Fire Effect: Smoke Brushes & Gradient Map

Using smoke brushes in combination with a gradient map can create an effect that looks very much like fire.
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Basic Setup

First you will need a black background, where you will draw your smoke with white color on:

Smoke on black background.

Personally I like to use Solid Color Layers, and draw the smoke on the mask of the layer. If I want to change something later, I will be more flexible.


Next we will create a gradient map to color our smoke like fire. In the below sections you will find how it is done for Photoshop, Affinity Photo and Gimp. For the following gradient I’m using the colors black, #ff2400, #ffc000 and white.

A sample gradient that can be used to color smoke like fire.

In Photoshop

In photoshop, we will use “Menu >> Layer >> New Adjustment Layer >> Gradient Map”, using gradient like the one above. The result will look like this:

Smoke which is looking like fire.
Photoshop Final Layers

The Affinity Photo Way

In Affinity Photo, go to Menu >> Layer >> New Adjustment Layer >> Gradient Map Adjustment”. Use a fire colored gradient to color your smoke.

The Gimpers Choice

In Gimp the process is a bit different. First you will need to have everything on a single layer. So paint your smoke directly on a layer filled with black:

Single layer with smoke.

Then select the gradient tool and use a fire like gradient. Gimp has a predefined gradient called “incandescent” which works quite well for our purpose:

Gradient Tool and Incandescent Gradient

Then use “Menu >> Color >> Map >> Gradient Map” to map the colors to your black and white layer.

The Result in Gimp.

Play with the Colors

Play around with the colors of the gradient to change the effect. Depending on the colors you choose and how you distribute them you can create different effects.


affinity photobrushesdesigneffectfiregimpgradientgradient mapmapphotoshopsmoketutorial

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