Ques­tion

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How do I paint the muz­zle flash of a fir­ing gun?

Lau­rie Bom­ford, Eng­land

An­swer

Tony replies

A muz­zle flash is ba­si­cally a small ex­plo­sion. The core will be the bright­est, with darker val­ues and colour be­ing added as you move fur­ther out. I pre­fer a rough brush when paint­ing the edges, be­cause you’re not go­ing to find many clean lines any­where in the blast. Once the main shape is in, stick a clip­ping mask over it and start adding the high-sat­u­ra­tion warm colours to all around the edges.

Look up dif­fer­ent muz­zle flashes and pay at­ten­tion to the shapes they make. Th­ese can vary, but this is a good time to use your il­lus­tra­tor brain to de­cide which kind of flash creates the mood you’re look­ing for. It’s up to you how much you want to ex­ag­ger­ate. Muz­zle flashes in films tend to be over the top, be­cause the blanks they use are specif­i­cally made to cre­ate large, dra­matic bursts (es­pe­cially when it’s added in later with CG). But still, this is an il­lus­tra­tion, and you may want to con­sider ex­ag­ger­at­ing the blast to push the art. The big­ger the gun, though, the big­ger the flash, so with things like mounted weapons you should be paint­ing it pretty huge.

Once you’re happy with the main shape, flat­ten it, copy it, then use Fil­ter> Gaus­sian Blur to cre­ate a light halo ef­fect. Ad­just the Opac­ity of the layer to keep things as sub­tle as you like.

Since any burst of flames in your paint­ing is go­ing to act as a light source, be sure its colours can be seen on sur­round­ing ob­jects. The core of the muz­zle flash will fea­ture the bright­est colours, verg­ing on white. Use a rough brush to lay th­ese colours down.

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