Transferring the outline of an owl from a color photograph to a gourd for wood burning.
After several years of burning animals and scenes on gourds I have a simple way of transferring the picture to the gourd. This technique can be used with any design you may want to put on a gourd.
These instructions show how I transferred the outline of the owl from a photo however I have used this technique with a sketch I have drawn in my sketch book.
For a while, owls have been in my head as something I wanted to burn on a gourd. When friend and photographer Geoff Smith photographed an owl at a park in Huntington Beach CA and posted it on Facebook, I knew this was the owl I was waiting for. It was beautiful and since I needed a photo to work from I asked Geoff’s permission to use his photo for my next pyrography project.
I thought I would share you with you my process to transfer a color photo to a gourd.
1. Start by making your color photo into a black and white photo. I like to adjust the contrast and balance to bring out more of the values. My program of choice is Photoshop but just about every photo editing program will allow you to strip out color and adjust contrast and balance.
2, Try to judge the actual size you will need. Print it up at the final size. This may take several attempts to get it right!
3. Cut a piece of “Press ‘n’ Seal” and place it onto the black and white copy. Smooth it down so it sticks to the picture.
Update. I have since learned that “Press ‘n’ Seal”, is toxic when burned on. Even though I wear a respirator and have a fan blowing the smoke away from me, I am pretty protective of my body and will no longer use it. I am using graphic paper now and hand sketching to transfer my image.
4. Using a very fine tip permanent marker, draw your outline on to the plastic. When doing this, try to only draw the lines you need to guide you later, after you remove the plastic wrap. As you can see from the photo, I only outlined the actual owl body, his eyes, beak and a few feathers. I refer to these as my “registration” lines and allows me to get all the necessary elements in the right place to start with.
5. Remove the plastic wrap from the picture and cut around it so that you don’t have a lot of excess plastic.
6. Position the wrap on the gourd until you like the way it looks by stretching and sticking it to the gourd. You can remove and reposition the wrap until you get it perfect. If you find areas where the plastic wrap just won’t touch the gourd, cut it as I did in the picture below. You can pencil in the line if you need to, You may also need to fold the wrap to get it to fit better,
The picture below shows where I drew in a pencil line to extend a cut line as well as where I had to fold the wrap to make it fit better.
7. Start burning your outline… yes, right through the plastic wrap!! Be sure to check to make sure you are actually making a mark. The plastic will shrink up and away from your tip when the heat hits it.
8. Continue to lightly burn all the outlines. When finished remove the plastic wrap
9. Because oils come out of the gourd skin when you burn on it, it is a good idea to clean it off using a solvent before painting so that you can be sure all the paint will stick and any pencil lines you may have drawn will be removed.