A lot of people seem to have problems with using fire and flames convincingly, so this is an account of how I created the fire effects in this particular image:
The techniques could be applied to any number of other pictures.
I created the main elements of the picture first: the background, the figure and the well:
I used a single image of flames against a black background:
There are lots of such images available, and it is best to use a high quality one with as close as possible to a totally black background.
I placed the flame image under the well layer and above the figure layer and changed the Blend Mode to Screen so that the black background disappeared leaving just the flames:
If the flame image leaves a faint outline round the edge because the background is not quite black, just use a large, soft-edged Eraser to get rid of it.
I then used the same image several times more above and below the figure, changing the size, flipping and warping it until I was happy with the overall effect:
You could use several different flame images, but in this case it worked well with just one.
Next I created a new layer on top of the others and used a soft-edged brush to paint yellow on to all the areas which would be brightly lit by the fire:
This included the undersides of the arms, chin, nose and eyebrows of the figure and the top surface of the well. I then experimented with the Opacity and Blend Modes to get the right effect: Overlay and Soft Light seem to work best. In this case everything was on an Overlay layer at full Opacity and the light on the figure was also duplicated on a Screen layer at full Opacity to make it really strong – you need to experiment to find the right effect.
I then used the Pen tool to create a wavy Path and added a brush stroke to it in yellow. The size would be between 1 and 3 pixels depending on the size of the image. I used a large, soft-edged Eraser to soften the top and bottom, then duplicated it several times, altering the size and angle and flipping it until I had enough lines, then lowered the opacity slightly and added a slight Gaussian Blur to them:
I then used a small, soft-edged Brush to dot in the sparks.
Finally I added a top Overlay layer of orange at about 30% Opacity (experiment to see what looks best) to give the whole image a fiery glow:
This step could be done with an Adjustment layer, but I prefer to do it with a normal Overlay.
I added the beam of white light from top right behind the figure to contrast with the fire and explain the white light on the top right of the original image: I painted it, blurred it, changed it to Screen mode and lowered the Opacity to about 30%. And that’s it! I hope it is of some use.
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