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Create Realistic Fire That Burns

In this tutorial, you will learn how to create realistic-looking fire and flame effects that you can add to any image. Perfect as Halloween is just around the corner (well, sorta!).

Part 1: Step 1

Go to File > New to open a new file (Command +N for Mac or Control+N for PC). The file size can be set according to your requirement. For example, I set my file size to: Width: 800 pixels Height: 600 pixels Resolution: 300 pixels/inch Color mode: RGB

Step 2

Set default color to black and white (press D).

Step 3 Fill the background color with white (CMD+Delete/CTRL+Backspace). 

Step 4

Go to Filter > Render > Difference Clouds. 

Step 5

Continue applying the Difference Clouds filter on the image until the fire pattern is formed(CMD+F/CTRL+F).

Step 6

Go to Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation (CMD+U/CTRL+U). 

Step 7

Select Colorize from check box option BEFORE setting the levels to: Hue: 30 Saturation: 60 Lightness: 0 *Although the fire looks a little orange-y now, it will look more realistic in the following steps. 

Step 8

Duplicate the layer by clicking Layer > Duplicate Layer (CMD+J/CTRL+J), and press OK.

Step 9

Go to Layers Window, change mode from Normal > Soft Light (press F7 to show it if the window is closed). Soften the fire slightly, then modify the color in the next step. *On the other hand, you can also try to use other modes like Color Burn, Overlay or Vivid Light to get the fire color immediately. 

Step 10

Go to Image > Adjustments > Color Balance (CMD+B/CTRL+B) to change “Layer 1 copy” color balance. Set color level to: Shadow: 50, 0, -30 Midtones: 45, 0, -45 Highlights: 70, 0, -50 Make sure you choose the Preserve Luminosity from the Check Box option to enhance brightness and contrast. *Do remember that all settings can be altered according to how you want the fire color to look like. Step 11

Click the small arrow icon in the Layers Window on the top right corner. Then select Flatten Image.

Step 12

Fire is finally created.

If you are not satisfied with the results, or if you wish explore more, the following steps will teach you just how you can re-modify the fire to create flames and use it as a montage element.

Part 2: Step 13

First of all, look at the fire that we had just created. Identify an area which can be modify to become flames. Duplicate the layer by clicking Layer > Duplicate Layer (CMD+J/CTRL+J) and press OK. Then select the Original/Background layer. Click the small arrow icon in the Layers Window on the top right corner and choose Delete Layer (we will need the background to be transparent. That is the reason why we duplicated a new layer and delete the original one). Use the Magic Wand tool (press W) to select the fire (set tolerance amount to your own preference. The lesser you key in, the more precise selection you will get. In this case, tolerance level 25 is the best).

Step 14

Select (hold on Shift and click) the dark areas for deletion. In this image, I will maintain the middle section as it does look like the flame that I want.

Step 15

Press the Delete or Backspace key to delete the selection. Go to Select > Deselect(CMD+D/CTRL+D) to deselect the section.

Step 16

Now you can use the Eraser Tool (press E) to erase the rest of the fire and keep the section that you need. *Decrease the Eraser brush size by pressing [ or Increase by pressing ]. 

Step 17

Press M to use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to draw a square selection around the flame. Transform (CMD+T/CTRL+T) and rotate the fire to your desired direction. Click OK. Go toSelect > Deselect (CMD+D/CTRL+D) to deselect the section. Now, we can roughly imagine the outcome of the flame. *You can skip Step 17 if your original flame direction looks fine to you. 

Step 18

Go to Filter > Liquify (Shift+CMD+X/Shift+CTRL+X) to modify the shape of the flame. *Or you may make a selection before you liquify the flame.

Step 19

In the Liquify filter, you can experiment with Twirl Clockwise or other tools to adjust the edge of the flame to make it look more realistic. Click OK when you are satisfy with the effects.

Step 20

If the flame edges look too harsh, you can try to use this method to solve the problem – Press L to use the Lasso Tool to select the edges of flame you want to soften.

Step 21

Go to Select > Feather. Set Feather Radius to 3 pixels to soften it.

Step 22

Go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur to enhance the flame’s moving effect.

Step 23

Set the Motion Blur Angle according to your preferred flame direction (in this case, -35 is the right angle). Once done, go to Select > Deselect (CMD+D/CTRL+D) to deselect the section. Repeat Step 20 – 23 in other edges of the flame to make it look more realistic.

Step 24

The following steps are to soften the edges around the flame. Press CMD/CTRL (hold on) and click the Layer thumbnail (inside the Layers Window). Go toSelect > Modify > Contract to make the selection of the flame inside.

Step 25

Set Contract by 2 pixels (the right level for the flame I had just created).

Step 26

Go to Select > Inverse (Shift+CMD+I or Shift+CTRL+I) to inverse the selection of flame.

Step 27

Go to Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur > Radius 1.5 pixels (You can experiment with other radius level for different effects). Go to Select > Deselect (CMD+D/CTRL+D) to deselect the flame once you are done.

Step 28

This is the final flame result.

Step 29

That’s It! Repeat the same steps to create different types of flames. If you know some basic skills of Photoshop, here are some ideas you can try:

  1. Make use of the Layer Mask to create depth.

  2. Or change the Layer Opacity in Layers Window to give the flames some transparent effects.

Shown above is an image sample of the Fire or Flames that we put together. Image ID: ISP0802313 (Inspirestock/Inmagine)

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