Green man wood carving tutorial

Carve a captivating green man.


Follow this green man wood carving tutorial to create your very own masterpiece using just a carving knife (with suggestions for other tools that can be substituted).

A symbol steeped in folklore and nature, this little whittle is characterized by green vegetation, leaf motifs, a prominent nose, and his flowing beard and mustache.

Green man wood carving

This super-fun wood carving is filled with intricate details-from the delicately veined leaves to the distinctive facial features-that give our green man his unique identity.

Grab your knife and let's get carving! 

What you will need for your green man wood carving

  • Start with a wood block (I used basswood) that is 1 x 1 x 3 inches (2.5 x 2.5 x 7.6 cm). 
  • I will show you how to carve this green man wood carving with just a knife, but suggest places where you may want to use a V-tool or U-gouge.
  • I can never stress enough how important it is to wear a good carving glove. If you carve over your lap, also protect your legs with a hard piece of wood or even a simple cutting board.  
  • Keep a pencil, eraser, and a ruler nearby for a few quick measurements and for freehand sketching. 
  • A free painting guide is provided at the end if you want your green man wood carving to look like mine. 

Green man wood carving tutorial at-a-glance

Watch this short video to see the key steps for this green man wood carving before you start to carve him. 

Set up your green man wood carving

You will carve off the corner for this green man wood carving tutorial, which will give you more room to work with. 

Sketch a guideline that is about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the bottom all around (photo 1).

Add another guideline that is 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) higher to mark the bottom of the nose (photo 1). It should extend about 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) on each side of the wood block. 

Sketch a third guideline that is 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) higher to mark the eyeline (photo 1). It can be a tiny bit shorter than your nose guideline. Also, angle this guideline slightly from the top down (on each side of the block) to make it easy to set up the eyes (photo 1). 

Make a stop cut across each side of the nose guideline (photo 2). Use your knife to meet this cut and remove wood from under it. Tip: I like to carve several layers (visible in photo 2) before I make one cut along the nose guideline to remove all the layers of wood. This helps avoid wood fuzzies and gives your piece a cleaner look.  

Make a stop cut to separate the eye line (photo 4). Use your knife to remove wood from underneath, carving up to the eye line (photo 5). 

Wood block with guidelines a green man1. Guidelines are sketched
Undercutting stop cut on green man3. Removing wood
Making a stop cut on green man2. Making a stop cut
Carving eyeline on green man4. Eye line stop cut
Cutting up to stop cut on green man5. Carving up to eyeline

Roughout the shape of your green man wood carving

First, sketch the eyes and nose on your green man wood carving to reserve the wood for placement (photo 6).

Use your knife to remove wood to flatten the front and back surface of the wood block (photo 7) a bit. You can use a paring cut or a push cut here.

Sketch the front design of your green man wood carving (photo 8). Make sure you reserve enough wood above the eyes to allow for his bushy eyebrows (photo 8). I used a stop cut to separate the bottom of the eyebrows from the top of the eye line (visible in photo 10) to make it easy to place the eyes later.  

Tip: I find it easier to keep one long eyebrow (a unibrow) across and wait until later to slightly separate it with a pyramid cut (completed in photo 29). This helps prevent the wood from crumbling.

Using V-cuts, slightly separate the head on the sides and back (photo 9 and visible in photos 33,34). 

Use pyramid cuts to remove the triangles around each side of the mustache (photo 10).

Eyes and nose are sketched for wood carved green man6. Eyes and nose are sketched
Flattening wood carved green man7. Flattening the wood block
Front sketch of wooden green man8. Front design is sketched
Separating head on green man9. Separating head around
Making pyramid cut on green man10. Making a pyramid cut

Separate the front of your green man 

Separate the details on the front of your green man wood carving (photo 11). I held my knife like a pencil to make my first cut and then made a second slicing cut. You could also use a paring cut. Or, you could use a V-tool here.

Separate the nose (photo 12) and start to shape the nose. I held the piece upside down and shaved wood off to narrow the top of the nose (photo 13).

Sketch the nostrils on the nose (photo 14), which we will carve in the next section. 

Separating mustache on wooden green man11. Separating the mustache
Carving nose on wooden green man12. Separating the nose
Shaping the nose on green man13. Shaping the nose
Nostrils are marked on wooden green man14. Nostrils are marked

Continue to carve details on your green man

You can make a slicing cut to shape the nostrils (photo 15), or use a U-gouge. If using a knife, it may help to start in the middle of the nostril and work your way outward on each side. You can also hold your piece upside down and scoop the wood off under the nostrils (photo 16). 

I carved the left nostril with a U-gouge and I used a knife on the right nostril. They pretty much look the same (visible in photo 21). 

Continue to separate the side leaves (photos 17,19). I used pyramid cuts to carve the leaves on the top of the head (photo 18). Be careful here because the end grain can be tough to carve. I removed wood in several layers to avoid breaking my knife tip.  

Mark a spot between the eyes (photo 20) where you will make a narrow V-cut to separate the eyes (completed in photo 21).

Carving nostril on wooden green man15. Carving the nostril
Turning nose upside down on wood green man16. Shaping the nostril
Separating sides on wood carved green man17. Separating side leaves
Carving top leaves on green man18. Separating top leaves
Carving side leaves on green man19. Separating more leaves
Placement for eyes on wooden green man20. Eyes are marked for cutting

Add more details to your green man wood carving

Now that you carved the front of your green man (photo 21), sketch the leaves on the back (photo 22) and sides (photos 23,24). You can sketch some large diamonds. They do not have to be the same size or shape.

Progress on from of wood carved green manh21. Front progress
Back design on wooden green man22. Back design
Right view of design on wooden green man23. Right design
Left view of design on wooden green man24. Left design

Carve more details on your green man

I used narrow V-cuts to separate the leaves on the back (photo 25). You could also use stop cuts, paring cuts, or hold your knife like a pencil. You could also use a V-tool here. 

Once all the leaves are separated, randomly sketch the leaf veins all around (photos 26, 27) and carve them (photo 28). 

Sketch the curvy lines of the bushy eyebrows (photo 26). I made one cut—and a second, narrow slicing cut—with my knife to cleanly remove wood while carving the eyebrows (photo 29). You could also use a V-tool here. 

Also, mark a triangle between the eyebrows (photo 25) that you will remove with a pyramid cut after you carve the details on the eyebrows (to avoid crumbling), which are completed in photos 28, 29.

I made wide V-cuts at an angle with a smaller detail knife to carve the mustache on my green man wood carving (photo 30). You could use a V-tool here as well. Tip: Vary your cuts for interest, but have them flow in one direction. 

Carving back leaves on green man25. Separating back leaves
Leaf details are added to wooden green man26. Adding leaf details
Back leaf details are added to wood green man27. Back view of details
Carving leaf stems on green man28. Carving leaf details
Carving eyebrows on green man29. Carving eyebrows
Carving mustache details on green man30. Adding V-cuts on mustache

Refine your green man wood carving

Carve down the top of your green man to remove the end grain, and to reduce the height slightly (photos 31-34). This is important to ensure that your paint will match the rest of your green man wood carving. 

Clean up your cuts prior to painting. You can also wash the piece with soap and water to remove any pencil marks. 

Front of unpainted wooden green man31. Front view of green man
Right view of unpainted wooden green man32. Right view of green man
Left view of unpainted wooden green man33. Left view of green man
Back of unpainted wooden green man34. Back view of green man

Paint and finish your green man wood carving

Front of painted wood carved green man35. Painted green man (front)
Right view of wood carved green man36. Painted green man (right)
Left view of painted wood carved green man37. Painted green man (left)
Back view of wood carved green man38. Painted green man (back)

Read this page for some great tips about painting a wood carving. Unless noted, I diluted acrylic paints with water to create a thin wash. I recommend these acrylic paints (affiliate link), these paint brushes (affiliate link) and these paint brushes (affiliate link). 

Here are the paint colors I used if you want a similar look:

  • Eyes: Apple Barrel dolphin gray (100% paint).
  • All leaves (base): Folk Art apple orchard wash.
  • Leaf veins: Folk Art bright green wash.
  • Leave accents: CraftSmart green teal wash and quickly blot with a paper towel.
  • Mustache: Folk Art wild wasabi wash.
  • Eye pupils: 100% wild wasabi green. Let dry and use 100% Ceramcoat black applied with a toothpick or mandala dot.
  • Nose and lip: Walnut oil medium. You could also used boiled linseed oil. 
  • Optional Finish: Allow piece to dry overnight. Use a polyurethane spray (at least twice) to properly seal. Add some "turd polish" with a toothbrush and wipe off after a minute or two. Dispose of the paper towels outside as they are flammable. To make turd polish, mix 3 parts Minwax Aged Oak Gel Stain with 1 part of Mineral Spirits. I keep it stored in a glass jar in a cool place. 
  • You could also substitute another type of antiquing medium for turd polish. 

Green man wood carving pattern

Photocopy this pattern to size to make a bigger green man wood carving or to create your roughout with a band saw. 

Pattern to carve a wooden green man

Green man wood carving tutorial summary

  • This green man wood carving tutorial is easy to follow and results in a piece with lots of texture and details.
  • You can carve with just a knife, or use a V-tool and U-gouge in some places.
  • Adding turd polish after sealing the piece with polyurethane spray helps make the details "pop."


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