Lighting A Fire In The Fireplace With Photoshop

December 8th, 2008

I got a question about from a reader last week asking about the best way to create a fire in the fireplace with Photoshop. He said he had seen the tutorial that shows how to put flames on text but having trouble making the jump to making a fire place look convincing.

Yes, there is more to good looking fires than just the flame. You need logs on grates etc. My approach is to use a actual fire with logs and all the supports from a real fire. The way to do this is as follows:

  1. Use the polygon lasso tool to select the fire you want to use (assuming you have a collection of real fires) and cut it out of the original photo.
  2. Then drag it on the the photo that needs a fire so the fire is on it’s own layer.
  3. Then use transform>distort, the clone tool and the opacity of the fire layer to get the fire the right size, in the right place and the right look. The great thing about fires is they are usually an amorphous glob so it’s not hard to make them look convincing.
  4. Make sure you don’t misrepresent the type of fireplace. That is, don’t put a big blazing wood fire in a fireplace that has a gas log. Gas fires are more subdued.

If you have a good selection of real fires the process is much easier. I’m thinking that we need a library of fires for people to use much like the library of skies I have up under the “Resources” tab along the top of the blog. In a quick inventory I found at least 3 usable fires to start out. If anyone else has some good fires they want to contribute to the library post a link in a comment or send the file to me and I’ll add them to the library. Here is the link to my public domain fire library.

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8 Responses to “Lighting A Fire In The Fireplace With Photoshop”

  • Or, you could use a PS Plug from Panopticum, called “Fire”

  • a plugin? no way. I have a fireplace. I will build a fire and just shoot it from a variety of angles, and create a library of fires, just like i do for skies and other things I need to pop in and out of images.

    this is a good idea, thanks!

  • Hi Larry,

    Thank you for posting this information. Here in Orange County, Ca. many of the top real estate photographers have fires burning in the fireplaces and also candles and outside fire pits. The fire makes the photos really pop when compared to other photos with no fire. I can’t believe how easy it is and I thank you again.

  • Very good idea. I’ve sent you a fireplace for inclusion in your “fire library”

  • One more trick to make a photoshopped fire more convincing is to use the dropper to select the flame colour, then use a big soft brush to paint a warm glow around the fire place and as a reflection on the floor [in a new layer] then knock back the layers’ transparency to about 5-10% and maybe mask to fine tune the effect.

    Of course, it’s usually a lot easier to just light a scrunched up ball of newspaper placed ontop of the logs in the fireplace to begin with.

  • Thanks Larry, this is something I have been pondering for a while, in fact I posted a question on the forum. Thanks for the direction, I’ll keep experimenting…

  • I normally add fire very quickly by following this procedure.
    1) I have fire on black background, you can find many on google.
    2) I place the fire in fireplace and adjust it with free transform and distort.
    3) I apply layer mode Lighten or screen or color dodge, which ever fits best to add a realistic fire blending black color into wood.
    4) I cleanout unwanted fire or flames with soft eraser.

    Thants it, give it a try.
    Happy Holidays

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