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Photoshop Tips: Creating a Quick Fire Effect

Updated on May 11, 2013
Finished Product, with a black background
Finished Product, with a black background


Through my journeys in digital painting in Photoshop, the one thing that bothered me the most was fires. A good fire can add a lot of color and atmosphere to a scene, but a blob of red and orange... let's just say I avoided adding fires.

But that was before I discovered this technique. It allows you to create a fire fitted to the unique situation, even bending around something if needed.

The empty canvas
The empty canvas
The birth of a flame
The birth of a flame


Open a new document in Photoshop roughly the size of the fire you want. It doesn't have to be exact, as you can resize it later, but err on the side of too large, because cropping off empty space is better than stretching your image.

Fill the image with black.

Come on, it'll make your fire look really cool... er- hot.

Step 1: Source

Select your brush tool, set the color to pure white, and fiddle with the hardness setting until you get a smooth circle as shown. This will be your basis for your fire, place over whatever is burning.

Step 2: Fan the Fire

Now select the smudge tool. Set the size rather small in comparison to your "ball of flame", you're going to make the individual tongues now.

The color balance window
The color balance window
After color balancing
After color balancing

Step 3: Crank up the Heat

Here's where things really take shape. Go up to the "image" dropdown list and under "adjustments" select "color balance". Here you can play around for the best fire, but for starters, let's use these settings:

  • Shadows: Top slider = +30, bottom slider = -20
  • Midtones: Top slider = +100, bottom slider = -100
  • Highlights: Bottom slider = +100

This will tell Photoshop that you want all the dark colors a middle-intensity orange, the medium colors a high intensity orange, and the lightest colors yellow.

The image on the right below shows what your fire will look like after applying these settings.

The photo filter window
The photo filter window

Step 4: Further Adjustments

Not bad! But still, not many fires I've seen are pure white at the center. Let's fix that next.

Select the "Image" dropdown list again. Under "Adjustments" select "Photo Filter".

In the window that pops up, you're given an area to choose from a selection of preset filters, or make you own; and an area to set the intensity of the filter, and whether or not it darkens the image it's applied to.

I chose the preset filter "yellow" with an intensity of 30% with "preserve luminosity" unchecked (allowing the filter to darken the white).

Finished fire
Finished fire

Step 5: Isolation of the Inflammation

You can stay at that last step and tweak the colors to your hearts content, or you can crop out the black and integrate it into your project.

This is the easiest part.

Under the "Select" dropdown menu choose "Color Range...".

Select the black.

Click OK.



Closing Notes

  • You can adjust the transparency of the layer to make a lighter fire.
  • Animating a fire in this way is harder than you'd think, if anyone can do it I tip my hat to him/her.


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    • Jordan Hake profile imageAUTHOR

      Jordan Hake 

      6 years ago from Southwest Missouri, USA

      Good luck! Keep us posted on how that works out!

    • idigwebsites profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      I don't have a Photoshop in my laptop (as it requires big storage)... but I think it's possible to create that with Pixlr, which resembles Photoshop in a way... might try this, this is fun! Thanks for sharing. Up and shared. :)

    • Jordan Hake profile imageAUTHOR

      Jordan Hake 

      6 years ago from Southwest Missouri, USA

      No problem, glad I could be of assistance.

      Hope you get your suite soon!

    • profile image

      Noah M 

      6 years ago

      Thanks! I'll probably just hold out for the whole professional Creative Suite... someday very far away. Thanks for the help!

    • Jordan Hake profile imageAUTHOR

      Jordan Hake 

      6 years ago from Southwest Missouri, USA

      I'm afraid I haven't tried Elements. My only experience is with the full version. However, my understand from reading here and there, is that Elements will work well for you unless you're asking for professional quality design.

      If you visit you can find some further answers that I hope will help you make up your mind.

      Good luck!

    • profile image

      Noah M 

      6 years ago

      Hey, I'm ordering a T3i pretty soon from Amazon, and noticed I can get $20 off Adobe Photoshop Elements (waaay cheaper than the actual Photoshop). Have you had any experience with this program versus the much more expensive Photoshop?

    • Jordan Hake profile imageAUTHOR

      Jordan Hake 

      6 years ago from Southwest Missouri, USA

      @rondmrn: I'm glad you liked it, but it may be some time until I can get another Photoshop article out... then again, maybe not, it just depends on when I figure these techniques out. :)

    • rondmrn profile image

      Ron Mariano 

      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      A nice basic effect yet can be useful for artwork. Thanks for this! Looking forward to more graphic design articles :)


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