Learning to paint airbrush flames can be really frustrating and I think I have nailed down the reason why. Flames, and shapes within flames are really abstract shapes and to the mind that implies that any combination of abstract shapes jumbled together and painted the right colors should look like real fire – the problem is that this is NOT true! Yes, all the shapes in flames are abstract, but it takes a keen eye to see how they all fit together and even after you’ve studied flame patterns at length – there is no rhyme or reason to the combination of shapes that results in realistic flames.
In short … flames take practice. Even though I have watched Mike Lavallee’s Tru Fire DVD and even though I’ve been working on it for months – I still don’t have flames down. Regardless of that, here is my latest attempt at flames … enjoy.
I decided for this set of flames that I wanted to try wrapping the flames around and over some words … so, ingeniously and super creatively I chose the word “Flames”. To do this I made a mask out of frisket film for the letters as shown below.
**A cool tip: Because I am placing the frisket on a black surface with black writing on the film itself it was going to be very difficult to see the lines that I drew in order to cut them out with an exacto knife so I first sprayed a bit of white paint on the frisket before applying it to the surface to help the letters stand out more.
Using card stock and an exacto knife I made some homemade stencils.
Then I used the homemade stencil and watered down white paint to create a bunch of random “flame shaped” licks and lines. I am doing my best to make each lick look “hollow” inside to give the illusion of depth of field.
I keep doing adding flames licks in this manner until I have something that looks like this…
I can tell already that the flame licks are too chunky and fat but … this is a learning thing so I keep on going.
Now it’s time to add some color! Note that my colors are going to seem really subdued for a number of reasons. a) I am working on a piece of black cardstock and the texture of it will make the work seem “fuzzy”, b) I am using acrylic paints and they always appear to have a “dusty” look to them when used on black. Once you clear acrylics the colors pop much more vibrant.
In this photo I have added a wash of deep red … almost a rusty color of red … to be the background color of the flames.
I’ll admit at this point that it looks like HELL (and not in a good way) …
Over top of the red, I add more white licks of flame … this time I am trying to keep them a bit tighter and to keep them within the confines of the other licks I have made previously.
Now I wash those flames with a deep orange color going over the red as well to deepen it even further and push it way into the background.
Then I add even more white flames … again, keeping these ones even tighter than the previous ones.
Once I am happy with those I mix up a really bright yellow and wash it over the white. I also use it to brighten up a few places throughout the painting.
Now the fun part … peeling off the frisket letters to see what it looks like with the pattern.
For fun I decided to see if I could make a few of the licks look like they were intertwined with the letters. I used the exact same process as I did for building the bigger portion of flames. Here is how it turned out.
Hopefully that gives you an idea of how flames are rendered using an airbrush – I know that I personally still have to work on these and work to make my shapes more realistic – but, like they say, practice makes perfect.