How do I paint the muzzle flash of a firing gun?
Laurie Bomford, England
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.