Making Fire Whips

This tutorial will show you how to make some simple fire whips, and enhance them with some color blocks.

You’re going to want to use a black canvas, or a dark color for the firey-ness to really show up. I started with an 800x800px canvas so I had a little room to play with. If you’re going to be making a background or something, then you’ll want to make it larger, and probably high resolution sized.

Line It Up

Starting with the pen tool, draw some curving lines. If your shape is filling in as you go, go to your Layers window and change the “Fill” to 0%. Do not close off your shapes, you just want a bunch of lines, curving to and fro, up and down, in semi-random directions to give it a little more interest. While doing this, you’ll likely not be able to see the other lines you’ve already created, so just do some guestimations and try to mix it up a little.

With each new pen-tool-layer-shape you made, you’re going to have several layers. I have five that I made, and now I need to convert them into Paths that I can use in a second here.

To do this, click on one of the shapes you made. Click on the Paths tab in the Layers window, double click on that layer that appears in there (probably called “Shape 1 Vector Mask” or something similar), and then you can name it and hit okay. Go back to your Layers tab, select another one of those lines you made, then go back to Paths and repeat the process until you have all of them converted into Paths.

Brushing Up

Choose one of the Charcoal brushes from the brushes menu, after you select the Brush Tool. Then, go along the top panel in the menus and find the Brushes tab (may also be located with your other windows, depending on your version of PS and arrangement you’ve selected). Select the Brushes tab and check the little box that says “Scattering”. You’ll see the little preview of the brush change when you do that, and it should appear as though it has some “rough” edges to it. You can play around with this and the other features in here if you want to, but it’s not necessary, as the line we are going to create is rather small.

Change the size of the brush down to about 4px or 5px. Select a shade of orange.


You want enough layers to play with here. Since I have 5 paths to play with, I want at minimum of 5 layers (6, including the bottom background layer of black). Because I don’t want these little firey whips to be just one color, I’m going to make 2 layers for each path. 1, 1a, 2, 2a, etc. – being sure they are on top of each other, matches up.

Stroking Paths

Select Layer 1, click on the Paths tab, select which Path you’d like to use (Path 1 would probably be a good idea, just keep the layering names consistent). Right-click on Path 1, and choose “Stroke Path”. When the window pops up, select “Brush” and hit okay. You will then see the brush you created follow the path line you selected, on your canvas.

Go to each layer (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and do this. Be sure to select each layer each time, then go to the Path’s tab to do the strokes. You want each whip on their own layer so you can move them around if you want to.

Once you’ve done all of the orange lines, select a brighter yellow and choose a Hard Round Brush and put it at 2px in size.

Go back through, repeating what you did before with the orange color, only do it on layers 1a, 2a, 3a, 4a and 5a. These layers should be on top of each of the previous numbers, so the yellow will show up when you stroke these layers as well.

Set It On Fire

Select your Layers window, and choose layer 1, or any of the orange lines you created. Double-click on the layer and a “Layer Style” window will pop open. Click on and check the Outer Glow button. Change the color to red, Blend Mode: Screen, Opacity: 75, Noise: 0, Technique: Softer, Spread: 5, Size: 18, Range: 50 and Jitter 0. Hit OK.

Watch It Burn

Add a layer above the black background, select an orange color, a Soft Round Brush, size to around 500-600, and add some color to the corner where the lines are coming from.

Take your eraser tool, Soft Round Brush, probably around 300 in size, and carefully and conservatively erase little bits of the orange, then the yellow lines of each whip. This will give it more of a transition, making it glow a little more like fire.

Turn Up The Heat

When you have the whips all looking nice and hot, you’re going to start duplicating a couple of them, and rotating/flipping them using the Transform tool. Rearrange the whips a little if you want to, double a couple up to make them brighter, and spread them out to make the fire bigger.

We’re Done! Or Are We?

If this is the desired effect, then you can stop here, but I am going to add a few more details to mine.

Start adding some solid shapes, cutting them out here and there to make some nice curves.

Lock Transparency on each of the shapes you created.

Once they’re locked, you can play with each of the layers of the shapes you made, change the colors around if you want, change the Blending Mode (in the Layers window), and you will still retain your shapes.

Finally, I’m just going to add some sparkles on another layer, out in the middle of all of the fire whips.

Select your Brush tool, and a brush that either looks like a star or whatever shape you like. Go to the Brushes options (where we did the Scattering previously), and play with some of the settings.

I played with Shape Dynamics, Scattering and Smoothing to get the variation in sizes and placement that I wanted. If you click and move your brush to much on the canvas you will have a million sparkles, but if you click and barely nudge your hand, you’ll have just enough.

Try changing the colors some too to get a little variation.

And We’re Done!

Hope you enjoyed the tutorial! Let me know!

By Kirin Knapp

Kirin Knapp is a graphic designer for the iEntry Network, publishing company of FlashNewz. A flash animator and illustrator, she is the creator of her home site,

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