Pyrography Steps for Portrait Burning

Step 5: Working the background hair

This hair section will be very dark when the burning is done but I start with medium toned burning so I can use those tones as highlights when the black brown is added.  This section of hair is trapped behind the face and the foreground hair locks making this the darkest area of the design.  Because the hair curves both up and down as well as from the front to the back a highlight area, which will eventually be a deep mid-tone, falls in the center of this section.

The entire skin area of the face of this Pixie will remain in the very pale tones.  The dark tone of this trapped hair area helps to keep the face looking soft and pale.


Step 6:  Deepening the background hair tones

I’ve done another layer in the background hair.  There is still a lot of work to be done in this area but you can see the dark areas and strands developing.  Notice how this very dark area will frame the face so I will not have to add an outline along her cheek or jaw area.  This new layer in the dark background hair softened the face even more because of the sharp contrast in tones.


Step 7: Working the foreground hair in strands

I have begun the work on foreground hair along her temples, forehead and in front of the dark trapped area on the right.  I’ve tried to keep the left side very pale and then work into the mid-tones for the right side.  I have not worked the crown of the hair yet as I think I need to wait for the pine cones and berries hair ornament to be burned first then I can decide just how dark or light I will need the crown to make the hair ornament stand out.  The back area of hair behind the shoulder has had another toning to push it back some more.

Although human hair is fine thin individual strings by working the hair a earliest shading steps as large clumps or strands let’s you create depth and texture to the hair area.  Each strand will have a highlight area, mid-tone area and dark shaded area.  Individual hairs can be added later with either dark thin burned lines or by using an xacto knife or bench knife to cut thin wood strips to reveal the raw wood underneath the wood burning.


Step 8: Expanding the hair shading

As the falling hair on the right side of the Pixie’s face turns towards the back of her head it begins to darken in tonal value.  The strand or clump effect of the early hair burning now takes on a sharper contrast in the shading between strands.  I have worked the hair of the left side of the face with a second burning to up the tones into a slightly darker shade.

I have added more shading to the free falling strands on the right side.  Then I used my veining gouge to lightly carve a few fine lines along those two strands.  The veining gouge let me get back to the “white” of the wood.  You can just see a couple of the gouge cuts in the longest strand where the hair turns up at the end.  This puts several extreme white tones in the center of the blackest tones of the project.

A very pale face means that the light has to hit directly on the face. for this pixie that’s the left side.  Very pale skin also means there is little or no shadowing to create the curve of the lower eye lid, cheek or corner of the mouth.  So by adding a strand of hair that falls over her face I can add a shadow that would be cast upon the face.  That shadow is so much more important than the hair strand because a shadow will fall on a surface and move along its curves.  That shadow let me mark the dip in the face where the outer corner of the eye is and then let me roll or round over the cheek area. That shadow let me tell you that her cheek is puffed out and rounded and her eye corner is deeper than the cheek without ever doing any shading directly to the skin.

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