Wood burning aka pyrography is a hot new trend and of course, I jumped on board.

I have tested many transfer methods and have outlined them for you in this article.


sketching on wood with pencil before wood burning the imageI am not an “artist” in the sense of: I can not draw.

Drawing directly onto the wood is the ideal scenario. You can sketch lightly on the wood itself and erase as needed. To me, this would be the ideal method if you have the ability to do so.

Tracing Options

old worn stop sign
NOT all tracing paper is created equally!

There are several methods of transferring your image before the actual wood burning can begin. I have experimented with the following four methods and I share my unsolicited opinion. They each have their time and place of value, however…heed the warning of the trusty stop sign!


Carbon Tracing Paper

Good ol’ fashioned carbon paper. I started out using this and quickly discovered that erasing a stray line was nearly impossible. I used every different eraser I could find at Joanne’s Craft store and none of them worked worth a darn. Lesson learned!

Graphite Tracing Paper

image traced using graphite paper then wood burned on
Click for finished product.

This is one of the methods I use often. Make sure to get wax free, if not, you will still have some trouble removing those stray marks. Pencil is made from graphite and thus, erases beautifully. Every great once in a while, I’ll have a stubborn stray mark, but I can usually get rid of it using a sanded eraser or an exacto knife (I will further address the different methods to remove mishaps in another post).

Saral Tracing Paper

saral tracing paper shown in this photo before wood burning process begins

This is the coolest stuff, but pricey. It comes in different colors which is handy when working with different shades of wood. I primarily use red and haven’t had a problem of me not being able to see it. This transfer erases beautifully! I tend to have quite a few stray marks and this, my fine friends, is the answer to my problematic strays. image traced using saral tracing paper before burning into the wood

There are a few down sides.

  • The first problem is that it smudges so easily. It seems to be made with a powdery substance and will transfer to anything it comes in contact with, yikes! Also, you can not use it more than once, on the other hand, I can get multiple traces from the same sheet of graphite paper.


I’ve heard of people applying graphite to the back of their image (you can purchase graphite sticks or use the blunt end of a pencil). Then, they flip it over, lay it back down (graphite side to the wood) and trace.pencil smudge

I find that it is still difficult for my old eyes to see the traced image. Maybe I’m not applying the graphite dark enough.

I also have a problem with it smearing/smudging on the wood where my careless fingers have dug in while tracing.

Doing it this way can sure save you some money, but my sanity of erasing smudge marks was not worth it!


I have tried this method a few times and did not have success with it…probably user error.

I read that you print your image using a laser printer. Once printed, lay it on your wood, printed side down. Using an iron, apply heat (be careful not to use steam) and the image should transfer (they also have nibs you can buy specifically for this, but that didn’t fair so well for me either).

Well, this was an epic fail for me, but if you have any tips, please do share!

I just discovered a YouTube video that uses an inkjet printer and overheard project transparency film to transfer images to wood. I do not have an inkjet printer, so I can not test out this particular method myself.

In the end, it really does come down to personal preference. What works well for one, may not work well for another.

I am constantly trying to improve my transfer/drawing and as I discover new ways, I will update this post.

If I have over looked a method of transferring images before wood burning them, please drop me a comment and I will give it a try!!