Hello my beautiful experimenters! Happy August! Through these last weeks we have done all sorts of different methods when it comes to coloring your wood burned pieces. For this week, I wanted to talk about something super basic in the wood burning world, and then discuss a new method to really elevate your pieces.
When it comes to getting wood for your art, there’s quite a few different choices out there and different treatments of wood you can buy but for the purposes of this blog let’s keep it simple and just focus on your regular unfinished wood cuts from your local art store. These in my area tend to be basswood or birchwood or even a mixed composite wood slice; your area may have different selections so play around with them and see what you prefer! Getting untreated, unfinished wood allows you even more creative freedom in your pieces. Why you may ask? Let’s find out!
For the piece I created, I used an unfinished, mixed composite wood box that I had a design idea in mind for. I knew I wanted this piece to look finished, which meant stain and sealant while also knowing I didn’t want to take away from the burned in design. Because of what my design is, I wanted to use a shimmer that would give it almost a metal like look to it. Knowing all of these things that I wanted, I decided against using your regular wood stains (these can be highly pigmented, odiferous, and messy to work with too). I opted to use browns, golds, and other neutral watercolors to create my own stained look - with shimmer!
For those wondering what stain looks like on untreated wood with a burning, here’s a picture for reference. As you can see below, it adds a lot of color but really washes out the burned design. This stain is on the darker side and the untreated wood soaked it up very nicely - almost too well! For most pieces, I don’t want the design to be washed out or hidden by stains or color so this is where watercolor comes in!
Using watercolor as your wood stain is just a great tool because of how it adds so much dimension and interest points but also because it doesn’t hide any of the burned design or take away from it. It only adds to the beauty of the piece! Using smiling hippo watercolors with high shimmer adds even more of an extra layer to the “stain” effect brown watercolors can give.
For my piece, as I mentioned earlier, I focused mostly on golds, browns and bronzes to get the coloration I was aiming for! There are sooo many different colorway combinations you can do so play around with it before really doing it on a piece you have a specific vision for!
In the picture above you can see the bronze shimmer I opted for, giving a dark “stain” with a little shimmer when it catches the light. I did this dark color on the first edge and the top of the piece. I opted to do gold on the other edges to give it some more interest. This is what felt right for my piece, and as always, do what feels right for yours!
Using gold as a stain color adds a hint of color to the unfinished wood but keeps it a light wood finish. Using smiling hippo watercolors adds the gorgeous shimmer effect I was looking for. This shimmer catches the light and almost adds a metal feel to the wooden box design. Playing with natural color watercolors allows you to discover what hidden tools you have in your repertoire!
Taking time and being patient as the piece dries and takes up the color is a big thing to note. Not all wood is going to absorb it the same and depending on the amount of water used, the dry time will take longer! I let this piece air dry for multiple days before sealing it in!
Something else you should absolutely note before starting is that dry time is essential. If you touch it before it is dry you will leave fingerprints in the color and will lose some of the shimmer effect too. Sealing it in once it is completely dry is the second part of what’s essential. Not only do you want to protect the wood but you want to protect the color, shimmer and prevent any color leaking. If you live in a humid climate like I do, you will need to give yourself ample dry time for both watercolor and sealant!
Once all dry, seal her up and take in the beautiful work you created!! Notice how once fully dry, it isn’t as dark as well and gives an even cooler effect in the flash of this photo! Can’t wait to see what you all create with this technique! Until next time!