How to Draw Flames

How to draw flames--the colors, shapes, and moreHow to Draw Flames

We all know what flames are and what fire looks like–lit matches, burning candles, campfires, wildfires, and even houses on fire. For your art, adding flames to the mix can mean anything from superpowers to sci-fi disasters to people gathering together for warmth and comfort. Here are the basics of how to draw flames, from the basic shapes and colors to halo effects and more!

The Shapes

  1. No matter the kind of flame you are drawing, you will almost always start with a teardrop or triangular shape that is fuller and wider at the base and tapers to a point at the top of the flame. Add dimension by overlapping these teardrop shapes so that your fire looks like it has depth and movement
  1. No flame stands still, so play around with curving lines for the body of your fire. I’ve heard these called s-shape, snake lines, seaweed, and curvilinear. Whatever works for you! Just keep your strokes fluid and your wrist loose. Make a few practice sketch lines before you attempt your final drawing.


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Magdalene with the Smoking Flame by George de La Tour.
Magdalene with the Smoking Flame by George de La Tour.
  1. For flames that are more cartoonish or like the kind you see on a hot rod car, you will want to outline your flames in black and then color them in. Color transition can be less subtle. For more realistic flames like you would see in the real world, you can forego the outline and use broken lines of color to create your flames. Colors can be more subtle.
  1. For a more dramatic flame, you can always add smoke to your fire. This can be a thin wisp of smoke that delicately wafts from the flame’s tip, or billowing smoke that swirls around your flames and almost obscures it. Colors of smoke can be anything from blackish-grey to grey to white.

***How to draw flames…FACT! During the Baroque era, tenebrism became a technique many artists used to heighten the drama of their paintings. Tenebrism is the style of painting in which you use a great deal of chiaroscuro, or contrast of dark and light, with darkness dominating against searing highlights. Through the murky darkness, you get a spotlight effect. Caravaggio is most closely associated with the technique, but other artists like El Greco, Albrecht Durer, Ribalta, Ribera, Tintoretto, and Artemisia Gentileschi used it as well. Many of the principles of how to draw flames depend on these same characteristics–a spotlight effect and dramatic contrast of dark to light.***

Color of Flames

Traditionally, the color of flames tends to be a combination of white, yellow, orange, and red. But that doesn’t mean you can’t explore other color combinations. Just remember, actual flames are lightest at their center or source and get darker on the tips and edges of the fire.

1. If you want more of an illustration or cartoon feel to your flames, make the color transitions starker with less blending. For more realism, concentrate on the subtle transitions of color in the flickering flames you want to draw.

Illustration by Martin Wittfooth.
Illustration by Martin Wittfooth.

2. The darker your background, the more dramatic your flames will appear. For the most dramatic flame drawings, use pastels on a black piece of paper. Your flame will almost seem to glow in the dark if you take your flames color and use them to shade outward from the flame, like a halo effect. Just be sure to use a light hand so that the “body” of the flame doesn’t disappear with a highlight that is too heavily drawn.

3. For more fantastical flames, use an alternative color palette from the typical yellow-orange-red. Instead, reach for blue, green, purple, or pink. You can also go totally noir when you decide how to draw flames by creating them in just black and white. If you do so, remember that the teardrop shape of the flame with the tapered tip and the halo of light surrounding the flame are going to be crucial to convey fire or flames.

 

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How to Draw Flames – A Gallery of Artist Daily Member Artworks

Below you’ll find several paintings created by our very own members. See how varied the use of flames or fire can be when you are creating art, and how each artist decided how to draw flames–and paint them–making their own sparks in a unique way. Enjoy!

How to Draw Flames 101. The Beauty of Fire by Roya Delkosh.
The Beauty of Fire by Roya Delkosh. Notice how the artist uses the same curvilinear stroke, layered repeatedly, to convey the fire licking up the sides of the jug it surrounds.

 

How to Draw Flames 101_Sharon by the Campfire
Sharon by Campfire Light by Herm Rediess, pastels and pastel pencils on black charcoal paper. The white-hot center of the campfire is only more highlighted by the fact that it is drawn against the black of the paper the artist used for his surface. Herm also decided how to draw the flames with a halo effect that encircles the figure and the fire. That glow is visible, but never more heavily drawn or painted than the fire itself.

 

How to Draw Flames 101.Fire by MaryML, oil pastel painting. The wedge or triangular shape of this campfire is very common, with the thick base that tapers up thinly, with jagged edges of flame.
Fire by MaryML, oil pastel painting. The wedge or triangular shape of this campfire is very common, with a thick base that tapers up thinly (reminiscent of a teardrop or pyramid), with jagged edges of flame.

 

How to Draw Flames 101. Fire Series by Kevin Kusiolek, walnut ink on paper, 8 x 10. Kevin's flames are all about form since they are rendered in the sepia tones of walnut ink. Notice the dark core near the base of the fire--indicating billowing smoke--and the ragged edges of the flames as they climb into the sky.
Fire Series by Kevin Kusiolek, walnut ink on paper, 8 x 10. Kevin’s flames are all about form and not color since they are rendered in the sepia tones of walnut ink. Notice the dark core near the base of the fire–indicating billowing smoke and the hottest part of the flames–and the ragged edges of the fire as the flames climb into the sky.

 

How to Draw Flames 101--Art by Woody Duncan
Fire in the Hole by Woody Duncan, watercolor painting. This is an unusual fire in that it is a propane flame. The flames are more colorful and prismatic, with a white core.

 

How to Draw Flames. Scot's Bay Evening by Alan Bateman, acrylic painting. Alan has painted the flames of the campfire in white with a hint of yellow. What is really exceptional is the smoldering wood--reddish and purple--toward the bottom right of the painting. The differences in texture between the two areas of flame really enliven the piece.
Scot’s Bay Evening by Alan Bateman, acrylic painting. Alan painted the flames of the campfire in white with a hint of yellow, orange, and red. What is really exceptional is the smoldering wood of the campfire rendered in red and purple. The differences in texture between the two areas of flame really enliven the piece.

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

One thought on “How to Draw Flames

  1. Hello, this is very interesting. At present, I am drawing portraits, but many many years ago I made a painting featuring some candles, I remember my struggled with the flames, it was an oleo painting. I am working with pencil now, it would be interesting to see how I could bring to live the flame of a candle.
    http://www.becauseidream.com/

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