Drawing simple flames that look convincing is not as complex as it may seem. Fire is a bizarre phenomenon, and adding too much structure or detail can work against you. “You don’t want to overdo it,” says comic book artist Jonathan Case. “You want to focus on making it look almost flat. The flatness indicates to our brains that it’s a bright light source. It’s that magical thing that makes us stare at fire and how alien it is.”
Consider the science of fire.
“The basic physical science of fire is your starting point,” says Case. “You have gases from whatever’s burning escaping and going up in ribbon shapes. Then you have oxygen flowing up around what’s burning and it’s twisting that gas.” Wherever the fire is hottest will be your brightest area, and wherever the wind is blowing is where it will lean.
Fire is organic and imperfect. Steer clear of straight lines and perfectly symmetrical curves. “Fire is one of those things that, no matter what, we cannot control,” says Elliott. “So why should we be able to control it in our artwork? You have to let it do its own thing. If you have flying embers, you need to make them look unorganized.”