Fire Recipe by Me, Myself, and I

In response to Jeff’s (not so subtle ☺) suggestion that we could use a Recipe for making realistic fire with HeroMachine I have put this together.

There are a few things I consider when producing fire imagery;

  • It contrasts greatly with whatever is around it;
  • It is never completely symmetrical but it is often balanced;
  • Because it is a light source, the color and intensity of close by objects will often be affected;
  • It is always transparent but in varying degrees;
  • It varies in color and can include greens, blues, reds, oranges, yellows and even whites;
  • Fire also engulfs objects.

The major challenge with making a recipe for fire is that it does not have a static form. Therefore this recipe will be kept very general with few specifics.

Step #1 – Background
I referred to contrast previously and a really dark background can make a bright subject really pop off the page. I just used a dark background rectangle and filled the entire screen with it.

Step #2 – Burning Object
What fire is complete without something to burn eh? (Yes I did just include “eh” at the end of my sentence. I’m Canadian so I figure I’m allowed☺). This time I chose a skull because it’s dark and sinister.

Step #3 – Shading
Certainly not necessary but I often like my objects to have some shading. I selected the last item in the Backgrounds > Shapes section and gave the Primary color an Alpha of 0%. The Secondary color has an Alpha of 75% and is black. Sized like the image here and centered over the skull makes the edges of the skull darker while the center remains lighter. This should give the skull some depth. The Line Color is left as white to illustrate here but will be subsequently changed to an Alpha of 0%.

Step #4 – Flame Elements
I like to use a few different objects to make flames. I do this so that the same shapes do not appear readily. As the image progresses I will add literally dozens of layers of just the flames and the will begin to overlap. There are a few elements available that work easily for flames and here are a few examples before I start to color and layer them.

Step #5 – Adding the Fire
I will layer numerous layers of each of the flame objects. As mentioned previously, flames are not symmetrical so each object will be changed in size, shape and rotation to reduce the same shapes showing up repeatedly. Furthermore, the level of transparency changes as well so the Alpha levels will be changed for each object as well. The torch and glove may seem like unlikely additions but the flames on the torch are really good if the Line Color and the Primary Color Alpha 0 ratings. Some of these objects will be in front of the burning object and some will be behind. The torches in particular are placed behind the object so that the lines aren’t so obtrusive. The glove works quite well for small wisps of flame if the Primary Color and Line Color are made to have Alpha values of 0.

Step #6 – Review
Because the fire covers the burning objects the underlying items often look different than anticipated. I usually find it is good to review the burning object to make sure the coloring and clarity is still what was desired. Feel free to experiment with other objects or coloring to decide what meets your desired objective. In the end it is the methodology or strategy and experimentation that is important and produces results; not any one detail.

Step #7 - Alternatives