How to draw flames like a pro!





Hi, I hope you're all having a wonderful day; My name is Saif, an illustrator and a previous Clip Studio tips of the month winner. I will be teaching you how to draw flames like a pro! After reading through this article, you'll be equipped with the knowledge to draw every type of flame, from realistic to stylized, and will be one step closer to that sweet, sweet, professional artist title.


We will start from the basics and slowly go over each type of flame. Along the way, I'll give you tips to better understand how flames work and the kind of fire you should draw in a particular scenario.


Remember that after going through this article, although you will understand how to draw flames much better, you won't be a pro instantly. You may need to come back to this later on to help you. My advice for you all is to keep your drawing programs open on the side, draw along, or keep a notepad/sketchbook next to you and note the crucial tips I will be sharing. This way, you'll have a better grasp on how to draw flames correctly, remember the various tips shared and build some muscle memory to help you along the way!


Most importantly, remember to take your time with this article and remember that art takes time, so don't get frustrated if you need clarification, go over the article again. Play calm music in the background if it helps, and stay hydrated! Good luck!

How should we think about flames?

When thinking about fire, newer artists often consider it as "random chaos." However, The proper way to think about flames is to think about them as water. fire flows, just like every other thing on this planet. It wraps around objects, ensures a firm grip on objects. Although chaotic, it often resembles calmness, comfort and ease.


Conveying emotions through the flames we draw?

Learning to imagine fire that resembles comfort and ease:

Imagine sitting around a campfire under a snowy yet calm moonlight next to your small cosy wooden hut you spend all day trying to build. You sit next to your small campfire, listening to the sound of wood burning and crackling ever so slightly. Make sure to remember that feeling of comfort when you're drawing fire.

Imagining fire that resembles Hatred, Chaos and Revenge:

^^This might be a little uncomfortable as a heads up.


On the other hand, if your fire resembles chaos, hatred or revenge, think of fire in the same respect while you're drawing it. For this setting, I like to imagine cruelty as the best way to describe it. Imagine you're a soldier and while exploring the enemy territory in the mountains. Your unit gets spotted by a small enemy petrol squad, they open fire and You see your squad get slaughtered in front of you, yet all you can do is run towards the trees; however, your struggle is futile, and you get shot in your leg and slam your head on the soft snow. You see the enemy's smirk as they point their gun at every member you love, and it ends one by one. Now I know that was probably uncomfortable to read, but it helps to be in that mindset when drawing fire resembling hatred, vengeance and cruelty.

Imagining fire resembling oppression:

And lastly, The fire of oppression. People finally standing up for themselves, marching, protesting, and fighting for their rights! This type of fire is hard to draw and explain in mere text and is best illustrated by those who have experienced oppression and have suffered for years. Since this type of fire captures the emotions of the oppressed, you'll only get good at drawing this after you've read the history. This is one of the most challenging flames to draw since it requires deep knowledge and understanding of the emotions you're trying to communicate. You'll learn this eventually but don't expect to capture those feelings by reading some random article online. It'll take time, but this flame is one of the most driving and intense flames out there.

How to draw a flame?

Let's discuss how to draw a flame. As I stated at the start, I will start right from the beginning, covering both realistic and stylized flames. I will teach you everything you need to know to draw your flames in every setting imaginable. Before we start, remember to gather references from websites like Pinterest, unsplash, pixiv etc. and follow along!

How to draw a flame:

The general shape:

First, let's start by using a general colour, in this case, the colour orange (This colour may change depending on the flame, for example, if it's a magical flame, the colour can easily be referred to as a deep blue or a light green according to the needs and the environment of the flame we draw) and begin by drawing an oval shape!

Note: The shape you draw should roughly resemble the direction and shape of the fire you're drawing; for example, if the wind hits your fire from the right side, draw the shape a bit distorted towards the same side!

After you have your shape, let's start by "cutting in" Use your brush to carve into the oval shape you drew slowly. Make sure to constantly look at your reference and try to capture the same general shape and feel. The easiest way to see the general shape is to open your reference in another tab and blur until barely any details are seen. After that, sharpen it to make all the edges sharper. This will make it easier to spot the general shape of the flame you're drawing!


Now that you have a shape, add some sparks around it and let's start adding some colours! Flames typically are the hottest and the brightest in the middle and slowly go from white to red and then orange from the centre towards the outside. Try adding the colour white in areas with large spaces of the silhouette, and try not going near the edges or strands so much unless there is a large volume of the outline near the top! Remember that as you go further from the centre, a flame gets less hot, so don't use the colour white too much, ensuring it's in the essential areas and isn't scattered everywhere. Try to create interesting shapes and slowly build them over on each other.


Tip: when drawing on a transparent layer, you can always use the lock transparency option to lock all the transparent pixels. This allows you to stay within the lines and also is very helpful when it comes to blending!

Rendering Part 1:

Now that we have decided on the colours, let's start by blending!! I used the painterly blender tool in CSP with a low brush density and colour stretch. You may also use the fingertip or the standard blender in CSP if you wish, making sure that the stretch isn't too high (I mainly used the painterly blender cause I like some texture in my flames, so it's purely a stylistic choice on my part). Similarly, if you're a Photoshop user, the smudge tool works perfectly as well!! Just make sure that the wetness isn't too high and it's nice and rough (use a texture brush as a base if you wish; however, the standard soft brush as the base will work perfectly fine as well!)


As for blending, make sure that the colours show some definition and aren't entirely uniform with each other!

Rendering Part 2 (Final):

Moving on to the most time-consuming part, the final rendering! It may seem challenging, but it's very simple after you break it down, so let's do that together, shall we?


First, let's start by continuing to add and subtract the colours we initially added. After you are okay with the outcome, change your brushes blending mode (There is an option under your settings you can use that or create another layer on top) and set it to colour dodge now using a very soft brush, choose a shade of orange (between the 50-40% grey mark) and lightly brush over the flame you just drew to add some glow from the middle and the edges to really make the flame "pop!!"


Next, it's about time we finally turned off the "lock transparency" option! (photoshop has it, too. Look at the options right next to the lock layer button) after you turn it off, use a hard round brush to slowly start breaking the silhouette. Use saturated colours and gradually lay them on top of each other, giving the flame a slightly hazy feel. Add different colours and hue changes to make it more realistic and beautiful! Lastly, after it's all done, draw some sparks jumping outwards from the wisps emitting from the flame and on top of everything, add another layer with colour dodge as the blending mode and lightly brush over the entire flame you just drew to give it an overall glow!!


Don't worry if it doesn't look exactly the way you intend it to. This is very normal and is just a part of learning. There are times as artists when we keep trying something, and no matter what we do, we can't figure it out! In that case, you should take a step back, return to the drawing board after a couple of hours or the next day, and start again with a fresh mindset, keep looking at your reference and try your best! You've got this!!

How to draw a stylised flame:

The general shape:

For stylised flames, it's essential to keep the edges of the flame hard. We will use the same methods we used for normal flames; however, there will be less blending and more focus on shape language when it comes to stylised flames. We will start with a basic shape and cut into it using an eraser or transparency (for Photoshop users, a quick tip is to change your current brush into an eraser by pressing and holding the ~ key to switch to transparency in CSP it's the letter C on your keyboard). In stylised flames, keep things well-stylised and straightforward!

Adding our colours:

After we have our shape, it's time to add the colours! Using a hard round brush, go over the edges of the flame with the colour red and add a slight gradient from the bottom to the top of the flame**. You can use whatever colours you wish and whichever colours fit your story/ environment, as this is just an example!** After you have your colours, make a layer on top of the flame layer and with the help of colour dodge, add some glow inside the flame itself.

Time to render!

After the colours, there isn't much left when rendering stylised cartoony flames. Let's start by adding a few sparks around the flame to make it seem more fluid, and then add another layer on top of your current flame layer and set the blending mode to colour dodge, select a dark yellow or red colour from the flame you just drew and lightly with the help of an airbrush or a soft round brush go over the drawing to add some glow. Remember to make the middle of the flame the brightest (the area with the most flames) and pop each colour out! After adding the glow, create another layer on top of everything and set the blending mode to overlay.

Overlay saturates the overall colours and, depending on where the colours are on the colour wheel (above or below 50% grey), can darken or brighten the general drawing.

Let's use overlay and select a somewhat saturated bright red! Now let's use a soft round brush to lightly paint over some areas around and inside the flame; if it seems a little intense, feel free to decrease the opacity to make it more cohesive.



How to draw a candle flame?

Example 1:

Candle flames differ slightly from other flames since they don't jump around. They usually stay in the middle, but in a windy environment, the flame diminishes and arches towards the wind direction. In case of a strong wind, however, the flame usually gets extinguished; The general shape gets squashed and stretched and eventually breaks apart, turning into a slight haze of sorts before completely disappearing in the wind.


When drawing candle flames, the approach is slightly different from other flames since these are a lot more arched and controlled. As always, gather some references to help you with the journey.


The general shape of a candle flame can be represented by a rectangle or an oval that is pointy from the top. After you have your general shape, you will start by "cutting in" and slowly carve out the shape of the flame. Remember that candle flames don't throw off sparks, unlike other flames, and usually maintain a standard shape waving ever so slightly. After we have our shape, let us start by adding colours! Candle flames often appear transparent from the base and then turn a little bluish, slowly going from orange to white in the middle and then orange again. Use the image above as a reference to help you along the way. After you add the colours, start by blending them. Try mixing the white into the blues and the oranges into the white centre using the painterly blender; however, the standard blender will work just as well! (smudge tool for all the Photoshop artists out there) after blending the inside of your flame, move on the outside. You don't need to do much; a slight haze will do. Now make another layer on top of everything and set its blending mode to colour dodge; choose a slightly dark orange colour (depends on the flame but use a colour you would like the flame to glow in, in this case, the colour orange!) making sure it's between the 40-50% grey and using a soft round brush or an airbrush using very light pressure go over the flame a couple of times, pop out the centre the edges and overall glow and keep adding until it looks nice! And BAM! You have a flame!


Note: this method can be applied to any candle flame, for example, blue or purple flames, in a fantasy setting. As always, look up some references and follow the steps above! Remember to use deep vibrant colours for the shadows and light, easy colours for the top, and add some nice variation!

Example 2:

Example 2 is very similar to the first example, except we started with a rectangle as the general shape rather than using an oval! Similarly, we also used different colours here, and from the wick, we began by indicating the background at the base and then moving into deep purples, violets and light purples; then we used the colour white in the middle with a tiny yellow boundary and made the flame orange from the edges, The more variation your colours may have the more vibrant and exciting they will look!!

How to draw a stylised candle flame:

Lastly, Stylised candle flames, Stylised candle flames are often seen in fantasy settings and are an enjoyable and expressive way to draw candles!


The process of drawing stylised candle flames is similar to what we have done before. Start by choosing a base colour, in our case, the colour orange. After you have a colour decided, let's start by drawing the basic shape, in this case, an oval (make sure you're using reference and are constantly using it to ensure you're on the right track!). After you have the shape, please turn on the "lock transparency" option (also available in Photoshop, so don't worry if you use Photoshop) and add colours! Add the colour white in the middle of the flame (namely, areas with the most amount of flames/ areas where the fire is dense) and then scatter a few spots (2 or 3) with cyan around the edges of the white circle. Going from the inside out, we will add orange and then red towards the very edges of the flame.


Now that you have added your colours, it's about time we started rendering! Let's start by choosing the painterly or the regular blender in CSP (for the Photoshop peeps, the smudge tool) and blending from the inside out. First, let's start by mixing the white with the orange and then blend the colour red with the orange below. Keep blending, and try to indicate some movement and flow in flames! (use the colours to show the form of the flame!). After blending the insides, turn off "lock transparency" and slowly go over the edges with the same blender/ smudge tool you used inside. Gradually create some spikes and a haze around the edges of the flame and make it look lively! Now that our flame has some movement and looks dynamic let's add another layer on top of your flame layer and set its blending mode to colour dodge. Choose an orange colour (similar to your base colour) at around the 40-50% grey mark, and with the help of a soft round or an airbrush, lightly go over the flame, making the edges glow and the insides even brighter! And lastly, don't forget to add some sparks on the edges (just one or two will do since this is a candle flame)


Note: The colours used in this example are just standard fire colours; however, when drawing in a fantasy setting, you may use any colours you like! You can use purples, blues, green etc. Always make sure to have some nice hue variance in the flame you draw, making it look exciting! Also, remember the basic colour theory rules! If your highlights are warm, use a colder colour in the shadows. For example, if you have a bright purple candle flame, starting from blue and slowly shifting towards purples, use deep reds and greens in the shadows! Remember that the more variation your flame shows and the movement it indicates, the more interesting it'll look!


Learning how to draw magical flames!!!

Fire is one of the essential elements when drawing magic, whether it be a mage that protects his allies from danger or a swordsman that coats his blade in fire and slays his foe! Fire and magic go hand in hand. The most common fire attack type often seen in light novels, sci-fi anime or movies is a fire ball, so let's learn how it's drawn!

Drawing the General shape:

The shape is essential when learning about fireballs or just fire in a magical setting. Let's start by drawing a ball; you may consider drawing it freehand (like a savage) or using the ellipse selection tool (when forming a circle, hold down shift to create a perfect circle). Once we have a circle, we will choose a base colour, in this case, a muted orange colour (we will be building upon it, and it will get hidden later on; however, having one chosen definitely helps). With the colour selected, we will begin drawing the basic shape! There are two ways you can go about this:


  • Using reference and copying the feel and the general shape you see (the method I recommend to all beginners since the second method requires some experience with flames. However, that being said, reading the second method is very helpful for beginners as well.)


  • Imagining the flame! This method isn't suited for complete beginners; however, it definitely helps if beginners read through this as well. First, start by imagining dropping the ball from a very high spot, then imagine how air would wrap around it and how the curvature would look! Imagine the shape of air wrapping around the ball and after you have an idea, draw that shape and give it the same characteristics as a flame! Remember to make the flame jump! Add some sparks and give it more character! Remember that the more a flame resembles a solid shape, the more boring it looks. Flame flows like water; however, just a glass of water looks boring! But an ocean looks fierce! Try to give your flames the same look and make them fierce!

Note: When drawing the flame, remember that fire isn't opaque! It shows the objects behind it, so when shading the flame or drawing the general shape, remember to think about what lies underneath! In this case, it's a ball! So make sure to indicate that, make the flame thinner from the very top edge of the ball, and when rendering, give a slight shade to it following the curvature of the ball! Remember that fire will wrap around the ball and create wave-like shapes; on the top, it will get thinner and narrower.

Adding form to our shape:

We will start our rendering process once we have decided on our flame's general form.


Use a hard round brush with the hardness turned to around 80% (for Photoshop users, right-click on your canvas with the brush (shortcut B) selected. It should give you the option to change the hardness. Another method is in your window's tab and look for "brush properties" The hardness settings are located in the first panel right below your angle adjustments) After we have a brush decided, let's start by choosing a darker shade; This shade can just be a darker slightly more saturated version of the base colour or a different colour if you wish (decide accordingly to the colour of fire you are drawing, remember not to forget colour theory and keep the hot/cold and warm/cool aspect in mind) Our colour selected it's time we start giving our flame some form! During this process, remember that flame wraps around the ball, and each wave overlaps over each other. Begin by slowly adding in the shadows from below and forming the waves; while you're drawing, remember to take the curvature of the ball underneath into account and move forward. The flame will bulge outwards at the base and slowly arch upwards, bending along the shape of the ball!


As we discussed, the flame will be thin from the top of the ball, so we must indicate that moving forward. The flame touching the very top of the ball will be thin and slowly merge with the fire coming upwards from the sides.

Adding colours:

With the shape and form of our flame decided, we will now move on to an essential step, adding colours! This step is the most important, especially when drawing magic since it varies greatly! The colours I'm using here are but one example when it comes to drawing magical flames. However, with that being said, the basic principles should remain the same, so learning these will help you even when you're using different colours and shades.


First, let's begin by adding the colour white to our flame, the colour white will be the brightest part of our flame and will be placed in areas where the volume of fire is the highest (The top plane of the waves we just drew and regions where two flames merge, the base and the top). Now that we have added white let's add some oranges and reds! You'll see orange at the edges of the colour white and red at the very tips of each strand of flame; again, remember to take note of the curvature of the ball when you add these colours to make it more realistic! Now that we have our primary flame colours choose a more saturated dark blue or a purple colour and slowly go over the darkest parts of the shadows. Remember that the stronger the light source, the stronger the shadows; using this knowledge lets give our flame more life and colour!


Note: Remember that the colours used here are just one example of drawing magical flames. Different colours will have various effects on the fire and environments you draw them in. If your fire has some variance, it will look vivid, exciting and meaningful!


Some colour variations you can try,


Example 1:

Highlights: White, red, orange and slightly a greenish hue at the top

Shadows: Dark blue and deep reds


Example 2:

Highlights: Deep blues, magenta and sharp yellow colours mixed in

Shadows: Deep reds, dark purple


Example 3:

Highlights: Light green, lime to the very top and a slight hue change towards red at the shadows

Shadows: magenta, dark purples, deep reds


With our colours decided, it's about time we make this flame look exciting!


With the rendering process, we will be adding different colours as needed moving forward**(we didn't add some of these colours in the last step since they would get hidden or would look muddy once we start blending, so we will add these after we are done with the blending process)**. First, let's begin by choosing the painterly blender if you like some texture or the standard blender; For Photoshop users, you may use the smudge tool for this process. The blending process is quite similar to what we have done before; however, this time, we will take the shape of what's underneath into account. We will begin by slowly blending the colour white into the orange colour surrounding it, And the oranges into the reds. Once you've blended the insides, like before, start blending the outside edges of the flame and make it look more lively. Look at reference photos of fire from fantasy anime, manga and webcomics involving fire. Remember that stealing is perfectly okay as long as you're learning and improving, so don't worry and take reference from any professional you like! (remember to credit them)


Once the basic blending process is done, the flame would look a bit muddy and dull; however, that's perfectly normal. Choose a darker purple shade (around the 70-78% saturation mark) and draw the shadows back. Ensure to emphasise the wave-like shapes of your flames since this will give them a lot of character! Now that we have our shadows, they still lack some personality, so let's start by adding a bluish colour (something around the 60% grey and 80-85% saturation mark). Don't add this colour everywhere! Add it right when two waves overlap, and at the bottom (where the shadow starts from), remember that less is more, so don't overdo it. Keep adding shadows and making the flame more prominent. Once our shape looks more defined, we will again use a darker colour, set your brush opacity to around 20% at most and lightly go over the top of the ball following its curvature to give the flame more structure.


Finally, it's time to add highlights and bring our flame to life! Please create a new layer on top of your flame layer and set the blending mode to colour dodge. Choose an orange/ red colour around the 40-50% grey mark, and with the help of an airbrush, gently go over the flame we just drew; This will make it so that our flame looks bright and lively. You aren't limited to just using a single colour for colour dodge, so you may use different colours until you get your desired flame. Make sure to add a little glow outside the flame as well to make it look like it's glowing!


Once done, now comes the fun part! Add some sparks! (on the same colour dodge layer) you may use a spark brush from the clip studio asset store. (if you wish to use the same brush I did, please let me know in the comments, ill upload it to the asset store and share a link there) after adding some sparks, we can paint some bigger ones by hand around the very edges of the ball and the top/along the flame strands; Remember to give these larger sparks a little slow as well.


Congrats, you just learned how to draw impressive flames in a magical setting. Remember that the most crucial aspect when drawing flames in magical/fantasy settings is to add a lot of variance to them, especially if you're drawing magic. The first time you draw this, it might not turn out the way you wish, but eventually, as you learn more and get better, you will achieve it. I 100% believe in you. Fight on!

Bonus Content

Do what you will with this information. No, I will not be explaining further lol.


Just like everything in life, this tutorial has also ended. With these tips and tricks, you will be drawing amazing flames and will be one step closer to your dream. As always, remember that art takes time, and it's completely okay to take a step back at times. Honestly, I encourage artists to take a step back, play games for a week or do something else. We, as artists, often get stuck in this mindset of perfection and don't realise that just like us, even professional artists are still figuring it out. They aren't gods sent from above, but they too started just like us from square one. I hope you all learned a thing or two about flames, and this article was helpful! Cheers!

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