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Archive: Set your Meteor and Rocks Alight with Fire

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Tuesday May 19th, 2009 in Photoshop Tutorials


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In our previous tutorial we showed you how to create a meteor from scratch using a stock photo and some clever filter effects. We're going to use the meteor we created and set it on fire to create a stunning burning meteor effect. With some clever filtering, colour manipulation and careful brushwork, we're goin to transform our meteor into a flaming ball of magma and burning rock, suitable for any spacescape landscape.
This is part two of a two part tutorial. If you've not read the first tutorial, be sure to read as some elements from that tutorial will be used in this one: Create a Stunning Burning Meteor Effect.

Setting the Meteor On Fire

First of all, we want our base meteor to work with. We want it all as one layer, so we're going to merge them. Click on the eye icon on the background icon to hide the background and merge the visible layers by clicking Left Shift, Left CTRL and E.
Make sure you're not saving over your original document when merging layers like this. You won't be able to retrieve them if you do, and you never know when you might need to do this.
Duplicate our meteor by pressing CTRL and J. Change the blending mode of the duplicated layer to Overlay. Your meteor should suddenly light up a lot if you've done this right. We're now going to change the shading of our meteor to reflect the fact it's burning. To do this, create a new layer above every other layer. Fill it in with a deep, crimson red colour (I'm using #AA1F1F just to be simple, but darker reds work very well). If done correctly, your whole image should be this one colour now.

Set the colour layer's blending option to Colour. Whoa! A little too red, I think. Let's lower it a little by lowering the opacity of our colour layer. We want to have a strong colour, though, so don't lower it excessively. About 40-50% should do fine. Once you've done that, your meteor should now be looking something like this:

Our meteor is now starting to look remotely like it's on fire!
Now we're going to add a bit of orange shading to generate a more fire-like effect with our colour shading. To do this, create a new layer above every layer except the colour layer we made, which it should be below. Select a beautiful, bright orange colour (I'm using #FFA200) and begin to paint around randomly in a manner similar to when we painted our meteor black in the previous tutorial. Be very liberal, though. Use a big brush; something like a feathered 100 pixel brush should work fine.

When you've done this, lower it's opacity ever so slightly and change its blending mode to overlay. The two colours (red and orange) should combine majestically to begin the foundations of our fire effect. Here's how mine looks before we go onto the last stage of this tutorial:

We're now ready to add fire!
Time to Add The Fire
The next and final step is to add flames to our meteor. There's an easy way of doing this; choosing a suitable fire photograph and using it as a stock photo. There's one main requirement; the photograph must be massive in order to give us the suitable size to play around with.

I tried out various fire creation techniques in photoshop and I don't think any of them looked any as good as using a real fire effect on our meteor. It's a lot easier than people would assume, too, especially if we choose a good image. There's a lot of photos around fortunately, unlike meteors. A Quick Search of Google Images for Huge Fire Photos returns enough pictures to keep you going for years.

Choose your fire photo with the thought in mind that we'll need to manipulate and erase various parts of it ourselves. Choose one with beautiful, long flames and one without any background detail in. This is the Sort of thing I'm talking about.

Once you've Found your Image
Once you've found a suitable fire photo, add it to your image. Make sure you scale it down if it's exceptionally big, enough so that we have some detail to play around with. We now want to erase around our meteor in a manner that would imply the fire is burning. Avoid straight edges, avoid little dents. Be very smooth with your brush strokes and make sure it's smooth right the way around.
You won't get this right first try. Keep trying until you achieve a desired result. Just be patient, practise and take your time.
We want to make the top of the meteor wild and vibrant, meaning we can be much rougher with the brush up here. That's what we left the gap for originally; you see, I had a purpose for that all along. Now we want to get a much smaller brush and erase around the bottom edges of the meteor to make it very smooth. Be careful not to erase too far over into your meteor however. It's essential to make sure the top half of the fire photo is not linear or smooth; rough up the edges a little, make the flames look like they're waving upwards.
A really good method of erasing around an object like we are is lowering the opacity of the layer we're working on slightly. The shape below will stand out through our image, but still provide us enough of a view to manipulate it properly.
So now our meteor is looking like this:
Our meteor is on fire!
Now we're going to make the flames look fantastic. There's a couple of filters and blending options involved in doing this. First of all, we want to make the flames appear a little more random. To do this, press CTRL and J on your flames layer to duplicate it. Set the blending option of the new layer to Overlay. Your flames should now look much brighter:
Our flames look very vibrant and dazzling at the moment.
Now set the blending mode of the original flames layer to Linear Dodge.
Our meteor is now on fire and it looks fantastic!
Hey presto! One spectacular looking flaming meteor effect. We can take this a tiny bit further by adding more, smaller fire images around the meteor to add more variation.

You can combine this with various other techniques to create a stunning burning nebula scene:

The Finished Product.

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