How to draw flames

How to draw flames

An in depth tutorial to learn how to draw flames using a simple geometrical approach.

If you want to learn how to draw flames you must understand that drawing flames is different from most things you have drawn so far and it’s not an easy task.

Why drawing flames is so difficult? Well the reason lies in the nature of the flames themselves. They are moving, changing, dancing constantly and that’s the reason that make them so fascinating.

Their color also changes dramatically according to the material burning and the intensity of the heat. You probably have figured that drawing flames and capturing their essence on paper is going to be an hard task for these reasons.

The best thing you can do while drawing flames is trying to simulate them on paper (or digital medium you are using) and give the observer the illusion he is looking at hot, scorching and vivid flames!

I will draw different types of flames in this tutorial but the principle to draw them will be always the same. Also the color is very important in giving the illusion of scorching flames. Let’s go to see how to draw flames!

We will start with a very simple drawing of a small flame and we’ll try to get the basic principles to get it right. More complex and elaborated flames need more patience and a bit more skill but are based on the same essential principles.

How to draw flames – starting out

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First thing, symmetry. You want your flames to be asymmetric, completely off or they’ll look static and boring. So I have drawn a vertical axis and two horizontal ones to explain what I mean. In drawing the basic shape of the flame I’ll stay away from symmetry and I’ll try to imagine the flame almost twisting around the middle axis.

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See what I mean? Start at the base of the flame and draw a curved line like an inverted letter s. Once at the top come back down (see the top arrow) loosely following the curvature of the first line and meet the tip of the flame at the bottom.

Now, by using similar motions with your pencil, draw a smaller flame inside. This smaller flame has to be closer to the bottom, it is very important as we are using three basic colors to represent the heat emanating from the flame.

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The last step is drawing an even smaller flame inside the middle one, like in the drawing above. All flames are colored according to their temperature and they are hotter in the inside than the outside. Higher temperatures produce brighter colors while lower temperatures produce darker colors.

In this case we are using three colors, yellow, orange and red to represent this phenomenon. So from now on the core of our flames will be yellow (white in the last drawing) while the intermediate layer will be orange and the outside of the flame will be red. You can use more colors if you like but I believe these are the bare minimum if you want to draw convincing flames.

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Once you’ve outlined your flame and the three parts of it you just need to fill it up with color to finish your drawing. A couple of things to notice: first, the bottom of the flame is the hottest part and should be colored yellow or white; second, when you draw the flame try to work on the sinuosity of the curves. There aren’t straight lines in a flames and all the curves connect flawlessly to each other.

Let’s move now to a slightly more complicate design.

How to draw flames – slightly more complex

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With this design we are going to learn how to add a small side flame to the main flame. The first thing you want to do is to draw a larger base for the flame. it really looks like a drop upside-down, doesn’t it?

This is slightly more complex than the previous flame but really not that much. Be careful to draw sinuous lines and to create an uninterrupted flow between the tips of the flame.

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Once you have drawn the main outline of the flame and you are happy with it, you need to draw the intermediate and small shapes inside. These, again, represent the different levels of heat within the flames.

The smaller shapes are easy to draw in fact they follow loosely the shape of the next bigger one. So the orange shape follows loosely the red shape, the main shape, while the yellow shape follows loosely the orange shape.

Once the three shapes are drawn just fill them with the appropriate colors (with a technique of your choice) to get the final result.

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Nice isn’t it?

Now let’s move on to the next step which will be a somewhat more complicated shape than the previous. However the complication comes from the increased number of flame tongues and not due to some technical or artistic problem.

The basic rules are the same as for the previous flames but this time we’ll draw more tongues and the final flame will look more complex.

How to draw flames – definitely more complex

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In this last section of the tutorial we are going to draw a complex flame using the basic principles learned so far to draw effective flames: use three basic colors, yellow, orange and red to create the illusion of the hotter center of the flame and colder outside; draw asymmetric shapes, as flames tend to have low or no symmetry; keep the curves flowing from one tongue to the following trying to avoid straight lines that would interrupt the flow of the shape.

This is a larger flame so start from the bottom and draw a larger base then move upward and draw the flame tongues. Obviously they do not have to be identical to mine.

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As for the previous drawings once you have established the main shape or contour of the flame you can draw the smaller shapes inside the flame. You do not have to replicate the larger shapes with the small one but only loosely follow them.

The drawing up here exemplify the process clearly. Again take your time to draw nice shapes and the last step, coloring, will be easy to do and your flame will look good straight away.

How to draw flames – burning fire

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If you have taken your time to draw the shapes that form your flame nicely the final result is guaranteed.

So to wrap up this first tutorial on how to draw flames remember the following:

1. start from the base of the flame and draw upward from there

2. use three colors, red, orange and yellow to simulate three different levels of heat within the flame

3. keep the curves, that form the outer shape of the flame, flowing without braking or straight lines to give your flame a realistic look

4. enjoy drawing flames!

I hope this tutorial has helped you learn how to draw flames. I will soon post another tutorial to give you an head start on how to draw even more complex and big flames!

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