This tutorial requires the use of two tools in Illustrator:

  • the flare tool (located under the rectangle and ellipse tools)
  • the spiral tool (located under the line segment tool)

The end result of the tutorial will be to create a fireball that can be used as an effect in vector artwork. Below is an example of how this technique can be incorporated into a figure drawing. The image is from page 12 of Green Corner.

Colour values are listed in CMYK in percentages (in the format of #/#/#/#). This tutorial is mostly a list of the settings I used for this effect. The tools are pretty simple to use and only need modifications to suit this purpose.

The Flare:

Here is what a flare looks like in outline mode:

Compared to regular view, against a background:

  1. The full size of this flare is 3.0084 inches. The bottom most part of the flare has a pale yellow stroke (5/20/50/0) of 3.171 pt. Opacity: 10% screen. Feather: 0.03 inches.
  2. Moving up a level, this part of the flare is a circle with a radial gradient for a fill. Opacity: 15% overlay. Feather: 0.1 inches. Th gradient is composed of two swatches: a rich black (0/100/100/100) at 0% and 100%, plus a brownish red (29/80/90/25) placed at 73% on the gradient slider. The midpoint remains at the default position of 50%.
  3. Another radial gradient, this one with opacity at 50% overlay. Feather: 0.1 inches. Colours and placements on the gradient bar are as follows: white at 15% (with the next midpoint diamond at 40%), a dark rose (27/69/50/28) located at 45% on the slider (next midpoint at 40%), rich black (0/100/100/100) at 85% on the slider (next midpoint at 70%), orange red (14/80/90/0) located at 90% (next midpoint at 25%), and rich black (0/100/100/100) at 100% on the slider.
  4. Moving up a level, to a slightly smaller circle filled with a gradient. Opacity: 100% difference. Feather: 0.1 inches. Gradient stops are white at 15%, midpoint at 35%, and black at 100%.
For the entire flare group, opacity is set to 100% lighten.

The spirals:

The brush style used for these is “dry brush 10” from the “Artistic_Paintbrush” brush library. The feather effects are more noticeable with these thick strokes, and help to soften the edges to seem more like flames and less like flat ink.

  1. The bottom most spiral is a group, with chunks missing from the original spiral. Opacity: 40% hard light. Feather: 0.05 inches. Stroke is 0.75 pt and coloured orange (0/80/100/0).
  2. The second spiral is intact. Opacity: 60% multiply. Feather: 0.1 inches. Stroke: 1 pt, maroon (0/91/100/51).
  3. The third spiral appears intact, but has been cut into four pieces for a more pleasing line quality. Opacity: 80% multiply. Feather: 0.1 inches. Stroke: 1 pt, warm yellow (10/40/100/0).
  4. Again, this spiral appears to be intact, but is actually cut into four segments. Opacity: 100% multiply. Feather: 0.07 inches. Stroke: 0.656 pt, light brown (25/45/70/5).
  5. A smaller spiral that appears to be intact, this time in three segments. Opacity: 40% hard light. Feather: 0.04 inches. Stroke: 0.374 pt, warm yellow (10/40/100/0).

The following image is what the fireball looks like assembled, on a background. Transparency modes, opacity, stroke thickness for the spirals, and colours will need adjusting depending on the background being used. It’s important to create some contrast between the fire ball and the surroundings, or the effect won’t be as strong. Also, don’t forget that when placed in a scene, the fire ball is a light source and will affect the placement of shadows and highlights on the surroundings.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Feel free to let me know if you liked this and/or have any questions in the comments.