How To Paint Flames

You may think you know how to paint flames, until you try to actually paint them. They can be trickier than they look. From choosing the colors and drawing the shapes, flames play tricks with your mind. At first thought, flames are orange and yellow but they often have other colors added in.

To paint flames you will need:

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • French curves, (optional)
  • Paint, acrylic, watercolors, oil
  • Oil-based paint pen (optional)
  1. Decide upon the style of flame you want to create; a cartoon flame or a more realistic looking flame. Look up images of the flames you would like to paint. This will give you a good idea of the colors and overall shape. 
  2. Make a sketch of flames. If you do not want to paint flames free-hand, trace different sizes of French curves. These lines can be the start of both cartoon and realistic flames. You can trace one layer, paint and then trace another set of curves to follow.
  3. Start painting the center of the flame with your color of choice. A soft white, layered with an light orange/yellow can be the flame on top of a candle, while a bold orange layered with red and yellow can be painted along the side of a race car. Either way, it's not necessary to limit yourself to these basic colors. Add a touch of blue or purple, bright white or even pink to paint flames with a little more depth.
  4. Paint from the center of the flame out, gradually lightening up on the pressure to create a wash effect.
  5. Outline the flames with an oil-based paint pen to even out any irregularities and create extra highlights or sparks, if desired.
  6. Once the flames are dry, you can add a few nearly transparent, "ghost flames" with an grey, silver or white paint. Use a light touch and leave the edges of these undefined. Adding a touch of paint thinner to the main color paint and use to paint flames.
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