The techniques used to draw flames with pencil will vary depending on the particular type of flame you wish to draw. Steady flames, like those from candles and gas lines, are symmetrical and rely mostly on shading a series of basic oval shapes to give the appearance of fire. Moderate flames, like those from campfires, have a basic shape for the outline and use internal shapes and detail to create the appearance of a fire. Violent flames, like those from a raging fire, generally have large and thick tendrils, using several overlapping layers of flames to produce the appearance of a destructive inferno.
Draw an elongated oval shape with a wide middle and narrowing tip.
Add another oval inside of the larger one, use roughly the same shape as the first oval.
Draw another smaller oval inside of the second oval to represent the hottest part of the flame.
Draw another smaller oval inside of the previous oval. This shape represents the stem of the flame and most people colour this part blue.
Add shading to the ovals, keeping the normal colour patterns in mind as you work. The bottom oval, what most people colour blue, will be darker than the rest and will spread outward and upward on the outline of the flame; this is what most colour red. The middle of the flame should be lighter than the bottom and the outline, keeping true to its yellow-orange identity and the very centre of the flame should be left nearly white to give it the appearance of a hot and glowing flame.
Draw an elongated oval to set up the size and shape of your flames.
Draw some basic whip-like tendrils inside of the oval to form the basic form for your flames.
Hold the pencil at an angle so that the side of the lead sits on the paper. This will add some shading and depth to the flames and eliminate the need for colour or shading later since this is just a pencil sketch.
Trace over the whip-like tendrils in the oval, keeping the pencil angled. The flames should now have a softer outlining that alludes to their three-dimensional qualities.
Keep the pencil angled and draw in more flames along the outside edges of the oval. Use various heights and widths to add dimension.
Add smaller subsequent flames with the pencil slanted to fill in the bottom of the oval. Press harder with the pencil to add shading to the bottom of the fire and show the intensity of the flames and heat.
Hold the pencil upright and draw thin lines to create the boundary and to refine the form of each flame.
Draw a small outline at the bottom of the fire's location. The shape and size of violent fires are ever changing so be creative with this step. The tendrils should be thick and varied.
Draw another outlining shape behind the first outline. This shape should have random tendrils that are slightly thinner than the first and stretch higher into the drawing.
Add additional outlines and layers behind the previous ones until you have a fire big enough for your design. The tendrils will grow thinner as the fire reaches new heights and spread further from the original source.
Add details to the flames in the front layers of the inferno by drawing in shapes that will be coloured or shaded to reproduce the basic parts of the fire, e.g., stems, middles and tips of the flame. Avoid too many details in the higher flames and the layers behind the first outline since these flames are generally cooler than the main part of the fire.
Sketch the shape and size of the flames lightly at first to make erasing mistakes or changing details easier. Always start out small, keeping the number of flames and their details limited to keep from cluttering the picture. Remember the adage: Less is more. Depending on the art piece, you may want to use simple outlining shapes with slight shading for the flames instead of fully detailed and shaded ones.