Create a Flaming Phoenix Effect Using Photoshop

This advanced Fire effect is used to create the Phoenix mythical bird. This tutorial uses two images borrowed from Stock.XCHNG (Fire Flames and Indian Eagle) and is inspired by Jayan Saputra’s How to Create a Flaming Photo Manipulation over at Psdtuts+. We’ll be using a combination of Free Transform with the Warp Tool and Multi layering with Layer Masks. There are other fire effect methods out there, but this is the easiest for great results, fast. Once you’ve got the basics of this tut, then its simple to apply it to your own images.

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This Tut uses Photoshop CS3, however the principles and methods are the same for current versions, so lets get on with it.

The end result is a Cinematic Phoenix Photo Manipulation

Final Result – with title

1. Open both images the Fire Flames and Indian Eagle, I have renamed the image files appropriately for this Tut, you can do the same but it’s not necessary.

Step 1

2. Ok, minimize the Flames image for later, we’re going to start with the Indian Eagle (Phoenix). Next duplicate the background Layer. By dragging it to the New Layer icon in the Layers panel and rename it phoenix.

Step 2

3. From the Files panel select the Background Layer, next make sure your using a black and white Background and Foreground colours from the Tool Palette. Make sure the Black is the Background, select the whole image choosing Select > All or Cmd + A (for Mac) or Ctrl + A (For Windows). Then hit delete on your keyboard to black it out completely.

Step 3

4. Select the phoenix layer and choose > Adjustments > Hue/ Saturation or short-cut Cmd + U (Mac) or Ctrl + U (Windows). When the Hue/ Saturation dialog appears reduce the Saturation down to –100% this will remove the colour information.

Step 4

5. Next invert this layer by choosing Select > All then Select > Inverse to “negative” the image, or use the short-cut Cmd + I (Mac) or Ctrl + I (Windows).

Step 5

6. Duplicate the layer we have just inverted, next we’re going to add a filter, choose Filter > Stylize > Find Edges.

Step 6

7. Invert the Layer by choosing Select > All then Select > Inverse to “negative” the image, or short-cut Cmd + I (Mac) or Ctrl + I (Windows).

Step 7

8. The layer needs punching up a little in intensity so chose a blend mode of Hard Light from the Blend Mode drop down menu in the Layers panel. I’ve chosen to duplicate the layer again and choose a blend mode of Screen to enchase the feather detail, if you miss doing this its ok, your image will still look awesome ;-).

Step 8

9. Now open the Flames image we minimized earlier, position it beside the Phoenix image, using the Move Tool from the Tool Palette, drag and drop the Flames image to the Phoenix image.

Step 9

10. Now choose a blend mode of Screen from the Layers panel, next duplicate this new layer and blind the original version (make it invisible by clicking the eye next to the layer thumb). The reason for this is we’re going to be using this image over and over again to build the flames of our mythical bird.

Step 10

11. Next choose Cmd + T (Mac) or Ctrl + T (Windows) or choose Edit > Free Transform to transform the flames image. Rotate it so the flames are following in the direction of the bird’s feathers.

Step 11

12. Right click (Ctrl + click, for Mac) on the image selection and choose Warp from the menu, or choose Edit > Transform > Warp from the main menu.

Step 12

13. Use the sizing handles at the corner and sides of the selection, bend and pull the grid to follow the grain of the bird’s feathers (If Warp is new to you, you can also push and pull anywhere inside the grid to manipulate the position of the flames, hit Enter to action the change.

Step 13

14. Now choose Filter > Liquefy, and use the Bloat Tool to push any flames away from the eyes of the bird, I’m also using the Bloat Tool to smudge the flames in the direction of the birds feathers.

Step 14

15. Duplicate Layer 1 again and repeat steps 12 – 14 to build up a body of flames around the back of the birds head. Keep repeating these steps until you have a good overall converge. Try to resist the temptation to cover the bird’s feathers, stick to the edges as much as you can.

Step 15

16. Again repeat steps 12 – 14 to build up a layer of flames along the bird’s back and shoulder, cutting slightly in to the neck to add the sense of three dimensions.

Step 16

17. Now un-blind Layer 1, choose a blend mode of Vivid Light and then choose Cmd + T (Mac) or Ctrl + T (Windows) or choose Edit > Free Transform to stretch Layer 1 covering the whole of the bird, double click on the selection when your done.

Step 17

18. Improve the quality of this blend by adding a filter. Choose Filter > Gaussian Blur, choose a Radius of 40 pixels, to really get the best from this effect.

Step 18

19. Next create a new Layer (above the phoenix and below the flames layers) by clicking the Create New layer button in the Layer Palette (name it black), then we’re going to fill it with black, choose Select > All then Edit > Fill and choose the colour Black from the drop down menu.

Step 19

20. Add Layer Mask from the Layers panel, if your layer mask is white, choose Select > Inverse, or short-cut Cmd + I (Mac) Ctrl + I (Windows), to reveal the image underneath.

Step 20

21. With the Brush Tool and White selected as the Foreground colour, paint over the background to reveal the black layer mask. If you mess up at anytime, swap the foreground and background colours to paint back the layer mask.

Step 21

22. Almost done! Add a Hue/ Saturation Adjustment Layer from the by clicking the Yin-Yang icon from the Layers panel, drop the Saturation to –30 and the Lightness to –10.

Step 22

23. Click the Yin-Yang icon again from the Layers palette and choose a Levels Adjustment layer and intensify the contrast until the image is brighter, I’ll let you choose your own setting for this.

Step 23

24. Lets tidy up before the last part, select all the layers by clicking the very top layer, holding down Shift and clicking the last layer (not the Background Layer), drag the selected layers to the Folder icon in the Layers panel. Name the folder Phoenix.

Step 24

25. Create a New Layer and call it sparks.

Step 25

26. Now with the Brush selected from the Tool palette, and a Brush Size of 9, a Hardness of 0% and a Foreground colour of Yellow. Dot the sparks layer with random daps of the brush.

Step 26

27. Next we’re going to add motion to the rising sparks, choose Filter > Blur > Motion Blur and choose an Angle of –90 degrees, and a Distance of 13 pixels, click OK.

Step 27

28. Duplicate the layer and reduce it in size over again and again, until you build up coverage of rising sparks all different sizes. Be careful here, sometimes less is more, use the layer Opacity to reduce the layers opacity, giving it a feeling of distance.

Step 28

29. The last part is creating a cinematic quality to the Phoenix. Create a new layer and call it flare, choose Select > All then Edit > Fill and choose the colour Black from the drop down menu. Then choose a blend mode of Screen to reveal the image underneath.

Step 29

30. Lastly, choose Filter > Render > Lens Flare, choose a Brightness of 100% and check the 105mm Prime option. Next you’ll need to do this blind from the preview window, however with a couple of goes position the flare on the Phoenix’s back, click OK.

Step 30

And you’re done, save as a .psd, and should you notice any imperfections just open the document and make your changes.

Step 31

And Finally

I’ve cropped the image for a final version as a panoramic view to add to the cinematic quality. Hopefully you’ll be able to use these techniques in your own experiments and projects. Enjoy!

Finished version

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