photoshop creative

How to create fire effects in Photoshop, part 1

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Tips & Tutorials, by The Photoshop Creative Team

Make a bold statement by adding the searing power of fire to your Photoshop artwork using filters and brushes

Download all the files you’ll need for this tutorial here


Create a new document that’s at least 1000×1000 pixels set to 300 pixels per inch. This is a good enough quality to print your finished artwork later.


To start creating our fire texture, we need something malleable. Let’s call upon the Clouds filter. Press D to set your colours to black and white, then go to Filter>Render>Clouds.

 STEP 03

Now that we have some texture to play with, let’s tweak it further to make it look like fire. Go to Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates. Tick Polar to Rectangular, and click OK.


Let’s invert the colours by going to Image>Adjustments>Invert, or you can simply press Cmd/Ctrl+I. This will make the top darker, making the bottom area more flame-like. In just several steps, we already have the foundation for fire.


To accentuate the flames, we’ll boost contrast by applying a Levels adjustment. Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Levels. Click OK. Drag the three sliders so the input levels are 67, 0.52, and 204.


Let’s now start adding colour to the fire. Go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Hue/Saturation. Click OK. Tick Colorize, then set Hue to 32 and Saturation to 100. The fire is too monochromatic, so we’ll add more colour next.


Create a new layer. Click on the foreground colour and enter the hexadecimal code #FF7F32 at the bottom of the Color Picker dialog box. Click OK. Make sure the background colour is still white.


Go to Filter>Render>Clouds. We’ll use this randomized mass for extra coloring. Set the Blend mode to Overlay. You should now see more believable flames. Save the file as Fire.psd.


With the same file, we’ll create an inferno effect. Press Cmd/Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E to stamp visible layers. Go to Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates and tick Rectangular to Polar. Click OK. Go to File>Save As and save as Inferno.psd.


Open Start.psd. This contains a black background and some lines adorned with a few layer styles. Use File>Place to bring Inferno.psd below the Lines layer. Enlarge to cover the whole image before pressing Enter to confirm.


Apply a Layer mask to the Inferno layer using the icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. Use black and a soft, round brush at 100% opacity to paint out the top left area. Soften the transition with a brush at 20% opacity.


Now choose a photo, you can download the one we’ve used from and use your favourite tool to extract. Why not make yourself the central character by striking the pose yourself and have a friend photograph it! For this image, we simply used the Quick Selection tool to select the surrounding colour, then inverted the selection (Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+I).