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It's Guy Fawkes Night! Create a Bonfire With Blends in Adobe Illustrator

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Remember, remember the fifth of November - gunpowder, treason and plot!

It's Guy Fawkes Night in the UK, which is also known as Bonfire Night. It's the anniversary of the day Guy Fawkes was caught trying to blow up the House of Lords using gunpowder. It's observed by lighting bonfires, traditionally with a stuffed "Guy" on top, as well as several firework displays (to signify the gunpowder element of the plot).

In this tutorial, you will learn a new technique for creating fire in Adobe Illustrator, with the Blend Tool, which is much easier than with the Mesh Tool. Let's begin!


1. Start a New Project

Launch Illustrator then go to File > New to open a blank document. Type a name and set up the dimensions then select Pixels as Units and RGB as Color Mode. Next, go to Edit > Preferences > General and set the Keyboard Increment to 1px. These settings will help you throughout the drawing process.

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2. Create a Log

Step 1

First, draw a rectangle and an ellipse on the right side having the dimensions shown.

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Step 2

With the rectangle selected, go to Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen and apply the settings shown on the left side of the image. Apply the same effect for the ellipse using the other settings and you should get a similar result.

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Step 3

In order to expand the Roughen effect applied, select Expand Appearance from the Object menu then Ungroup (Shift-Control-G). Fill the "log-shape" with the first gradient shown then add a New Fill from the fly-out menu of the Appearance panel.

Use a linear gradient from white to black and set the angle to -100 degrees then change the Blending Mode for this Fill to Multiply. Fill the "log-cut" with the third gradient shown.

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Step 4

To add some details, first draw a straight path through the middle of the log. Stroke this path with an Art Brush called "Chalk" that you can find in Brush Libraries Menu > Artistic > Artistic_ChalkCharcoalPencil. Select light brown as the stroke color and increase the Stroke Weight to 3pt.

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Step 5

Copy and Paste in Back (Control-B) the stroked path then double-click in the Appearance panel on the brush applied to open the Stroke Options window. There, check Flip Along and hit OK. Change the stroke color to brown.

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Step 6

Having the two stroked paths selected, go to Object > Expand Appearance. In the resulting groups you will find the paths used (no fill, no stroke) and you need to delete them. So before you continue, use the Layers panel to locate them and drag them into the trash.

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Step 7

Copy and Paste in Front (Control-F) the log-shape and delete the existing attributes. Bring this shape in front of everything by going to Object > Arrange > Bring to Front (Shift-Control-]). Now, select the light brown group of details and also the copy and press Crop in the Pathfinder panel. Set the resulting group to Blending Mode Multiply.

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Step 8

Make another copy of the log-shape as you did earlier then crop the other group of details. Set the resulting group to Blending Mode Screen and 25% Opacity.

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Step 9

Next, we will add some details on the "log-cut" but first bring this shape in front of everything by going to Object > Arrange > Bring to Front (Shift-Control-]). Having "log-cut" selected, go to Object > Path > Offset Path, apply a -7px Offset and hit OK. Delete the gradient fill for the smaller shape obtained and select light brown as the stroke color. To obtain the other rings, select again the "log-cut" and apply a -15px Offset then -25px and -31px.

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Step 10

Stroke the four rings with the Art Brushes indicated and reduce the Stroke Weight to 0.25 pt. When you are done, Group (Control-G) the rings and set to 50% Opacity.

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Step 11

Grab the Pen Tool (P) and draw a few short paths like below. Stroke them with an Art Brush called "Tapered - Sharp" that you can find in Brush Libraries Menu > Artistic > Artistic_Ink. Set the Stroke Weight to 0.1pt and choose different shades of brown as the stroke colors. When you are done, Group (Control-G) all paths then set to Blending Mode Multiply and 60% Opacity.

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3. Compose a Stack of Logs

Step 1

At this point your log should look like in the next image. Normally, you should choose a lighter color for the "log-cut" but since we have such a dark background that won't work.

Now, following the steps from above you can create different types of logs or twigs. You can also make copies of the log and modify their size with the Selection Tool (V).

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Step 2

Follow the sequence of images and arrange a few copies of the log to compose the stack of wood. Send a few in back (3) and arrange some in the middle to cover the empty space (4). Finally, arrange two twigs on the sides and one behind everything (5).

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4. Create the Background

Step 1

In a different layer behind the stack of logs, draw a 600 x 600px rectangle with a black fill.

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Step 2

In front of the background draw an ellipse like below and fill it with the radial gradient shown. Because of this ellipse the fire will look bright and orange at the end so place it right where the flames will be.

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5. Create the Fire

Step 1

As I've said we won't use the Mesh Tool at all, only the Blend Tool (W) from start to finish. Grab the Pencil Tool (N) or the Pen Tool (P) (which one you prefer) and draw a shape like below on the left side of the wood stack. Fill it with 7% black and reduce the Opacity to 0%. Draw a smaller shape in the center and select white as the fill color.

With both shapes selected, go to Object > Blend > Blend Options and choose 13 Specified Steps then go back to Object > Blend > Make (Alt-Control-B). Set the resulting blend-group to Blending Mode Overlay.

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Step 2

Draw another shape on the left side with the Pencil Tool (N) having a 7% black fill and 0% Opacity. Then, draw the smaller white shape in the middle and blend them. Set the resulting blend-group to Blending Mode Overlay.

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Step 3

You've got the idea. Continue to draw the next shapes and use the settings shown at the previous step.

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Step 4

Draw more shapes as below then blend them. Always use 13 Specified Steps and don't forget to change the Blending Mode to Overlay.

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Step 5

It's starting to look like fire, right?

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Step 6

You may think that there are way too many images and I agree. It might be overwhelming. But for those of you who are interested in learning to draw fire, I really wanted to show every shape and guide you through the process.

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Step 7

Continue to follow the sequence of images:

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Step 8

Here are more blend groups:

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Step 9

And a few more:

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Step 10

Be patient and you will finish the flames in no time.

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Step 11

You did it! The fire is ready at this point. To accentuate the top ends of the flames, draw an ellipse like below and fill it with the radial gradient used for the bigger ellipse in back of the fire. Set it to Blending Mode Lighten and 50% Opacity. Move this shape in the background layer.

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6. Add Shadows and Reflections

Step 1

Let's start with the shadows. First, draw a 35 x 15px ellipse and a smaller one in the middle. Fill both of them with black but reduce the Opacity for the bigger ellipse to 0%. Go to Object > Blend > Blend Options and choose 30 Specified Steps then go back to Object > Blend > Make (Alt-Control-B).

Make a few copies of the resulting blend-group then rotate and arrange them in the spots indicated. Use the Layers panel to move these shadows in between the logs. Reduce the Opacities to 50-70% depending on the spot.

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Step 2

Next, draw a 98 x 35px ellipse and a smaller one above. Fill them with black and brown then blend them.

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Step 3

Arrange the blend-group obtained at the previous step over one of the logs in the middle like in the image. Set to Blending Mode Color Dodge and 50% Opacity. Make a few copies and arrange them in other areas to add more fire highlights.

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Step 4

The blend-group from below is a larger copy of the reflection created earlier. Arrange two of them at the bottom of the wood stack and move them in the background layer. Set the Blending mode to Lighten for the blend-group from above (in this case cyan) and reduce the Opacity to 40%.

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Step 5

Remember the shadows in between the logs? Select one of them and make a few copies. Arrange one at the bottom of each log and reduce the Opacities to 40-70% depending on the area. Send all of them behind everything by going to Object > Arrange > Send to Back (Shift-Control-[).

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7. Create the Smoke

Step 1

Grab the Pen Tool (P) and draw a wavy path like below above the flames. Stroke it with an Art Brush called "Splash" that you can find in Brush Libraries Menu > Artistic > Artistic_Paintbrush. Select light brown as the stroke color and increase the Stroke Weight to 2pt (1).

Next, go to Effect > Blur and apply the Radial Blur effect (2) then apply a 7px Gaussian Blur. Reduce the Opacity to 50% (3).

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These are the settings that I've used for the Radial Blur effect:

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Step 2

Draw another wavy path above the flames and apply the same settings from the previous step just keep the Stroke Weight to 1pt.

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Step 3

Stroke the third path with "Chalk" Art Brush and set the Stroke Weight to 2pt (1). Apply the Radial Blur (1) and the Gaussian Blur effects using the same settings then set to 25% Opacity (3).

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Step 4

Repeat the same thing for the two shorter paths.

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Step 5

At this point the bonfire looks like in the next image:

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8. Add Sparks

Step 1

Use the Pen Tool (P) to draw a path like below and stroke it with the yellow Neon Scatter Brush that I've explained how to create in the Neon Brushes tutorial. This is a good example of how to use these Neon Scatter Brushes. Now, double-click in the Appearance panel on the brush applied to open the Stroke Options window and change the settings as shown. When you are done, set the Blending Mode to Color Dodge.

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Step 2

Draw other two paths like below and use the same brush to stroke them. Change the settings then set to Blending Mode Color Dodge and 50% Opacity.

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Congratulations! You're Done.

The bonfire is ready and I hope that you've learned new techniques. You can also check Iaroslav Lazunov's tutorial Burning Vector Match and find out how to create fire using the Mesh Tool. It's a different approach but also useful to know. Meanwhile let me know if my method is easier from your point of view.


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