Combine fire, glow and crack effect in photoshop to create a realistic burning image

In this advanced tutorial you’ll make a dramatic photomanipuation of a burning fist with photoshop fire effects. You’ll learn how to make burning effect in photoshop, including create cracked skin textures, particle effects, scorched and burnt skin, glowing embers, smoke and flame effects.

This is an intermediate level tutorial, so a fair level of competence in Photoshop is necessary in order to progress through it.

Step 1: Creating the background

For this tutorial we will be using an arm stock photo that can be downloaded here:

With the photo open in Photoshop, take the Quick Selection Tool and use it to drag a selection over the arm and fist.

Go to Select > Refine Edge, and use the sliders to tighten up the selection, as I have in the image below.

Right click on the Background layer, and choose Layer From Background, then give the layer a new name, for example ‘arm’.

You can now Invert the selection, and delete the background.

We’re now going to resize the canvas so that it’s dimensions are more suited to our project.

Go to Image > Canvas Size, and change the dimensions to 1500 x 2100.

You can now reposition the arm layer as I have below, so that the fist is just south of the centre of the canvas.

To add a simple gradient background, click on the Adjustment Layer button at the bottom of the layers panel, and choose Gradient.

Use a dark grey (#1d1d1d) to light grey (#e6e6e6) gradient, and move the gradient layer below the arm layer.

Next add a Curves adjustment layer above the arm layer.

Click on the black colour picker button and then click on the darkest area of the hand. Similarly, click on the white colour picker and then click on the lightest part of the hand.

Right click on the Curves layer and choose Create Clipping Mask to constrain the adjustments to just the pixels in the arm layer.

Step 2: Darkening the skin

We have already covered how to change skin colors in photoshop before so this is a recap. Add a Color adjustment layer with a clipping mask. Then with the layer’s layer mask thumbnail selected go to Edit > Fill and fill it with black to mask out the layer.

Set the Color Fill layer’s blending mode to Overlay, then take a large soft white brush, and paint over the hand area and part way down the wrist.

Now duplicate the layer and change the duplicate’s blending mode to Normal, and take the Opacity down to 50%.

And finally add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer with a clipping mask, and take the saturation down to -60.

Fill the layer mask with black, and then take a large soft white brush, and paint over the hand area. THis is how to darken an image in photoshop.

Step 3: Adding the cracked effect in photoshop

To create a cracked texture across the hand we’ll use a cracked paint texture that can be downloaded here:

With the texture open in Photoshop, go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate.

Next add a Curves adjustment layer and use the black colour picker to choose a dark part on one of the cracks, and the white colour picker to click on a lighter area between the cracks.

Now go to Select > Color Range and choose Shadows from the dropdown list, then click OK.

This will select all the dark areas of the image i.e. the cracks. Copy the selection, and paste it into your project.

Change the cracked texture layer’s blending mode to Overlay, then move it over the hand positioning it however it looks best.

Duplicate the layer, call the top layer ‘cracks’, and the bottom layer ‘cracks glow’, and give them both clipping masks and layer masks.

Step 4: Creating a glow effect in photoshop

Hide the ‘cracks’ layer for now, and double click on the ‘cracks glow’ layer to bring up the Layer Styles dialog box.

Click on Color Overlay, and set the colour to white.

Click on Outer Glow, set the Blending Mode to Linear Dodge (Add), with the Opacity at 100%, the size at 2px, and use red/orange (#ff5400) for the colour.

Next choose Inner Glow and set the Blending Mode to Normal, the Opacity to 30%, the colour to yellow (#ffe400), and set the Size to 1px.

Click OK.

Now you can unhide the ‘cracks’ layer, and with it’s layer mask selected, fill it with black to mask out the cracks.

Take a large, soft white brush and paint over the hand and part way down the arm to bring the cracks back to those areas.

Use a smaller black brush to mask out any areas where the crack texture looks unnatural like the thumbnail and between the fingers.

Now fill the ‘cracks glow’ layer mask with black. Take a small white brush set to 50% Opacity, and paint over small parts of the cracks to reveal the glow. This is how to create a cool glow effect in photoshop.

Step 5: Adding the smoke effect in photoshop

For the smoke we will use a stock photo that can be downloaded here: For previous smoke effect photoshop tutorials, check out how to make smoke and smoke fading effect.

With the smoke texture open in Photoshop, go to Image > Adjustments > Invert.

Next go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate.

Go to Select > Select All, then copy and paste the smoke into your project.

Move the smoke layer to the top of your layers panel, and change it’s blending mode to Overlay.

Use the Move Tool to position the smoke over the top of the hand.

Step 6: Creating embers

We’ll add the embers in a new layer above the smoke layer, called ‘embers’.

Take a very small soft black brush and paint a few dots over the area where the smoke is. Build up more dots while varying the size of the brush.

When you’re done, double click on the ‘embers’ layer to bring up the Layer Styles box.

Click on Color Overlay, and set the colour to white. Next click on Outer Glow and set the Blending Mode to Linear Dodge (Add), the Opacity to 100%, the colour to orange (#ff4e00), and the Size to 10 px.

Click on Inner Glow, and set the blending mode to Normal, the colour to yellow (#ffe400), and the Size to 1px.

With the glow effect now applied you can duplicate the ‘embers’ layer a couple of times, and reposition and resize the duplicate layers to add more embers.

Step 7: Adding flames effects

The last element we’ll be adding are the flames. You can download the flame texture here:

With the flames open in Photoshop, make a rectangular selection over a portion of flames, then copy and paste the selection into your project.

Align the flame over the top part of the fist using the Move Tool.

Set the flame layer’s blending mode to Screen to hide the black background of the texture.

Finally add a layer mask, and use a large soft black brush set to 50% Opacity to blend out the bottom of the flames.

The Final Outcome

Below is how the end product will look like. Hope you will learn how to combine fire, crack and glow effect to create a cool burning image in photoshop.

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20 Comments | Write a Comment

  1. Richy Dotsey says:

    how to do Step 4? whenever I choose color overlay it just turns my whole hand white… it doesn’t change only the cracks… :/

  2. altair says:

    very nice tanx , i love you.

  3. sharif says:

    The quality and content is great, I learned a lot and it is very quick and easy to follow along.Thanks for sharing.

  4. lucidtutorial says:

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful Photoshop Tutorial.Which is very much easy to understand.

  5. Lewis says:

    Thank you very much for this simple to understand tutorial!

  6. Ashik says:

    This Tutorial Very Helpful for Professional Graphic Designer . may be its realistic burning image using film making , Matt painting, etc .. so its Really Helpful for Designer . Can you Publish any Water effects ?

  7. My says:

    I can’t download Hand picture.
    when I tried to access the page, it showed 404 error.
    Please provide live link for download it.

  8. Seorimícuaro says:

    Great work, thanks for the turorial Aaron.
    i need only one arm more strong. XD

  9. emily says:


  10. thatal says:

    Ohh!! Greatttt..
    10x for this grt tutorial..

  11. Katie Taylor says:

    Did this and it looked AWESOME!! Then in painted it on my boyfriend LOVED it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. K Bharath says:

    Thank you for sharing the Tutorial the out put is great.

  13. Majid says:

    Thank you so much

  14. Coalesceideas says:

    That was a quick one, glad to follow it

  15. microsys says:

    nice tutorial- realistic burning Photoshop image using fire, glow and crack effects

  16. edoluz says:

    i like it!

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