Carving a Buddha tutorial

Have fun carving a little, peaceful Buddha.


Welcome to this step-by-step guide to carving a Buddha tutorial. If you've ever wanted to create a unique wooden carving with a touch of whimsy, this tutorial is for you. I'll walk you through the process of crafting a peaceful Buddha caricature, complete with a gold-lined hat, a chubby belly, and a serene expression.

By the end of this tutorial, you'll have a charming Buddha figure sitting on stacked rocks (with his feet peeking out), ready to bring a sense of tranquility to any space. Let's get started and discover the joy of carving a truly unique piece! 

Carving a Buddha tutorial

What you will need to carve your Buddha

  • For this carving a Buddha tutorial, you will need a bock of wood that is 1 x 1 x 3 inches (2.5 x 2.5 x 7.6 cm). I prefer basswood, which is easy to carve and holds details well. 
  • You will want to use a ruler to measure your guidelines and a pencil or pen to sketch them and other details. 
  • I always provide a free painting guide at the end of every tutorial to help you get a similar look. If you're new to woodcarving, check out this informative page about painting a woodcarving.
  • You will carve off the corner, which will give you plenty of space for the design. If you want to carve a much larger Buddha (and prefer to use a bandsaw) there is a free pattern at the end of the tutorial. You will have to adapt the instructions below, which are geared to carving with a knife from the original wood block. 
  • Please always protect your hands with a good carving glove and cover your lap with something flat and hard if you plan to carve while sitting. 
  • For this tutorial, I used a U-gouge and micro-U-gouge and provide suggestions if you are only using a knife. 

Carving a Buddha tutorial overview

It may be helpful to watch this short video to see all the steps at one time before you start to carve your Buddha. 

Carving a Buddha tutorial: Set up your wood block

  • Draw your first guideline 1/2-inch (0.6 cm) from the bottom of the block all around to mark the top of the first rock (photo 1). 
  • Draw a second guideline a 1/2-inch (0.6 cm) higher all around to mark the top of the second rock (photo 1). 
  • Your third guideline is 1-inch (2.5 cm) higher, which marks the bottom of the head of the Buddha all around (photo 1). 
  • Now, sketch 2 boxes that are 1/2-inch (0.6 cm) wide and 3/4-inch (1.9 cm) high to reserve space for the feet that will peek out from the the second rock (photo 2). This will give you more than enough wood to work with. 
Guidelines for carving a wood buddha1. Guidelines are sketched
Toe boxes sketched for wood carved buddha2. Toe boxes are sketched

Carving a Buddha tutorial: First cuts

Use stop cuts to separate the first rock all around (photo 3). You can also slightly round the corners on the rock all around (photo 4). 

Sketch a new guideline across the mid-line of your foot box (photo 5). Note: You can carve off the previous guidelines as you won’t need to reserve that much wood (see photo 5).

Use a stop cut to separate the midline on both sides (photo 6), removing wood from above your cut. Now, use your knife to separate the vertical guideline (photo 7). This will give you access to carve the feet later in the tutorial.  

Making a stop cut for wood carved Buddha3. Making a stop cut
Rounding rock on wood carved Buddha4. Rounding the rock
Toe guidelines on wood carved Buddha5. Foot area resketched
Using stop cut to carve wood buddha guideline6. Stop cut across the midline
Separating toe box on wood carved buddha7. Separating the foot box

Carving a Buddha tutorial: More rounding

Round and shape the second rock on the front (photo 8). You will finalize the shape later.

Mark a triangle on each side (photo 9) where you will later remove wood to carve the protruding feet. 

Separate the second rock on the back (photo 10).

Starting to round rock on wooden Buddha8. Rounding the second rock (front)
Wood marked for removal on Buddha9. Wood is marked
Starting to separate the back on wood carved Buddha10. Separating the rock (back)

Carving a Buddha tutorial: Add details

Slightly round all the sharp corners (visible in photos 11-14).

Sketch additional details including the ear boxes that are about 1/2-inch (0.6 cm) square (photos 11-14). Sketch the eye line at an angle (about 1/2-inch [0.6 cm] on each side. The nose guideline is also about 1/2-inch (0.6 cm) wide.

Loosely sketch the arms on each side (photos 11-14), which are about 1/2-inch (0.6 cm) wide. Reserve wood for each hand (photo 11). 

Facial details sketched on wooden Buddha 11. Details are added
Right view of sketched details for wood carved Buddha 12. Right view of details
Left view of sketched details on wood carved Buddha13. Left view of details
Back view of sketched details for wooden Buddha14. Back view

Carve the head of your Buddha

Make a stop cut under the nose guideline (photo 15).

Sketch the facial details (photo 16). Note: I later simplified the mouth design to make it easier to carve (see photo 28). 

Shape the nose and eye socket. I run my knife along the nose and eye socket guidelines first (you can use a paring cut or hold your knife like a pencil), then slip my knife under the wood near the nose guideline (photo 17), and carve up to the eye socket. This will give you more access to further shape the nose. You could also use a V-tool here. 

Now, use stop cuts to separate each ear (photo 18) and the head from the body all around (photo 19). 

Cutting under the nose of wood carved Buddha15. Carving the nose
Head details are sketched o wooden Buddha16. Face details are sketched
Carving up to eye socket on wood carved Buddha17. Carving up to the eye socket
Separating ear on wood carved Buddha18. Separating the ear
Separating neck of wood carved Buddha19. Separating the head

Carve more Buddha details

Separate the arms, which will give you greater access to shape the belly. I start with a pyramid cut (photo 20) in the crook of each arm. You could also use a V-tool for separating all the details on your Buddha. 

Use stop cuts to separate the arm along the side (photo 21) and back.

Sketch the cheeks and mark where you will round the face (photo 22). Sketch the Buddha’s chest and his loincloth (photo 22). 

Separate the details you just carved (photo 23). You can use whatever cuts you prefer here. I switched between paring cuts, and moving my knife along the guidelines, to make my first cut. Then I made a second slicing cut. 

Carving the arm on wood carved Buddha20. Starting pyramid cut
Using stop cut to separate arm on wood carved Buddha21. Separating the arm
Face details are sketched on wood carved Buddha22. More sketched details
Carving chest on wood carved Buddha23. Separating details

Carve the back of your Buddha

Use a pyramid cut to carve the back arms of your Buddha (photo 24). Use stop cuts to separate the waist band, removing wood from above (photo 25).

Sketch the smile lines and the eyelid lines (photo 26) and separate them (photo 27). You can hold your knife like a pencil or use a paring cut here.

Sketch the mouth (photo 28) and use your knife to separate it (completed in photo 29). You could use a paring cut or hold your knife like a pencil. 

Carving the back of the wooden Buddha24. Carving the back arms
Carving the waist on wood carved Buddha25. Separating the waist band
Frown lines are added to wood carved Buddha26. Sketched smile lines and eyelids
Separating the frown line on wood carved Buddha27. Separating smile line
Mouth is sketched on wood carved Buddha28. Mouth is resketched

Carving a Buddha tutorial: The ears

I used a U-gouge (#11) to remove wood from the inside of the ears (photo 29). I start from one side and switch to the other side to avoid grain issues. Don’t dig too deeply. Tip: If you don‘t have this gouge, you can make a pyramid cut. The top of your triangle should be in the middle of the ear. 

Gently use your knife to round the outer ear. 

To shape the back of the ear, make your first cut along the ear (photo 30) and gently slice wood off. Take your time. Tip: If you break the ear, use wood glue and wait 24 hours before continuing.

Using U gouge to carve inner ear on wooden Buddha29. Carving the inner ear
Shaping back of ear on wooden Buddha30. Shaping back of ear

Sketch more details on your Buddha

Sketch where you will carve the Buddha’s cloak around the chest and his lower arms (photos 31-33).

Add the fingers and the toes (photos 31-34).

Sketch the bottom of the Buddha's hat on the sides (photos 32,33) and back (photo 34).

Front details on wood carved Buddha31. Front details are sketched
Right details on wood carved Buddha32. Right side details
Left details on wood carved Buddha33. Left side details
Back details on wood carved Buddha34. Back detail

Carve more Buddha details 

Use stop cuts to carve the top and arms of the cloak (photo 35), removing wood from around your cuts. Use shallow V-cuts to add some wrinkles to the cloak (completed in photo 36).

Use shallow V-cuts to carve the fingers. Tip: Look at your own hand to see how the fingers differ in length (completed in photo 34). Before you separate the fingers, make a cut at an angle, starting midway on the hands, so the tops of the fingers will slightly slope down. 

Use shallow V-cuts to carve the toes (completed in photos 36-39). Tip: Take your time here.  

Shape the top rock and remove wood on each corner (photo 36) to create shadow (completed in photo 38). I switched to a smaller detail knife here. 

Separate the hat all around (you can use stop cuts or paring cuts). Rotate a U-gouge (#11) to create the design on the front (photo 37). You could also use a detail knife here or skip this step. 

Carving cloak on wood carved Buddha35. Carving the cloak
Shaping rock wood carved Buddha is sitting on36. Shaping the rocks
Carving hat on wood carved Buddha37. Adding hat details

Refine your wood carved Buddha

Refine your Buddha as needed. Check for symmetry in the arms and hands. I removed a little more wood from the bottom of the head. I also removed wood from the tops of the eyelids (carving at a slightly downward angle) to create shadow (visible in photo 38).

Note: After painting I decided to add the belly button and nipples (visible in photo 42) with a micro-U gouge. You could also use a pin vise, or a metal screw, to create these shallow holes. 

Clean up wood fuzzies with your knife, a dental brush, or sandpaper. 

Front view of unpainted wood carved Buddha38. Front of unpainted Buddha
Right view of unpainted wood carved Buddha39. Right view of Buddha
Left view of unpainted wood carved Buddha40. Left view of Buddha
Back view of unpainted wood carved Buddha41. Back view of unpainted Buddha

Paint your wood carved Buddha

Unless noted, all acrylic paints are diluted with water (called a wash). I highly recommend these acrylic paints (affiliate link), these paint brushes (affiliate link) and these paint brushes (affiliate link). A thin brush or a toothpick are useful for tight spaces. 

  • Hat, cloak, and loincloth: Ceramcoat metallic rose gold wash. Use 100% paint to accentuate the cut lines. 
  • Hat border: Ceramcoat metallic gold wash. 
  • Lips: Very diluted wash with Winsor & Newton red iron oxide. Later I used a toothpick to add some 100% Apple Barrel flamenco red for extra pop. 
  • Cheeks, top of eyelids, and top of ears: Very diluted wash with Winsor & Newton red iron oxide.
  • Top rock: first coat with FolkArt steel gray wash, reserve wash, and let dry. Then, add one drop of Ceramcoat black to resErie and apply by pressing brush bristles against wood and quickly wipe off with paper towel. Save leftover paint. Lightly sandpaper. Let dry completely and dry brush with Craftsmart ivory.
  • Bottom rock: Use leftover paint (steel gray plus black). Lightly sandpaper. Let dry completely and dry brush with Craftsmart ivory.
  • Face, ears, body, hands, and feet: Walnut oil medium. You could also use boiled linseed oil.
  • Eyelashes, bindi, earrings, and hat border: Thin black magic marker. 
  • Highlights: 100% Ceramcoat metallic gold applied with a toothpick to the eyelashes, belly button, earrings and bindi. 
  • Cut lines after drying: Americana oak gel stain. Apply with brush and wipe off with paper towel or cloth. 
Front of painted wood carved Buddha42. Front of painted Buddha
Right view of painted wood carved Buddha43. Right view of painted Buddha
Right view of painted wood carved Buddha44. Left view of painted Buddha
Back view of painted wood carved Buddha45. Back view of painted Buddha

Free Buddha wood carving pattern

Simply photocopy this pattern to size to fit your wood block. 

Free pattern to wood carve a cool Budhha

Carving a Buddha tutorial summary

  • This step-by-step tutorial will guide you to carve a whimsical Buddha with his feet poking out from a rock.
  • The many intricate details help make this an interesting carve. 
  • Metallic paint works well for the hat, loincloth, and cloak, but feel free to vary up the colors if you want. 


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