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Create an Abstract Coaster with Pyrography Doodles

diy Sep 12, 2022
Beginners guide to pyrography

Have you ever wanted to have fun with wood burning? Here’s a project that can be fun and relaxing. It’s a fantastic way to take a break when you are frustrated, uninspired, or just bored. 

Wood burning small shapes, and filing them in is like doodling. I call these pyrography doodles. There is no pressure to be perfect, but the process takes time and focus, so can be very meditative, and grounding. 

Keep in mind that this project is meant to be for you, so just enjoy the process.



 

 

A word about safety

Pyrography does have some inherent risks. You are using a hot tool that can burn your skin, and wood smoke can be an allergen, or even toxic. 

  • Do not leave the hot tool unattended. Always shut it off and unplug it before you walk away.
  • It’s important to work on a clean stable surface in a well ventilated space. 
  • Use a fan pointed away from your work area to pull smoke away. 
  • Wear a mask rated P-95 or higher to keep from inhaling smoke while burning.
  • If you have long hair, tie it back. 
  • Always use raw wood. Make sure the wood you use is dry, and not chemically treated or painted.



 

 

Supplies:

  • One piece of wood about 4 - 5 inches across and ¼ - ½ inch thick 
  • Your wood burning tool and various tips
    • I’m using the Optima-1 by PJL Enterprises with 
    • Large skew tip
    • Ball tip
    • Coarse hair tip (writing tip)
    • Spear shader
  • Sandpaper (100 grit and 220 grit)
  • Pencil
  • Eraser - Tombow Sand Eraser is the best I’ve found for wood
  • Clear Polycrylic or other finish to protect from water if you want this to be a coaster you actually use

 

Optional Supplies:

 


Looking for THE best brushes in the bizz? Look no further.


 

Step 1: Sand Your Wood 

Sand with 100 grit then 220 grit sandpaper until it’s nice and smooth. Always sand with the grain, not against it.

Here’s a Tip: Start with a small to medium size wood piece (4 - 8 inches across). Wood slices are easy to find, and make nice coasters. I would start small because it can take a while to burn in all the details.

 



 

 

Step 2: Sketch Some Shapes

You can sketch LIGHTLY right onto the wood. It might be a good idea to sketch some ideas on paper first, to see how you might want to compose your piece.  However, the idea here is to be spontaneous and do much of the piece free hand. In the demonstration piece I sketched in quite a bit, then changed it up and added some things as I went along.

 

 

 

Step 3: Let’s Burn!

Turn on your burner (for the Optima-1 I’m at level 5), let it heat up, and start by burning in the larger shapes. This gives you boundaries for filling those shapes with different textures.

I like to outline a shape with a skew tip or writing tip for crisp lines, and fill in as I go, switching tips to create different textures.

Here are some examples:

  • Use a ball tip to create stippling, or dots
  • Use a spear shader to create scales, or to shade in smooth texture
  • Use a skew tip (cutting tip) to sharp lines

 

After a while you start to see where empty space can be filled in, or left empty, depending on what you want to do.

Take your time, enjoy the process. If you burn something you didn’t mean to, incorporate that into your work. You can make lines thicker, add shading, create a whole new shape to cover up your “mistakes.” But in the words of Bob Ross, “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.”


 

 

Step 4: Remove Pencil Marks

Clean up your piece by removing the pencil marks with a Tombow sand eraser OR very fine grit (220 - 320) sandpaper. Wipe away all the dust. Use a stiff bristle brush or old toothbrush to clean the fine dust out of the burn texture.



Step 5: Add Color

You can use watercolor, acrylic paint, colored pencil, gouache, markers. There are so many options. I almost always use watercolor, but occasionally gouache or colored pencil.

This step is optional. I often don’t add color to my pieces. 

For this project I used metallic watercolors applied with a small round (#2) brush.

It really is as easy as “coloring in the lines,” but dripping watercolor in random ways is very relaxing, and can create a lovely effect.

When using watercolor, refrain from making the paint too thin, since the water soaks into the woog, and if you use a lot, it can crack or warp the wood. I usually get my paint about the consistency of whole milk, or cream.

 

 

 

Step 6: Apply the Finish (optional)

If you made a coaster, you will want to finish it to protect from water. I use a water based Polycrylic spray finish and apply one thin coat, let it dry for 2 - 3 hours, sand with 220 grit sandpaper, wipe away the dust and apply a second coat. 

There is a brush-on version as well, but if you add color to your piece you need to use spray-on for your first coat because the brush-on can smear your color.

If you did not add color and you want to protect your wood with a natural food safe finish, you can use mineral oil, or butcher block conditioner rubbed in. 

 

 

Enjoy your new coaster!

Thank you for joining me on this pyrography adventure!  Here’s a FREEBIE to say thank you!

My Ultimate Wood Burning Resource List

 




Crystal is a pyrography artist and teacher online and in person. She loves inspiring others to adventure into their own creativity with the meditative art of wood burning where there are no mistakes. Her greatest joy comes from watching others relax, have fun, and create. 

She lives in Monroe Washington where she works from her studio and is often found wandering the local trails where she discovers her greatest inspiration.

You can find more of her tutorials on Skillshare, Youtube, and her website.

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