. The back wing is the farthest point in the design so also falls into a deep mid-tone.

After a general shading to curve and sculpt each area additional burning is added to define the individual feathers inside the groups. I have done this by burning a mid-tone long line stroke on each feather where it touches the next higher feather. I am using the shadows that the upper feather would cast to create the definition for the lower feather.

Adding texture

Texture is a natural part of wood burning. Each time the tool tip touches the wood it not only darkens the area by scorching the wood fibers it also indents the area by compressing the wood with the heat of the tip. The hotter the temperature setting for your tip the deeper this indent will become. You can run your finger tips over a wood burning and feel the texture the burn strokes have created.

That texture can become part of the burn’s design. For our flamingo using a short, tight line stroke in the neck area creates a tightly packed line texture similar to fine down feathers. Lone wide pull strokes made by burning on the side of the tip can give a bone texture for the beak. Feathers are made up of many finely packed fibers which can be created with thin fine burned long lines.



The finest detail lines of my burnings are done last so that they sit on top of the mapping, shaping and texturing work. Detailing a project does not mean to completely outline all of your original pattern lines. In real life a flamingo does not come with outlines. Instead you see each area of the flamingo because of the shading of its shape and the cast shadows from other areas. The brightest highlight for this flamingo falls on the top of his head. This area in my burning has no burned strokes. In fact the burning for the head simply stops at the light toned areas with his head highlight becoming part of the unburned background wood.

During the detailing layer I check that my darkest tones have been worked to a black tone as those open areas in the long feather section, the dark spots on the tip of his beak, his eyes and the shadows on the neck where it comes in direct contact with the wing shoulder. Fine lines have been added to define the mouth opening in the beak, the folds above and behind the eye and throughout the feathers.

Most wood burning patterns will take more than four layers of burned strokes. Add more layers whenever you need to develop any area or step to a deeper tonal value. But for me all burnings follow these four steps – mapping the black shadows, creating the shape of the area, adding texture and finish with my detailing.

Pattern for personal use only.
Copyright, LS Irish, 2012, All Rights Reserved

This flamingo pattern is offered for your personal use in working this tutorial.
Courtesy of Art Designs Studio, Personal Use Only





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