How to Paint Fire in Watercolors

Written by ellen falconetti
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How to Paint Fire in Watercolors
Reds, yellows and oranges suggest heat and motion. (flaming_order image by sumos from

Fire is mesmerising. Both beautiful and dangerous, exciting and soothing at the same time, it is one of nature's elemental forces. It is also fun to paint with watercolours and not as difficult as you might imagine. Scottish watercolourist and painting tutor Christian Wharton suggests painting from your imagination, at first, rather than from nature. "If you have the added worry of making a good likeness, this is inhibiting and the sense of pleasure is lost," she says. "It is much better to experiment innocently, using imagination and a sense of design."

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Watercolour paints in reds, yellows, greens and blues
  • Watercolour mixing tray
  • Medium watercolour brush
  • Watercolour paper
  • Drawing board (optional)

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  1. 1

    Fill individual pans of the watercolour mixing tray with different colours. Mix watercolour paints and water to create a variety of shades. Include separate pans of yellows, reds and oranges as well as some pale green and pale blue.

    How to Paint Fire in Watercolors
    Basic watercolours in primary colours can be mixed with water or each other to create a range of shades. (watercolour paints image by DLeonis from
  2. 2

    Tape the watercolour paper to a work surface or board. Wet the paper with plain water.

  3. 3

    Paint a series of short, vertical lines using all the different colours. The brightest yellows will suggest the hottest part of the fire. Christian Wharton suggests that when you do this, you paint quickly, imagining the fire taking hold.

  4. 4

    Use colour to suggest motion. Warm colours such as reds, oranges and yellows give the illusion of movement and seem to come forward in a painting.

  5. 5

    Use greens and blues sparingly. They are cool colours and will suggest where the fire may be coolest.

Tips and warnings

  • Some artists like to paint on dry paper for more control. Lightly wetting the paper when painting fire allows paints to blend and flow, adding a dynamism and the element of surprise to the painting.

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