Affinity Designer for iPad: Wood Burn Effect Tutorial

In this step by step tutorial, I will show you my process for creating this fun wood burn effect using Affinity Designer. You can find the companion video tutorial here, on my YouTube Channel.

While I will be using the iPad version of the app, the process is the same in the desktop version so, as long as you know where the tools are, you can easily follow along. Let’s get started!

Creating Your Canvas

While flat vectors can be infinitely scaled without loss of quality, vectors that have raster elements added to it, like they will here, cannot. This isn’t as big of a deal if this is something you will just post online where the standard dpi is 72, however, if you plan to print it, you need to plan accordingly.

In order to avoid pixelation and muddiness of textures, always create your original document to the largest size you plan to print, and make sure your dpi is at least 300. You can always size down but you cannot size up without loss of quality so plan ahead.

I am going to set my document up at 10×10 inches at 300 dpi (set yours to whatever works best for you)

Before we continue, I want to mention that my tools are set up for a left handed person so our tools may be flipped opposite of one another.

My Color Palette & Font

I am using a particular color palette and font. You can use whatever color palette and font you would like.

If you would like to use the same color palette as I am, you can download it here. (The password is “woodburn.”) Please note, color palettes are handled differently between Designer for iPad and desktop so I have included the downloads for both as well as two videos showing you how to load them in to both.

I have also included a list of free font sites where you can find a font to use, if you don’t already have one you would like to use. Alternatively, you can use your own lettering or shapes you create using the Rectangle, Pen or Pencil tools; it’s totally up to you! One recommendation I do have is that you create this effect on an object with a decent amount of surface area so that you can really see the effect.

Creating the Wood Placard

I am going to create a rounded rectangle for my placard but you can start with any shape you would like.

The color doesn’t matter as it’s going to be filled with a texture. The iPad version of Affinity Designer doesn’t have a rounded rectangle baked in though the desktop version does. However, it’s really easy to create a rounded rectangle on the iPad using the Corner Tool.

Start with a rectangle shape by grabbing one from the Rectangle tool.

Keep in mind, when using the Rectangle tool, you are creating a Shape Layer, not a curve which means you won’t have nodes to work with. In order to use the Corner tool, you will need to convert this.

With the rectangle selected, tap “To Curves,” in the contextual menu at the bottom. (If you don’t see it at the bottom go to the Edit Menu at the top… the three dots… and select “Convert to Curves.”) This will change your shape to a curve and now you’ll be able to use the Corner Tool.

With the rectangle selected, tap on the Corner Tool (it looks like a line through a curved path that has three nodes on it) If you are unable to find it, tap and hold the question mark at the bottom of the screen and labels will pop up.

Now you should see four nodes on the four corners of the rectangle. You want to select all of them so drag your Apple Pencil or stylus across the entire shape (while you still have the Corner Tool selected) until you see the four nodes colored blue like below.

Go back to the contextual menu at the bottom and start dragging up from the icon marked Radius. You can also key in a specific number; in this case I have keyed in 185 px. That’s it! You have made a rounded rectangle. Let’s add some texture to it; but first, let me introduce you to the Stock Studio.

Affinity Designer’s Stock Studio

Whether you’re looking for a reference photo, or texture to use in your work, you should always make sure you’re using what are called, “free use images.” This means that the photographer who put it out there did so with the express permission that you can use it as needed without violating Copyright. (A note: Google is great for finding random odd facts or the local restaurant but not necessarily the best for finding images to use in your work! You may be inadvertently violating Copyright)

The cool thing about the Stock Studio is that it is directly linked to three of the top Free Use Image sites: Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay. No need to leave the app, you can pull images right in to your canvas and know that you are using an image that is safe to use.

So let’s go to the Stock Studio and grab a texture image file to add a wood texture to the placard.

Tap on the Stock Studio Icon (it looks like a photograph) and type “wood” in to your search. At the top of the studio you will see left and right arrows and the name of one of the sites in the middle. You can either use the arrows to key back and forth between the three image sites or tap the name until the drop down box comes up. See the video below:

Find the image of wood that you would like to use. I am going to choose a blemish free, lighter wood without knots that would distract from my design. (Later, we will choose a different one for our burn)

Tap and hold on the image and, when you release it should download directly in to your canvas. You’re ready to clip this to your rounded rectangle.

In the Layers Studio, with the Move Tool, select the wood layer. Size it accordingly if it doesn’t cover your original rectangle. Next drag it over the Rounded Rectangle layer, keeping your pencil/stylus to the right of the layer (dragging to the left is a different function).

Once you see a horizontal blue line over the middle of the rectangle layer, release and you should see the wood texture clip within the bounds of the shape.

If you go back to your Layers Studio, you should see the wood texture layer clipped as a child layer beneath the rectangle (if you don’t see it, look for an arrow to the left of the rectangle layer and click on it) This means it’s clipped within the rectangle but still it’s own separate layer which means you can grab the Move tool and drag it around, size it up or down, etc.

Ok so we have the wood texture in place but the placard is still looking pretty lifeless. Let’s add some effects to breathe a little life in to it.

Adding Drop Shadow and Highlights with the FX Studio

The effects in the FX Studio are all non-destructive which means you can add them to your objects and go back in at any time and adjust or completely delete them. I prefer to work non-destructively as much as possible because it prevents me from having to either go in with an eraser or, worse, completely start over.

Select your rectangle layer and tap on the FX Studio icon. You should see a list of ten effects that you can add plus a tab called Styles (don’t tap that… stay where you are)

The first effect we are going to add is a drop shadow to give the placard some height. But first, determine which direction you want your imaginary light source to come from. We will be adding highlights and shadow to several objects in this illustration and you want to be sure you follow the same direction on all of them so that it is cohesive.

I am going to assume my light source is coming from the top left corner which means my drop shadow should be on the bottom right corner of my placard and the highlights will be at the top left.

With the rectangle selected, tap the toggle next to “Outer Shadow,” to turn the effect on, then tap the name “Outer Shadow,” to bring up it’s contextual menu. You can play around with this or use the settings I have in the picture below:

We may end up adjusting this once we add our background brick but, for now, I think this gives a nice amount of drop shadow to the piece of wood. Let’s go ahead and add some highlights.

In that same FX Studio, toggle on “3D,” then tap the name to get the contextual menu. Here’s where it’s going to get a little tricky. Remember I wrote above that the highlights will be at the top left? Well it may not place them exactly where you want them when you first turn it on. In my case, the highlights are at the right side of the wood.

To move them where I want them, I am going to go down to the contextual menu and tap the right facing arrow until I see an icon labeled, “Azimuth.”

Azimuth’s actual definition is the “direction of a celestial body.” In Affinity Designer’s case, Azimuth is going to help us direct our highlights where we want them. If your highlights aren’t where you want them, start dragging up from the Azimuth icon until they are placed correctly. I am going to drag mine to the top left corner.

Once they’re in place, if you want to increase the depth of the highlight, scroll back to the beginning of the contextual menu using the left facing arrow. There you can play with the Radius/Depth as well as the Softness until it’s where you want them. Here are my settings:

OK we are done with the placard for now. (I know… that was a long road but we are halfway there!) Let’s go ahead and add our numbers.

Using the Text Studio to Add Fonts

Again, you can use any object with this wood burn effect but, in my case, I am going to use a font, spelling out the number, “2021.” I am going to use a font called “Sigmar One.” You can use any font or shape you would like but again, this works best with larger surface areas.

I will tap my Text Studio and choose, “Art Text,” then start dragging out a letter where I want to place it and key in 2021. (To change the font, use the Text Studio on the other side… just make sure you select and highlight the word first so that it knows what to change)

I want to size this up so that it fits the placard nicely. I prefer to size up using the Move Tool as I find it a lot easier than keying in numbers in the Text Studio.

Next, I’ll center this within the placard. With my Snapping on (the magnet at the bottom corner of the screen) I can drag it around until I see the vertical green line and horizontal red line. That means I am dead center on the shape below it, in this case the placard.

My font is in place but this is still rather flat and boring. I want to add a texture to it as well as some effects to give it that “wood burn,” feel.

First things first, I need to convert my font from a text layer to individual curves so that I can add texture to it as well as work with each number separately.

In the Layers Studio, select the Art Text layer, go up to the Edit Menu on the main screen (three dots in a shaded circle) and select “Convert to Curves,” just like we did with the rectangle in the beginning. Now, in your Layers Studio you should see the Art Text layer converted to a group and, under that group, see four separate curve layers for each number or letter you added. Let’s add some texture and effects.

Adding the Wood Burn Effect

I’m treating my “placard,” as if it is a piece of composite wood that I’m burning in to. That means it has a beautiful, blemish free veneer (the original wood texture I chose) and the core of the composite is a less expensive, more striated and knotty piece. Selecting a different piece of wood texture that has more “character,” drives home the wood burn effect. So I’ll select a second wood texture from the Stock Studio to add to my numbers.

Now, I can’t add a Clipping Mask to a group (it will only make the texture a part of the group not actually clip it) so I need to add my new wood texture to each individual number. I can start by adding it to one then duplicate it three times for the other three numbers.

I’ll clip my wood texture to the first number, in this case the number 1. It’s going to look rather flat because it’s currently set at a Blend Mode of “Normal.” I want to change this to “Multiply” so that I get the texture from the wood grain but the color from the font beneath it.

With the wood texture layer selected, go to the Layer Options at the top of the Layer Studio (three dots) and change the blend mode to “Multiply.” See the video below:

Now, duplicate that wood texture as many times as you need for the rest of the layers. In my case, I will duplicate it three times by selecting it, heading back up to the main Edit Menu (three dots on the main screen) and selecting Duplicate until I have as many as I need.

They will all be sitting on top of one another so the original number will have darkened greatly; that will change as we begin to move them. Clip each of the duplicates to the other numbers and move them over to sit over the top of their clip partners. Repeat that process until all four wood textures are clipped to each of the four numbers and sitting over the top of them. This is how my numbers and layer panel looks:

Now, while the numbers are darker than the rest of the placard it still doesn’t have that word burn effect; it looks like the numbers are stained on. Let’s add some effect.

Using Inner Shadow, Inner and Outer Glow

We want this to have the impression that we burned down in to a thick piece of wood. In order to portray that, we need to add an inner shadow within the bounds of the numbers to give a sense of depth.

With Affinity Designer, you don’t have to recreate each effect on each number, you can add all of your effects to one layer, copy it then paste the effects to the remaining layers.

I’m going to select my curve layer for the number 1 and go back to the FX Studio. I’ll toggle on Inner Shadow, tap the name to get the contextual menu and set the following numbers:

This is a start but it’s still not quite there with the, “wood burn,” feel so let’s add another effect. This time, with the “1” layer selected, I’m going to toggle on and select “Inner Glow.” This is going to give me a nice glow around the inner edge of the entire number which is what would happen if I were burning in to wood.

The first thing I want to do is change the “Color,” in the contextual menu to a dark brown color from within the number itself. I’ll tap on the color dot then select the eye dropper tool from the top corner of that fly out. Drag the eye dropper tool around the inside of the number until you find a dark brown pixel, select it and release. The color dot in the contextual menu should change to that color. Change your blend mode to, “Multiply.”

Keep the Origin on, “Edge,” and adjust your Opacity, Radius and Intensity. Here are my settings:

OK much better but there is one final thing I want to add… a char around the outside of the number. While you would normally sand this off (or mask your wood to prevent it from happening all together) I add this because I think it adds to the overall “wood burn,” feel. We are going to use the Outer Glow effect for this.

With the same layer selected, toggle on then select “Outer Glow,” to bring up the contextual menu. This time sample a color from the original wood texture (the lighter one) as this effect is going to be sitting on top of that so we want it to be complementary. I have selected a beige color from my texture.

Next, set your Blend Mode to “Color Burn.” You won’t see anything at first because we need to change the radius first. Start increasing your Radius and Intensity until you see a “char” on the outside of the number and it suits your needs. You can also darken the color a bit by tapping on Color and moving the color wheel.

Here is what mine looks like:

It’s very subtle but noticeable enough that it adds to the effect. Now, let’s copy this and paste it to the other three numbers.

Go to your Layers studio and select the Curve layer you just added the effects to. Go to the Edit Menu on the main screen and select, “Copy.”

Next, tap the layer for one of the other numbers then swipe right to select the other two (make sure you are selecting the numbers and not their texture layers). Go back to the Edit Menu with all three selected and tap “Paste FX.” This will add the same exact effects to the rest of the numbers. See the video below:

Because you are working with individual numbers and not one large curve layer, if you would like, you can go in and adjust the FX for each layer to make each of them slightly different. If not, you have added the wood burn effect! Let’s finish this off with the four screws for the placard and the background texture.

Adding the Screws Using an Ellipse and the Bevel/Emboss Effect

Select the Ellipse from the Rectangle Tool and drag out a circle. To get a perfect circle, hold your finger down on the screen while you drag out. I have selected a light grayish color for mine and want to add a rust texture to them.

Go to the Stock Studio and type in “Rust.” I like to choose a rust texture that has a good contrast and a lot of variation because I want the rust to show well and I also want to be able to vary the texture on each of my four screws for a more realistic effect.

Clip the texture to the Ellipse and change the texture’s blend mode to Multiply. This will allow the texture to remain but the color I chose for the Ellipse will show through. Here’s what mine looks like:

While I like the texture, it looks like a rusty dot just sitting on top of my wood. I want to give it some life so I’ll use the FX Studio again.

With the Ellipse layer selected, go to the FX Studio and toggle, “Bevel/Emboss” on and tap to select it. I want my screw to look like it’s sitting on top of the wood, not inset, so I am going to choose, “Emboss,” in the contextual menu. That will add a highlight to the top left and a shadow to the bottom right which follows the same as the placard so I don’t need to change it.

If yours isn’t where you want it, again, you can use “Azimuth,” to redirect the light. One thing I do want to do is soften my highlight a bit because I’m going to add a 3D effect to it. On the contextual menu, I’ll tap the right facing arrow until I see “Highlight Blend Mode,” and change the opacity to about 50%. I’m also going to darken the shadow (same place) to about 85%.

Next, let’s add a 3D effect. Again, with the Ellipse selected, toggle on and select 3D. Now, in this case, the highlight isn’t where I want it so I’m going to move it to the left slightly using “Azimuth.” I like how it looks so I won’t make any other adjustments but you can adjust the other settings as you need to. Here’s how my screw looks now:

The final step is adding the Phillips head cutout in the screw; for this we will use the Square Star shape in the Rectangle Tool. Select a darker color and drag out a square star, holding your finger down to keep it proportioned. With the Rectangle tool still selected, I am going to drag the red dot on my square star down until the spokes are as thin as I want them. Next, I will go to the contextual menu at the bottom and change the Sides to “4.”

With the Move tool, I will size this down, holding my finger down on the screen to keep it proportioned as I go. Next, I will clip it to my Ellipse layer, keeping it above the rusty texture layer. Here’s what mine looks like:


Change the Blend Mode of the X shape to “Multiply.” We won’t be adding any additional effects to this because it’s such a small space they won’t be noticeable but we do want it to blend in to the Ellipse layer a bit rather than sit on top.


At this point, you can either repeat the process another three times for the other three screws or you can duplicate this one and move them in to the other three corners.

I’m going to duplicate mine and, with Snapping on, move them so that they are lined up nicely with one another. Once I have my four screws in place, the final step is to make some minor adjustments so they don’t all match. (because what are the changes all four screws have exactly the same rust pattern??)

With your Move Tool, select the rusty texture layer on each Ellipse and drag it around so it’s in a different spot than the others. You can also select each of the Ellipse layers themselves and rotate each slightly so that they aren’t all in the same direction. Like below:

Let’s add our background brick and call this done!

Adding the Background Layer to the Illustration

I’m going to use a brick texture from the Stock Studio but you can use any background you would like. First, I want to group all of the placard layers together (the rounded rectangle, the numbers and all four screws) so that I can easily drag my brick behind it and move the placard around with all of it’s elements.

I’ll select all of the layers then tap “Group” at the top of the Layers Studio (it looks like two puzzle pieces together) Next, I’ll head to my Stock Studio and key “brick” in the Search. I want something that isn’t going to compete with my design. I also want something that has a “close up,” feel as the placard has a “zoomed in,” feel.

It’s going to place the brick layer at the top of the layer stack. Just drag it beneath (don’t clip it to) the Group that make up the placard and size it to where you like it.

That’s it! You’re done. Remember, if you would like to watch the video version of this tutorial, you can find it at the bottom of this post. You can use this process on any object you create so have fun with it and try it out on different shapes.

As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to post a comment below. I would love to see what you create so, if you share on social media, please feel free to tag me on Instagram (@tracey.capone) or come join my Facebook group, “Textural Illustration for Digital Artists,” where we share our love of all things texture.

Find all of my full length classes on Affinity Designer and more on my Skillshare channel. If you aren’t already a member, get 14 days of unlimited classes, on everything from digital design, to crafts and cooking, free as my guest. Find my Skillshare channel here.

Thank you for joining me here and Happy Creating!

Find the original video version of this tutorial on my YouTube Channel here:

I am a self taught illustrator, photographer and teacher, located in the Chicago area. I believe in sharing my knowledge whenever I can, allowing students to grow in their own craft, whether it's photography or illustration. I am a Top Teacher on Skillshare where I share my knowledge of the Affinity and Adobe suites, Procreate and more. I also have a YouTube Channel where I share short form tutorials that complement my classes on Skillshare. I share my creative space with my husband, painter Joe Smigielski, and our three entertaining and nutty felines: Jack, LuLu and Sadie.

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