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Sep 30

Create a magical rainbow color flame in Photoshop

2008 at 10.18 am posted by Veerle Pieters

One of the things I’ve seen around quite a bit lately is a transparent rainbow gradient effect on a dark background. It seems to me that flashy transparent gradients are in these days. They make me think about magic. Today I’ll show you how you can create a magical rainbow color flame. OK, maybe I’m using too many words in a row here, but it’s the best I can do to describe this.

I should tell you upfront that for this tutorial basic knowledge of Photoshop is needed.

Draw smoky lines

First we start with the creation of the smoky lines by using the Pen tool. Use a white fill for each shape layer and an Opacity of 40%. Set the Layer mode of the layer to Overlay and the Fill to 0%.

Draw smoke lines

Double click on the right on one of the layers to open the Layer Styles. Add a white Drop Shadow of 100% Opacity and set the Blend Mode to Overlay. Distance and Spread is set to 0 and Size to 11. Next, make sure to uncheck Layer Knocks Out Shadow. Now check the Gradient Overlay in the styles palette. Choose Overlay as blend mode. Double click the Gradient thumbnail to edit the color stops in the Preset window. Select white as color for the left stop and give it 0% Opacity do the same for the right stop. Now add a stop at the Location of 50% (right in the middle), select white as color and give it an Opacity of 100%. Click OK to apply these Layer Styles to the layer. Select Copy Layer Style from the dropdown menu in the Layers palette (arrow on the right of the layer next to the fx icon). Now select all other smoke line Shape layers and select Paste Layer Style from that same dropdown menu. The style should be applied to all these layers now.

Add a cold gradient color flame

First we'll create a rainbow gradient preset. Select the Gradient tool in the Toolbox and go to the Gradient picker in the Toolbar at the top. If I'm not mistaken there should be a gradient called Transparent Rainbow by default in there. Double click to edit it. Remove the orange and yellow stop and move the the green, aqua, dark blue and hot pink stop so the colors are more equally divided over the length of the gradient. Give the gradient a name, for example 'Cold Gradient' and click the Newbutton. Click OK to close the window. Set the Opacity of the gradient in the Toolbar to 50%.

Add cold gradient color flame

Create a new layer, select the Elliptical Marquee tool and drag a circular selection (hold down shift while dragging) towards the bottom of the smoky lines. Make sure the circular selection is big enough so you can add a Feather 85 pixels: Select > Modify > Feather. Now select the Gradient tool and drag a perfect horizontal line from the left of the circle and release the right of the circle (see image to the right above).

Touch up the flame using the Smudge tool

If all goes well your gradient should look more or less as in the image below. To be extra save, create a copy of this layer first just in case. This touching up and reshaping needs a bit of work and the result could be too messy. This way you can come back and give it another try.

Touch up the flame using the Smudge tool

Select the Smudge tool to reshape the gradient a bit so it looks a bit more like a colored flame. I've used a very big brush to reshape the area at the bottom and a smaller one to smudge out some colors so it looks a bit like they follow some of the smoky lines.

Add a warm gradient color flame

Add a second gradient effect in a new layer on top of the previous one. Just like before, select the Gradient tool in the Toolbox and go to the Gradient picker in the Toolbar at the top. Select the gradient called Transparent Rainbow from the dropdown gradient list and double click to edit. Remove the dark blue and aqua stop in the gradient. Rearrange the stops so the colors are equally divided over the entire length. Give the gradient a name, something like 'Warm Gradient' and click the Newbutton. Click OK to close the window. Make sure the Opacity of the gradient is set to 50% in the Toolbar.

Add a warm gradient color flame

Apply the gradient just like the previous one except create the selection a bit smaller and place it more towards the top of the smoky lines instead of at the bottom. Touch up and reshape the gradient using the Smudge tool. Make sure to make a copy of your layer (just to be safe) so you can always come back to it in case the result is not looking good.

Add glowing sparks

To add some extra magic effect, we'll add some sparkles. In one of my previous tutorials I've already showed you how to create glowing sparks. Anyhow here is it again to refresh your memory (but with slightly different settings). Open the Brushes palette (F5 or Window > Brushes). Choose the 21 sized feathered brush. Check Shape Dynamics and Scattering. Select Brush Tip Shape and in the sliders at the bottom, set the Hardness to 0%. Check Spacing and drag the slider towards 403%. Select Scattering, check Both Axes and put the Scatter to 775%. Select Shape Dynamics and change the Size Jitter slider to 100%

Add glowing sparks

Create a new layer on top of the other layers and set the Layer mode to Overlay. Select the Brush tooland select white as Foreground color. Now draw a random line. Duplicate the layer with the sparks once or twice depending on the glow effect you want to achieve. Then merge these layers back together (command/control + e).

My end result

Here is my end result. I've added some stars as well in 3 different colors each as a Shape layer: hot pink, aqua blue and bright green. They where drawn in Illustrator and pasted into Photoshop as a Shape layer.

My magical rainbow color flame

Want to learn more?

VECTORTUTS+ Vector Tutorials and More A good and not expensive source to learn more about Illustrator, Photoshop, or web design is by joining the Tuts+ sites. You get access to the source files for just $9 a month. So your ONE membership gives you access to members-only content for ALL the Plus sites. I've written a tutorial for the Vector Tuts section.


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permalink this comment Son Nguyen Huy Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 10.30 am

Look great! Thank for your tutorial!


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permalink this comment Marco Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 11.00 am

You could have done the “swirls” a little bit easier: Draw one path with your pen tool, select a round brush, “Stroke path” in paths palette with “Simulate Pressure” selected.

Anyway, really like your outcome with the colours!


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permalink this comment Alexander Kuznetsov Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 11.24 am

Very nice! Thanks


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permalink this comment Staicu Ionut Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 12.18 pm

simply AWESOME!


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permalink this comment Veerle Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 12.26 pm

Marco said:

You could have done the “swirls” a little bit easier: Draw one path with your pen tool, select a round brush, “Stroke path” in paths palette with “Simulate Pressure” selected.

I’m afraid you’ve lost me here. If you use the pen tool and draw a path you’re working in a shape layer. So then you select a ‘round brush’, but how can you ‘do something’? You get this forbidden sign. What exactly do I need to do next? To get to this next step to select ‘Stroke path’ from the Path palette?


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permalink this comment Lieven Moens Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 01.04 pm

I think that’s in illustrator, the “stroke path”.


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permalink this comment Anders Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 01.11 pm

Wonderful!

However, I can’t quite follow your steps. I supposte you use the pen tools (shape layers) with a white foreground color set. All well so far, but neither one of my layer styles get applied with the blend modes you mention (can’t see the drop shadow or the gradient). However if i use normal blend mode on the drop shadow, it shows. Should fill be set to something like 0% on the shape’s layer? I’m confused.


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permalink this comment Chris Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 01.29 pm

Sorry Veerle. I normally love your blog but this one just lacks any magic. Harry Potter it ain’t


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permalink this comment Michael_C Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 02.23 pm

I’m afraid you’ve lost me here. If you use the pen tool and draw a path you’re working in a shape layer. So then you select a ‘round brush’, but how can you ‘do something’? You get this forbidden sign. What exactly do I need to do next? To get to this next step to select ‘Stroke path’ from the Path palette?

Veerle,

Set up your brush the way you want it (shape, colour etc.), draw your stroke with the pen tool, with the pen tool still selected right-click (ctrl-click (mac)), choose “stroke path’ from the menu then “brush” and there you have it :)

Hope that helped!

Nice tutorial :)

Michael C


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permalink this comment Dabe Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 02.36 pm

Veerle,

It’s kind of a weird process and confused me when I heard it mentioned previously.  If you draw a path with the pen tool in photoshop, select a brush style, then go back to using the pen tool and right click on the path, you can select stroke path. (Make sure a new blank layer is created obviously) It will allow to to apply the brush pattern along the path.  When using the simulate pressure checkbox under this menu, you get a similar effect of the shapes above.


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permalink this comment Jack Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 02.39 pm

I can’t seem to get the gradient fill to affect the shape at all. It looks exactly the same with or without it.


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permalink this comment Zack Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 02.44 pm

Gorgeous.  Thanks Veerle.


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permalink this comment Wodan Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 02.47 pm

Draw paths in a normal layer, not in a shape layer… select the brush and then you can use fill or stroke path from the path menu.


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permalink this comment Jason Beaird Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 03.01 pm

I was confused by Marco’s comment as well, but I just figured it out.
1: Create a new layer.
2: Select the Pen Tool (P)
3: In the Pen Tool palette at the top there’s a set of 3 buttons (Shape Layers, Paths, Fill Pixels) - Choose the middle one: Paths.
4: Draw your single line with the Pen Tool
5: Select the Brush Tool (B) and choose a round brush from the dropdown. I used a 9px round brush.
6: Select the Path Selection Tool (A) Right click on the path and select Stroke Path from the options.
7: Select Brush from the dropdown and check the Simulate Pressure checkbox.

You should now have a smoothly tapered line in the layer you created in step 1. Is that easier than drawing a tapered line shape with the pen tool?  Probably not, but I never knew how to make a path this way before, so thanks Marco. 

As always, thanks for another great tutorial Veerle!


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permalink this comment Veerle Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 03.42 pm

Michael_C said:

Set up your brush the way you want it (shape, colour etc.), draw your stroke with the pen tool, with the pen tool still selected right-click (ctrl-click (mac)), choose “stroke path’ from the menu then “brush” and there you have it :)

Thank you for explaining. Even now it took me some time to figure out what you mean. I didn’t know I needed to draw a path instead of a shape layer. Plus I have to make sure I create a new layer before. Everybody has his own methods of course, but I’m very used to draw with the Pen tool. So I’ll always choose for this option, because I love the flexibility of vector-based paths in Photoshop. I can still resize my lines at any size if I want. With your method things aren’t vector-based anymore. I guess this is a good solution for people who are less proficient with the Pen tool. So thanks for sharing your technique ;)

@Jason Beaird thank you for the step-by-step explanation.

Jack said:

I can’t seem to get the gradient fill to affect the shape at all. It looks exactly the same with or without it.

I didn’t notice this myself at first and had to repeat my steps myself to see what was going wrong or overlooked. In the Drop Shadow options you have to make sure to uncheck ‘Layer Knocks Out Shadow’ and I also set the Layer mode of the Shape layer of the smoky lines to Overlay. It seems I did forget to mention this. I’ve added it in the article now. Hopefully this will solve the problem. My apologies. Hope you forgive my mistake ;)


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permalink this comment Jack Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 04.32 pm

Great! I’ll give this update a shot :) No harm done!


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permalink this comment Scarysek Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 06.15 pm

Beatiful tutorial! Thank you.


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permalink this comment Jillian Sands Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 06.48 pm

Veerle,
Thank you so much for sharing these tips. The project was very inspiring and there is no way I would have been able to devote the time and energy into figuring this out on my own. I also wanted to say that I appreciate reading the readers’ comments as well as the posts. Sometimes I learn interesting tips from the comments, as in this thread.
Sincerely,
Jillian


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permalink this comment Ann-Sophie Tue Sep 30, 2008 at 08.34 pm

Inspired by vectortuts perhaps?


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permalink this comment Alex Wed Oct 1, 2008 at 12.26 am

Nice to tutorial, it really is very easy to create. The best part is that by changing colors you can make the flames look really different. I hope there will be more


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permalink this comment Ben Wed Oct 1, 2008 at 12.54 am

Very nice indeed. Keep up the great tutorials. Kind regards


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permalink this comment Nancy Wed Oct 1, 2008 at 01.35 am

Veerle, You’re like Sabrina the good witch. Your tutorials always make me feel good and toasty. They’re so inspirational and elegant in their process. That’s the gem of it ..the elegance. Thanks so much. And there is magic in this and every instance of your blog. Mr. Cris Rudeness should be banned from the site. What has he contibuted of value and for free lately to anyone? The Loser bee


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permalink this comment Anders Wed Oct 1, 2008 at 07.48 am

Veerle,

The drop shadow won’t show on the black background. If i hide it, i can see that it’s there. Seems to be something with the overlay blending mode!? I’m following your exact steps, but still i’m lost :/

Does the background have some specific blending mode?

How do you create the white fill on the shape layer?


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permalink this comment Andrey Wed Oct 1, 2008 at 08.59 am

I will show your blog to my brother he adores photoshop and what you can do with it it is simply amazing


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permalink this comment dinesh Wed Oct 1, 2008 at 09.11 am

This looks amazing. Thanks for sharing. Nice place for inspiration.
Regards.


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permalink this comment Veerle Wed Oct 1, 2008 at 10.16 am

Ann-Sophie said:

Inspired by vectortuts perhaps?

In all honestly, no not really. Part of this creation was actually art of a project that didn’t go ahead, it was changed into another illustration instead. I thought ‘why not change it a bit and create a desktop?’... and then I thought ‘hmm, why use it for a tutorial?’ ;) That’s it.

Anders said:

The drop shadow won’t show on the black background. If i hide it, i can see that it’s there. Seems to be something with the overlay blending mode!?

I think it’s because your background is 100% black. You need to use a dark background otherwise the ‘Overlay’ blend mode will not work. I guess if you really want to use black as a background you’ll need to use ‘Normal’ as blend mode and Layer mode instead. Only I’m not sure of the result will be exactly the same in combination with the color flames. I haven’t tested this out. Hope this info helps you out.


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permalink this comment Jane Wed Oct 1, 2008 at 01.01 pm

Lovely effect - thank you! I agree that using the stroke path/ simulate pressure is more straightforward, but the traditional method is kind of nice and makes you feel clever! For anybody who doesn’t know, you can achieve the correct result using the following steps: click with the pen, drag down to the right, alt/option + drag up to the left and beyond your initial handle. Click with the pen further up your canvas and drag up to the left to create a curve - alt/option + drag down to the right + slightly beyond the previous handle. Return to the original anchor and presto it should turn into a lovely curve. Veerle has probably explained this in a previous post but I only just figured it out now :-) Thanks again for the tutorial!


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permalink this comment Dunkle Wed Oct 1, 2008 at 05.18 pm

Looks awesome! I’m going to try this out today. Thanks.


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permalink this comment Laurens Thu Oct 2, 2008 at 10.47 am

That is awesome Veerle. I love these tutorials and more are appreciated too :)


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permalink this comment Anders Thu Oct 2, 2008 at 04.23 pm

Veerle,

thanks for explaining a bit more in detail. The gradient is still a bit of a mystery to me though. The opaque parts of the gradient actually don’t fade to transparency unless i set fill 0% on the actual layer, in the layers pallette. For example, if i use the ellipse tool to create a black ellipse and apply the same gradient effect as in your example, the opaque parts fade to black, since black is the fill color (white in your example). Same thing in CS2 and CS3.


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permalink this comment Nick Toye Sun Oct 5, 2008 at 12.27 am

Hmm, I’m afraid I got stuck on the basics there.  Pen tool is always something that for me is hit and miss.  As I don’t use it as often as I should do.

Any pointers on how I can create the curves?  Even if its a link to a basic run down on how the pen tool works.


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permalink this comment Veerle Sun Oct 5, 2008 at 10.25 am

Anders said:

The opaque parts of the gradient actually don’t fade to transparency unless I set fill 0% on the actual layer, in the layers palette.

You’re right about this, the Fill should be set to 0% for a smooth transparent blending into the background. My sincere apologies for not mentioning this before. I should write my tutorials right after my creation, which wasn’t the case for this one. I created this color flame months ago. Tricky for making mistakes or overlook things.

Nick Toye said:

Hmm, I’m afraid I got stuck on the basics there.  Pen tool is always something that for me is hit and miss.  As I don’t use it as often as I should do.

I can point you to this tutorial which explains how to use the Pen tool in Illustrator. You could also consider to try the easy way by drawing just 1 single bezier curve, introduced here in the comments by Marco and explained step-by-step by Jason Beaird.


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permalink this comment maxine Mon Oct 6, 2008 at 01.44 am

Thank you so much for this nice tutorial. I love it, just what i was looking for


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permalink this comment Ryan Mon Oct 6, 2008 at 09.56 am

Great tutorial once again, this is a really nice effect.


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permalink this comment Nick Toye Mon Oct 6, 2008 at 10.13 am

So does the pen tool work the same way in Photoshop as it does in Illustrator?


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permalink this comment Nick Toye Mon Oct 6, 2008 at 10.25 am

Jane Comment 29

That for me is what I wanted to know, and I now understand.


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permalink this comment Veerle Pieters Mon Oct 6, 2008 at 10.44 am

Nick Toye said:

So does the pen tool work the same way in Photoshop as it does in Illustrator?

No it’s not 100% exactly the same I’m afraid.


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permalink this comment Nick Toye Mon Oct 6, 2008 at 10.50 am

Hmm, now when I go to do the feather part it is saying that

“No pixels are more than 50% selected, the selection edges will not be visible.”

What am I doing wrong there?


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permalink this comment Veerle Pieters Mon Oct 6, 2008 at 12.15 pm

Nick Toye said:

Hmm, now when I go to do the feather part it is saying that “No pixels are more than 50% selected, the selection edges will not be visible.” What am I doing wrong there?

It means your initial selection is too small. You have to start with a big selection so it is ‘possible’ for Photoshop to add a feather of 50 pixels. Sorry if things don’t go as fluent as you wish, but for this tutorial you need basic knowledge of Photoshop, as I stated at the beginning of my article. Maybe I can suggest some books to learn more about these basics.


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permalink this comment Nick Toye Mon Oct 6, 2008 at 01.57 pm

yeah I do get it, it’s just not done certain techniques for a while, maybe need to brush up on some basics.


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permalink this comment Andrew Mon Oct 6, 2008 at 04.44 pm

Love it… and nice and simple.

Thanks


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permalink this comment Richard McFarland Tue Oct 7, 2008 at 05.07 am

I decided to de-lurk! As usual, an inspirational tutorial.  I know I will be able to apply many of the things involved in creating this look in other situations. Although I’ve used both Photoshop and Illustrator for many, many years, I always learn something new from your tutorials. Best of all, you make learning new tricks in these powerful applications a little less daunting and inspire me to be more creative. Thanks!


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permalink this comment Mayi Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 04.33 am

As always, great tutorial…. Thanks!



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