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Pyrography Surface Alternatives: Burning on more than just wood

Pyrography has become synonymous with wood burning. Although webster dictionary definition of the word is:

py·​rog·​ra·​phy | \ pīˈrägrəfē \ plural -es

1: the art or process of producing designs or pictures (as on wood or leather) by burning or scorching with hot instrument

There are no rules or restrictions to limit the art to wood. One can "write" with fire as long as the surface being used will withstand it. Today we will explore and talk about wood and some of these unconventional surfaces or canvases for an artist.

For most people wood has become the natural go to surface; it is what budding pyrographers use to get going. However are you aware that not all wood is conducive to making art? At the least some varieties are better than other while some should be completely avoided. For a more in depth knowledge on this topic I encourage you to check out wood burning community expert Rachel's "The Wood Burn Book".

That being said here's an overview of my favourite surfaces and why I like them:


The very first wood I ever used, even before I knew anything about pyrography (& I mean literally anything), was basswood. Below is my first ever wood burning piece and the wood is a live edge, you guessed, it: basswood! Here's where I get mine.

Today I am glad basswood was my gateway into this world (check out how I got started, and how you can get started, in the world of pyrography). Had I picked up any other common hardware store milled wood, I am fairly certain it would have ended up in frustration and me not sitting here with almost 5 years of experience in wood selection and wood burning and giving you pointers.

Lesson learned from this: soft woods work best.

Here are some other varieties I have burnt on and like:

  • Aspen available @aspenrusticcreationsAmbrosia maple and poplar from @itsdavidandrenee. Oh! if you have not seen one then you must check their Ambrosia maple. It's absolute gorgeous.

  • Black walnut and also curly maple to name a few others.

  • Bamboo is also very common, readily available and sustainable wood. A word to the wise though-bamboo is grainy and burning against the grain can be a challenge.

Other unconventional materials to consider:

1. Canvas:

Yes! Canvas can be burned on and makes beautifully unique gifts. Make tote bags, cosmetic or pencil cases and much more. Work and pictures by @srujanicreates

2. Dried Gourd:

Not many people think of it but dried gourds make a beautiful background for pyrography. Check out @itsdavidandrenee work. Need I say more.

3. Leather:

Belts, leather cuffs and everything in between that you can think of. Here's something from Kelly @therestlessrose

4. Cork:

Another form of wood although we don't often think of it as wood, and so so easy to burn. A hot burn tool glides on cork like knife on butter. Most go to products are coasters and trivets (photo below on the right), however I did do a 5x3 feet wall piece for my home (first two photos below). Ambitious project I must say but I get so many compliments on it. It sure was worth the time and effort.

I ordered my cork sheet here. It comes in all sorts of lengths, widths and thickness. Chose one perfect for your project. I had a lot of left over cork sheet which I then used a band saw to cut into trivet sized squares and had fun painting.

7. Paper:

I promise it won't be a disaster. Chose acid free thick paper and use a low heat setting and voila! You will have yourself a unique piece of art. Make greeting cards, framed art and more.

There are many more surfaces out there you can burn on. Ones that I have yet to explore and play with. Why don't you explore some of your own and let me know or better yet post on social media and tag @prettyful.creations


Get creative. To find pyrography ideas check out @prettyful.creations and pinterest @prettyfulcreations

Learn how to get inspired here and learn how to mix media on wood and make your own henna cones!

New to Wood Burning?

Check out my classes available for in-person and online art workshops, or grab a DIY Prettyful Box to get started with ease! This kit comes with everything you need to learn the art of pyrography!

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