Q&A: Fire

Can you help me de­pict a crea­ture in flames please? Mani Chaud­hury, In­dia

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Paco replies

First, bear in mind that, un­less there’s a strong source of light in the scene, the fire should be the bright­est el­e­ment. The burn­ing ob­ject should be painted in dark tones, even if it’s a light colour. This is cru­cial be­cause if the im­age isn’t lit re­al­is­ti­cally then the fire isn’t go­ing to look like fire.

Once the ob­ject is fin­ished, it’s time to add the flames. I sur­round the ob­ject with or­ange or red flames, and then paint the bright yel­low flames be­hind, to en­ve­lope the ob­ject with­out hid­ing it com­pletely. When paint­ing the flames, use Soft brushes and mix layer modes such as Screen, Soft Light and Over­lay. This makes it eas­ier to blend the flames and the ob­ject to­gether.

It’s im­por­tant to spend some time try­ing to un­der­stand the shapes of fire, be­cause not all the flames are the same. Watch videos of fires and you’ll no­tice long, sin­u­ous flames along­side short, fast-mov­ing flames. Ad­just your brush set­tings to achieve the right shapes. As a fi­nal touch, adding some in­can­des­cent ashes fly­ing around the fire can re­ally sell the idea.

Paint the fire with a com­bi­na­tion of Soft Light, Over­lay, Screen and Nor­mal lay­ers. This is a good way to deal with light and colour.

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