Butterfly Dreams Wood Burning Art

Wood burning, also known as pyrography, is a wonderfully satisfying hobby that has unlimited art and crafting potential. While it looks complicated, it’s actually a lot easier to do than you think. All you need is a piece of wood, basswood is best, and a wood burning tool. Add a few items to embellish your art and you have an endless supply of crafting fun to unleash your inner glitz.


Why Basswood?

  1. Tends to be uniformly pale in color
  2. Has pale grain lines that are few in number
  3. Non-resinous, so won’t ooze sap like pine wood can
  4. Very economical especially compared to wood like maple or poplar
  5. Much smoother surface than any plywood – including those found on most craft boxes

General Wood Burning Tips:

  1. Make multiple passes to build up the color
  2. Keep the heat low; it’s easier to darken than to lighten
  3. Don’t exert heavy pressure on your pen - - no death grips
  4. Let the pen tip glide over the surface of the wood

Pyrography Pen Tips Needed:

Writer – is used to draw lines, create dots, and work on the small butterflies. The Versa-tool Taper point is a good choice for this.

Shader – is used for most of the art. The Versa-tool Universal, shader, or calligraphy point would all work. I mention more than one as each tip is differently sized, so test them out to see which one works best for you.

Step 1 – Prep Work

  1. Cut the basswood sheet in half so you have 2 pieces that are 12 inches long (30.5 cm).
  2. Sand the basswood board using 220 grit sandpaper. A smoother finish will produce better burn results.
  3. Print the pattern and coat the back of it with graphite. I recommend using a 2B or higher graphite pencil as the results will be easier to see. You can also use a wax-free tracing paper like Graphite Transfer paper. Secure the pattern to the wood and trace over the design. NOTE: I did not trace the dots as those are pretty easy to burn in when needed.
  4. Use a writing pen tip to lightly burn over all of the trace lines. Rub over the entire surface with a pencil eraser, like the Magic Rub white eraser, to remove any residual graphite.

Step 2 – Flowers & Leaves

All of the flowers and leaves were created using a pull-away stroke.

  1. Place the wood burning pen tip on the edge of the petal
  2. Pull the pen tip away from the edge towards the center of the petal
  3. Lift the pen tip
  4. Repeat until the petal end is filled with pull-away strokes of assorted length

  1. Fill the opposite end of the petal with pull-away strokes
  2. Then move on to another petal and repeat the steps. Rotate the board as needed to make the process easier.
  3. Continue until all of the petals have been burned
  4. Take a moment to look at this flower and notice that there are long streaks on some of the petals. That was done deliberately and created by burning very long pull-away strokes. Also notice that the strokes are not all the same color of tan.

How to change the color without adjusting the heat setting on your wood burning tool:

  1. Slow hand movement results in a darker streak
  2. Fast hand movement means a paler streak
  3. Burn over the same streak a couple of times to darken it up

  1. The leaves get the same pull-away stroke treatment. Burn pull-away strokes along the outer edges on one side of the leaf and along the center vein
  2. Rotate the wood and burn pull-away strokes on the opposite edges of the leaf
  3. Fill in the stem so it is dark in color
  4. Lastly, use the writing pen tip to draw tiny short dark lines in the center of the petal.

Step 3 – Butterflies

  1. The first butterfly has a dark border along the outer edge of the wings. Notice how the pen tip end is right on the outer edge of the wing. This is optimal pen tip position and ensures you have nice clean edges and are only burning on the butterfly’s wing and not on the background.
  2. Rotate the wood, as needed, to keep the pen tip in optimal position as you burn along the inner edge of the dark border.
  3. After burning along the edges of the border, fill in any gaps so the border is dark brown to black in color.
  4. Use pull-away strokes on the half circles near the dark border. Start the stroke on the edge of the half circle and pull it towards the butterfly body.

  1. Use pull-away strokes on each end of the tear drops. Remember to rotate the board as needed to keep the pen tip in optimal position.
  2. Burn the body a dark brown color.
  3. Lastly use a writer pen tip to burn in the antennae so they are easily seen.
  4. On this little butterfly, use the writer pen tip to darkly burn in the top half of the wings avoiding the spots. On the lower half of the wings just burn in the spots.

  1. With the heat setting on very low, press deeply into the wood with the writer pen tip to create divots. A low heat helps this process without adding color to the wood.
  2. Turn up the heat and add a row of tiny dots right next to the dark border edge.
  3. Switch to the shader tip and fill in the dark edge of the wings keeping the pen tip in optimal position.
  4. Fill the rest of the wings with a few pull-away strokes that start at the body and head towards the wing edges.

  1. On this butterfly, burn the dark wing border
  2. Burn some pull-away strokes next to the pale streak
  3. With this butterfly, burn pull-away strokes that radiate outward from the body.
  4. Add a dark line of dots along the wing edges.

  1. Keep the pen tip in optimal position as you burn the dark streak down the center of the wing.
  2. Burn the body to a dark brown-black color
  3. Burn along the outer edge of the wings
  4. Burn some pull-away strokes that start on the outer edge and head towards the body of the butterfly.

  1. Use the writing pen tip to darkly burn around the small wing streak and the wing edges.
  2. Burn pull-away strokes along the outer edges of the wings and the body
  3. Burn pull-away strokes that radiate outward from the small wing streak
  4. Burn the body a dark brown color

  1. Keep the pen tip in optimal position to darkly burn along the edges of the spots and bands on the wings
  2. Rotate the wood and repeat so the bands are a dark brown-black color, but avoid the spots.
  3. Burn pull-away strokes that radiate outward from the body.
  4. Burn pull-away strokes that start on the outer dark band edge and head towards the middle band.

Step 4 – Background Arches

The last thing we need to do is burn the background arches.

  1. Start by filling both ends of an arch with pull-away strokes
  2. Rotate the wood, if needed, to keep the pen tip in optimal position when working near the edges.
  3. Apply small dots with the writing pen tip along the edges of the arches
  4. Lastly apply small dots along the inside edge of the spirals

Step 5 – Prismacolor Colored Pencils

I lightly colored the butterfly wings and flower petals with colored pencils. When I was done you could still see the pyrography underneath. Also, I avoided the dark areas on the wings and the butterfly bodies.

Each flower was first colored with Goldenrod, but later I felt it was too dark and added Spanish Yellow over it. The centers of the flowers were colored with Dark Brown.

The butterflies got the following color(s)

  1. Canary Yellow
  2. Orange with white on the teardrops
  3. Canary Yellow
  4. Nothing
  5. White
  6. True Blue
  7. Crimson Red
  8. Violet

Step 6 – Pearl Ex Pigments

To give the butterflies some sparkle, I glazed them with a mixture of varnish and Pearl Ex pigments. I love Pearl Ex pigments and the sampler color sets are a great way to get variety of pigments economically. Pearl Ex is powdered pigment, so they won’t go bad, and a tiny amount goes a long way. Since they are a powder they need a binder to adhere to the wood. I use Dura Clear Glossy Varnish for my binder.

  1. Pour 1-2 drops of varnish into a mixing well
  2. Dip the tip of a damp paintbrush into the pigment (a little goes a long way)
  3. Mix into the varnish
  4. Apply varnish mixture to wing. If needed, apply a second coat to increase color.

The butterflies got the following Pearl Ex colors

  1. Bright Yellow (avoid dark wing edges)
  2. Pumpkin Orange (avoid dark wing edges) & Micropearl on the teardrops
  3. Antique Copper (avoid yellow streak)
  4. Silver
  5. Micropearl
  6. Turquoise & Micropearl
  7. Flamingo Pink
  8. Misty Lavender

Let the Pearl Ex varnish mixture dry for 15-30 minutes and then apply a layer of Dura Clear Glossy Varnish over the entire wing on all of the butterflies. Let dry.

Step 7 – Rhinestones

The final step in our glitzing process is to add the rhinestones. Dab a small amount of Aleene’s Tacky Glue onto the wood with a paintbrush, use tweezers to place a rhinestone in the dab of glue, and let dry flat for several hours.

I used Topaz on the large orange butterfly and Sapphire on the ends of the spiral swirls, but the possibilities are endless: emerald on the white butterfly, amethyst on the red one, etc.

After you are done embellishing your wood burning art sign, I usually sign in the lower right corner. I sign in pencil and then burn over the pencil marks with a writer pen tip and rub over with a white Magic Rub eraser to remove any residual graphite.

Step 8 – Seal & Hang

Once the glue is dry, seal the wood with several coats of Krylon’s UV-Resistant Clear Acrylic Coating in matte finish. Make sure to seal the sides and back. Let the board dry for several hours.

  • Next put 2 eye hooks in the top of the wood
  • Place each hook approximately 2 inches (5.1 cm) from the end of the board
  • Cut a 20 inch (50.8 cm) piece of yellow cord
  • Thread the cord through the eye hooks and make a triangle
  • Tie the ends of the cord into a knot

Your artwork is now ready to hang

Wood Burning Ideas:

Cut up the pattern and create a new Butterfly Dream on the other board. Print the pattern in reverse and, again, create another Butterfly Dream masterpiece.