RSS/Atom feed Twitter
Site is read-only, email is disabled

Tutorial: Smoke and Flames

Written by · Created on May 18, 2007, last updated over 13 years ago CC BY-NC License


In this tutorial, I'll show how to create fairly realistic smoke in the GIMP. After that I'll show you how to convert the smoke into cool looking flames in just some very easy steps. Enjoy!

Tutorial details

  1. 1

    Create a new file: 800×600px. (black background-color)
    - add a new layer, it shall be transparent
    - take a big, white brush and paint some big dots as seen on the picture below.

  2. 2

    Now take the Eraser-Tool, and delete some parts of these dots, so that you get something like a half moon at the end.

  3. 3

    Next apply a gaussian blur to this layer: Filter / Blur / Gaussian

  4. 4

    This step is now very important: Go to Filter / Distorts / IWarp.

    Adjust the settings as seen on the picture.

    Deform Mode: Swirl CW. In the preview window hold your left mousebutton down and start to zigzag from left to the right pretty fast.

    The purpose of this is to get points that are streched a little bit. DON’T click the OK button yet.

  5. 5

    Now swith to another Deform Mode: Move. This step will take some time until you’re finished. Try to move the single points/dots together and alsy try to move them a little to the top. Look at my picture to see what it should look like.

    When finished click OK.

  6. 6

    It looks like this now (of course you will have no the identical image but you should now have something like this):

  7. 7

    Duplicate the layer. Select the Flip-Tool (SHIFT+F), click the layer once and you should have a flipped layer.

  8. 8

    - Filter / Blur / Gaussian: 10px.
    - Move the layer a little more to the bottom.
    - In the layers dialog click the one layer that is at the top.
    - Click right and choose “Merge down”.

  9. 9

    - Filter / Blur / Gaussian: 10px.

    Okay. So that does not look like real smoke, doesn’t it. It is to thick/strong. To get rid of the strongness go to Colors / Curves. Top left select “alpha”. Then adjust the curve seen below.

  10. 10

    Now it looks better!

  11. 11

    We want to make our smoke look more realistic, so we have to remove some parts of the picture that don’t look natural ;)

    For this take the Erase-Tool. In the settings chhoose a big soft brush. (If you don’t habe a big soft brush you’ve to create one in the brushes-editor first!)

    In my picture I’ve removed some smoke in the top middle.

  12. 12

    We’re now done with the details of the smoke. To get a better overall feeling we’re going to enhance it with a very slight backgound that shoud give us the feeling of have some sort of environment smoke.

    Take the free select tool (F) and draw a selection around our smoke (like an outline).

  13. 13

    - add a new layer
    - Filter / Render / Clouds / Solid noise.

    Random: checked, others unchecked.
    X/Y: 4/4.
    Details: 1

  14. 14

    Adjust the opacity of the layer to 20%.

  15. 15

    Smoke dows also have a structure/pattern. We’re goint to simulate this as follows:

    - add a new layer on the very top.
    - Fill it with a medium grey tone.
    - Filter / Noise / HSV and take these values

  16. 16

    Filter / Enhance / Sharpen: 85px.

    Set the layers mode to Divide and the opacity / transparency to 40%.

  17. 17

    Now we’re just going to colorize our smoke a little bit.

    Create a new layer on top of all. Fill it with #afbeff and set the layers mode to “Color”, the opacity to 10%.

    The smoke is done!

  18. 18

    Here is a photo which I added our just created smoke to.

  19. 19

    Now we’re going to convert our smoke to some cool looking flames.

    Save your smoke to smoke.xcf.

    Click the eye icon of the blue layer to make it invisible.

    Duplicate the smoke-layer, flip it, move it to another place in the image and remove some parts of the duplicated layer so that we don’t see that it is just a duplicate.

  20. 20

    - Go to Edit / Copy visible.
    - Edit / Paste

    Click the anchor-button in the layers dialog to get the pasted to a seperate layer.

    After that choose the IWarp Filter again, select Move and in the preview window move the “flames” from left to the middle and from right to the middle. It looks like this now:

  21. 21

    Colors / Brightness & Contrast: 60/50.

    Then apply Colors / Color Balance

    Shadows: 100 / -100 / -100
    Midtones: 100 / 100 / -100
    Highlights: 100 / 100 / -100

    Thats it ;)

  22. 22

    I’ve you’re playing around abit like me you can do some cool flames. I’m using this one as a desktop wallpaper atm ;)

  23. 23

    Or you can just colorize it blue, looks cool too!


Post your own comments, questions or hints here. The author and other users will see your posting and can reply to it.

Of course, you can also ask in the chat.

Subscription management

Please log in to manage your subscriptions.

User rating

This topic (Smoke and Flames) has been rated 4.0/5.0.

New comments are disabled because of spam.

about 2 years ago

After many years your tutorial is still very helpful! Thanks a lot!

anandkrish member for over 10 years anandkrish 1 comment rated this topic with 5/5
over 10 years ago

Thank you very very much... sooo helpful... :)

caroline member for over 10 years caroline 2 comments
over 10 years ago

wow - as soon as i get this rose image straightened out - watch out - this looks like fun, thnak yu

lousiewhei member for about 12 years lousiewhei 14 comments
about 12 years ago

You work is wonderful.
Any1 seen the 'shark swimming in the mall' pic? I asked around, but no one seemed to know how the author did it. Anyone know where to look?

over 13 years ago

Nice tutorial and very helpful too. Thanks so much!

Lol, isn't the guy with the cigar Emil? XD

over 13 years ago

Great, thanks! This helped me a lot for my Healthy Living project (about not smoking)

Smoke and Flames rated this topic with 4/5
almost 14 years ago

That's a nice graphic. I think I'll use this tutorial to build a logo for my Smoke and Flames Site

about 14 years ago

How do you transfer the smoke to the picture?

Ray rated this topic with 3/5
about 14 years ago

I really like the final product (flames). There'a a lot of steps to follow... But good work anyways.

Matthew rated this topic with 5/5
about 14 years ago

Awesome tutorial, but I really suck at doing this lol. I guess with practice, i'll get better eventually. Thanks1

n00b rated this topic with 3/5
over 14 years ago

I haven't finished it yet I had some difficulty figuring out how to change the layer opacity then my computer over heated, will try again. Thanks these tutorials are very helpful in learning how to do new things.

almost 15 years ago

This is a great tutorial. I made this picture by following your instructions.


almost 15 years ago

This is the best tut I've ever read about creating smoke and flames in Gimp, a little bit complicated but the most professional!!!

about 15 years ago

Wow, ok. Great stuff but man I got lost a few times. Maybe I am used to Photoshop more then gimp, I was struggling on how to deselect the free select tool for about 20 mins. But I will keep trying, great stuff once again.

over 15 years ago

Makes a very nice icon for things like MSN. Very helpful.

almost 16 years ago

VERY NICE! a bit hard to do but so be it!

about 16 years ago

nicee i have 1 as my backroundd!!! they rockk! AIM ME AT soccababi103xX

about 16 years ago


the other screenshot didnt work


about 16 years ago

little trouble at first, but this is a great way for making somoke or flames

over 16 years ago

Wow this tutorial is just great!! thanks for sharing!

Pixkid member for over 16 years Pixkid 4 comments
over 16 years ago

This tut is insane!!!! I mentioned you and your tut at to make this:

about 17 years ago

wow!..i have only been using gimp for a week..and thanks to great tuts like this one i have really learned alot!
i followed this tut half way then experimented with my own effects and set it as wallpaper too!
great stuff.

Tyler Gillies
about 17 years ago


about 17 years ago

Really nice. Il use this tut some time.
TFS (thanks for sharing)