Photoshop Tutorial: How to Add Fire Effect to an Image

In Artwork Skills, Image Editing Skills
Create fire effect using Photoshop.

Disclose your imagination with the techniques that will add fire effect to an image in Photoshop. In this Photoshop tutorial, we use a simple model and embody it into a flaming fire beacon. We are going to use a number of common Photoshop tools such as Dodge, Smudge, and Burn to make a stunning artistry image without using any third-party Photoshop plug-in.

This tutorial will guide you how to use the Levels and Adjustment Layers in Photoshop. If you use it properly, you can make a powerful fire effect to your image. Besides, the Layer Masks and Blend Modes functions are really capable of making a stunning fire effect. So, make sure your Photoshop is ready on your screen and improve your image editing skills by learning how to add fire effect to your image.

Add Fire Effect to an Image in Photoshop

When practicing this tutorial, I use Adobe Photoshop CS6. However, you can practice this tutorial by using at least an Adobe Photoshop CS3. Other newest Photoshop versions would be better.

The source of the image in this tutorial was taken from

Beautiful woman face close up studio on pink.
Image credit: “Beautiful woman face close up studio on pink.” This image was taken from the collection of a photographer, Natalya Novak on Remark_Anna/

Step 1: Open Your Image and Create a Background Layer

Assign Profile to Your Image

Run your Photoshop and open an image you would like to edit. If you want to practice with the image above, you can take it here. Then, click Edit → Assign Profile. After the windows open, at the drop-down options, select Profile: Adobe RGB (1998).

Set assign profile to your image in Photoshop.
Edit → Assign Profile → Adobe RGB (1998).

This function sets the color profile of the image which makes the colors look sharper and contrast. Change the background color to white. But if you use another image with a white background color, you don’t need to change it. Then, increase the canvas height 25% (in this tutorial, I increase the height of the canvas from 603 to 753 pixels) and set the canvas extension color to white. To do so, go to Image → Canvas Size. After increasing the canvas height, click OK.

Increase the canvas size in Photoshop.
Go to Image → Canvas Size: Increase the Height and select a Canvas Extension Color: White

Then, you are going to justify the position of the main object of the image (the women picture). Move the woman picture tangent to the bottom edge of the canvas. But before you move it, double-click on the background layer to free it up. Freeing the background layer means you can place other layers under it in the Layers panel.

Justify the Main Object of the Image

To justify the woman picture, use the Magic Wand Tool (W) and select the white background color by clicking while the wand on the white background. Then, select inverse (Right-click → Select Inverse). And use Move Tool (V) to move the woman picture tangent to the bottom edge of the canvas. Then, right-click again on your canvas work, Select Inverse again, and after that, you need to fill the empty part of the background using Paint Bucket Tool (G).

How to move an object of a picture using Photoshop.

Next, make a new layer and name it as ‘Color’. Use the Color Picker to select a color with R:127 G:53 B:41 to fill the new layer with the color you just were chosen. After that, move the layer (Color layer) underneath the woman picture.

Choose a background color to a layer in Photoshop.

Make a Radial Gradient Layer

Then, make a new layer and name it as Gradient. You are going to fill the new layer with a Radial Gradient (G) but pull the gradient from the center of the model’s head toward the top vertically and set the gradient mode to Multiply. Then, place the Gradient layer under the model layer.

make a new Radial Gradient Layer.
Radial Gradient Setting

Step 2: Unhide the Main Object and Create a Stroke Layer

At the second step, you need to cut the model picture out. So, use the Magic Wand Tool (W) and click anywhere on the empty area, and the Rick-click on it and Select Inverse.

Meanwhile, let the selection remains active, go to Layer → New → Layer (Shift+Ctrl+N) and name the new layer as ‘Stroke’. Place the Stroke layer at the very top of the other layers. Then, at the menu of your Photoshop, click Edit → Stroke, the stroke Stroke settings’ window will appear. Set the Width of the Stroke to 50px and select the Location to Inside. Then, choose a Stroke Color by inputting the value of R: 128, G: 128, and B: 128.

Set the stroke to an object on the picture.
Stroke Setting

Step 3: Paint with Fire

Next, you are going to add fire effect to an image in Photoshop. This step is the time to express your creativity. Don’t worry about any mistake here as it would part of the artistic work.

Stay your work on the ‘Stroke’ layer, and now you need to use the Smudge Tool. Then, set the Hardness of the brush to 100% and set the size of the brush value between 30 to 50 px. Choose a size value that fit the main object of your image. However, consider the outcome file size, because the larger the brush size, it may take large memory too.

Then, move your work to the model layer but clicking on it and change the opacity percentage to 20%.

Set the Opacity of the layer.
The Model Layer’s Opacity Setting

This way will help shape the flames along the stripes of the body. Now, go back to the stroke layer and it’s the time to smudge a bit swirling upward direction.

Set the smudge brush hardness and size and use it.
Smudge Tool Setting

Step 4: Set the Blending Mode of the Stroke Layer

Next, make sure you have done adding the fire effect to your image. Now, you are going to do a simple setting to make the blending mode of your Stroke layer to Color Dodge. Go to Layer → Layer Style → Blending Options and select Color Dodge from the Blend Mode options.

Changing the Blend Mode of a Layer to Color Dodge.

Then, use the Dodge and Burn tools (O). Brush all area of the layer. You may set a larger brush size to make it fast. This tool used to tighten the effect you just made in the previous step.

Use Dodge to thighten the effect of the layer.
Use Dodge Tool


Use Burn Tool in Photoshop to add fire effect in Photoshop
Use Burn Tool

Step 5: Glowing the Flames

At this step, you are going to glow the flames. So, make sure the shape of the fire painting you just made has been fixed. Firstly, you need to hide the ‘Gradient’ layer.

Before Glowing the Flames

Then, move your work to the ‘Color’ layer and flash in some areas using the Dodge tool (O). After that, duplicate the color layer. Glowing the flames in Photoshop

Now, go to Image → Adjustments → Levels and input a value of 110 to the black slider.

Set the black slider to 100.

Still your work on the Color layer, go to Image → Hue/Saturation adjustment and set the value of the Hue to18. Now, move your work to the ‘Color copy’ layer and set the opacity to 50%. After that, move the Color Copy layer under the Stroke Layer to make the fire effect to be obtrusive.

Move the Color Copy layer under the Stroke Layer.

Step 6: Enhance the Flame Effect

To enhance the flame effect, duplicate the ‘Stroke’ layer four times. Then, give Gaussian Blur at 80 of value for the two of the Stroke layer copies. Adding Gaussian Blur to a Layer in Photoshop

After that, fill a “Black, White” Radial Gradient (Radial Gradient Tool (G)) in a certain area for each of them.

Step 7: Make More Flames in Different Layers

Make more flamesTo execute this step, you are going to make more flames by making a new stroke layer (step 2) and the same smudge technique as you have done in Step 3. So, make more flames in different layers. This way will allow you to have more control if any of them need modification. Set to Color Dodge for the Blend Mode of the flame layers and treat them with the Dodge and Burn. To make a good result, create a layer group for these layers to keep away any involution.


Step 8: Paint and Smudge an Additional Batch of Flames

This is an optional step. If you feel the facial area needs more flames, you can paint and smudge an additional batch of flame designs onto the picture the same way as step 7. Make them more wavy and stretchy to keep up the lines of the woman’s face. Place the additional flames layer inside the Extra Flames layer.

Step 9: Highlight and Darken Particular Areas

Get the shape as you’ve done in step 2 using the Stroke edit function. Then, highlight and darken particular areas using the Dodge and Burn tools, but without the flames. This way performed to smooth the lining of the model’s neck and shoulders region.

Step 10: Blending

Curve adjustment layerAt this step, you are going to blend the face and a little bit of the hands into the fire effect while preserving it smooth. To do so, start with highlighting the face area using the Dodge tool, and followed with the hands’ area, shoulders area and some other parts if you need to. Then, stay your work on the model’s layer, find the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer button and click on it. Enter the Curves on the Windows and set the curve to get the fire effect art as you want.

Step 11: Make a Desaturate Adjustment

Select the entire visible image by selecting it and then Copy Merged the image using a quick function; Shift + Ctrl + C. Then, paste the image you just copied onto a new layer. There you need to make a desaturate adjustment to the new merged image, go to Image → Adjustments → Desaturate. Now, just like the adjustment you’ve done in step 5, click Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer, choose Levels and set the point slider to 55. Then, set the opacity to 20%.Make a desaturate effect to the model layer.

Step 12: Paste the Desaturated Image onto New Layer Again and Darken Some Areas

Copy Merged the entire image again just like in step 12 and place it onto a new layer. Now, set the Brush tool to a soft touch, and brush with a black to the white area of the image. Then, you are going to use the Burn tool to darken particular parts of the model’s arms and face. Try to make it more realistic with your creativity. Now, make some settings to the ‘Curves’ Adjustment Layer the same way as the Step 11 and locate it on the upper side of the ‘Desaturated’ layer. Change the opacity setting to 20%.

Burn image using hard brush.

Step 13: Make a Color Edit Group and Some Layers Combination

Next, you are going to combine the image with the fire effect. At the image you’ve made in Step 13, select the entire image, and then, copy the merged layers. Now, paste it into the a new Layer Group and name it as ‘Color Edit’. Use Gaussian Blur to minimize the detail of the facial. Then, make two duplicates of it. Then, place the Color Edit group under the Color Copy layer.

Now, change the name of the original image layer to ‘Blue A’. Go to the Colorize in Hue/Saturation and give a value of 240 to the Hue, 95 to the Saturation, and 13% to the Blend Mode to Lighten and Opacity.

Duplicate the ‘Blue A’ and change the name to ‘Blue B’. Set the Opacity to 40%. Then, change the name of the second desaturated picture layer become ‘Yellow A’. Place it on the upper side of the ‘Blue B’. Do some settings to the Yellow A layer as what you have made to the ‘Blue A’, but set the Hue to 45 and the saturatioin to 38, and set 30% of Opacity to it. Now, Copy it and name it ‘Yellow B’. Go to the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer, choose Levels option and set the gray slider to 0.90. Finally, duplicate the adjustment layer and give name ‘Levels 1’ and ‘Levels 2’ to them and place the Color Edit Group under the Color Copy layer.

Color Edit Group and some layers combination.

Step 14: Make a Layer Mask to Each of the Layers under Color Edit Group

Now, you need to duplicate the ‘Yellow B’ layer and make the name of the duplicate to ‘Yellow C’. Place this layer upper side of the ‘Levels 2’ layer. Then, set the Blend Mode to Color Dodge and change the Opacity value 27%.

Change the name of the third desaturated picture layer to ‘BW image’ and place it at the upper side of the ‘Yellow C’ layer. Change the Opacity level to 78% and Set the Blend Mode to Color Dodge.

Make a Layer Mask for each of the layer except the ‘Yellow C’ layer. Finally, add also a Layer Mask to the ‘Color Edit’ group of layers. This way will hide the eyeball of the picture that makes the eyes keep looking at the front. Add a layer mask to each of the layers.

Step 15: Make a Color Tweak Layer Group

Select and copy merged the entire visible image again and paste it into a new layer. Now, create a new Group Layer and name it as Color Tweak. Then, move the new layer into the Color Tweak group folder, and rename the new layer as CT Hue. After that, go to Image → Adjustments → Hue/Saturation. Change of fill the Hue setting box with 8 and press Enteron your keyboard. Reduce the Opacity percentage to 25%. Finally, duplicate this layer and rename the new duplicated layer as CT Blur, set the opacity to 15%, and add a layer mask to each of those 2 layers.

How to make a color twek in Photoshop.

Final Result

You may also want to add some additional flames to your arwork. If so, it’s recommended to add it to a new layer, and place the new layer into the Extra Flames group of layers. Below is the order of all of the layers. The order of the layers.

And this is the final result of adding fire effect to an image in Photoshop.

How to add fire effect to an image in Photoshop.

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