How to Paint Fire in Watercolors

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Things You'll Need

  • Watercolor paints in reds, yellows, greens and blues

  • Watercolor mixing tray

  • Medium watercolor brush

  • Watercolor paper

  • Drawing board (optional)

Reds, yellows and oranges suggest heat and motion.

Fire is mesmerizing. 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 watercolors and not as difficult as you might imagine. Scottish watercolorist 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."


Step 1

Basic watercolors in primary colors can be mixed with water or each other to create a range of shades.

Fill individual pans of the watercolor mixing tray with different colors. Mix watercolor 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.


Step 2

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

Step 3

Paint a series of short, vertical lines using all the different colors. 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.

Step 4

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

Step 5

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


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.