# Create a Burning, Vector Match Using Gradient Meshes

##### Tutorial Details
• Program: Adobe Illustrator CS3 - CS5
• Difficulty: Intermediate
• Estimated Completion Time: 1 Hour

### Final Product What You'll Be Creating

In this tutorial you will learn how to create realistic vector fire, using the Gradient Mesh Tool and Screen Blending mode. Believe me, there’s nothing overly complicated. Let’s strike a match!

Republished Tutorial

Every few weeks, we revisit some of our reader's favorite posts from throughout the history of the site. This tutorial was first published in April of 2011.

## Step 1

We will be working in RGB color model, if you do not have it installed, go to File > Document Color Mode > RGB Color. Let’s begin our tutorial by creating a background. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle filled with a black color.

## Step 2

Proceed to the creation of a match. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle in the shape of a matchstick. Now fill it with a linear gradient of various shades of brown to convey the light distribution at the edges of the match.

Copy this rectangle and paste it in front (Command + C; Command + F). Now slightly reduce the height of the rectangle and fill it with a new linear gradient. The shades of brown on this rectangle are darker than the ones on the bottom rectangle.

Select both rectangles and go to Object > Blend > Make.

## Step 3

Create another rectangle of the same width as all the previous ones, as shown in the figure below. Set the gradient fill and Opacity to 0% in the Transparency palette.

Create a new rectangle the height of which equals a few pixels with the fill of the same gradient as a transparent rectangle.

Select the last two rectangles and go to Object > Blend > Make.

## Step 4

Proceed to the creation of a match head. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle centered on the same axial line with the match.

For convenience turn on the Smart Guides mode (Command + U). Take the Direct Selection Tool (A) and pull out a circle to the left, while holding down Shift. Now take the Pen Tool (P) and put new anchor points at the intersections of the head with the matchstick.

Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), transform the shape of the head to the view shown in the figure below.

## Step 5

Copy and paste back the shape of the head (Command + C; Command + B). Fill the copy with a solid dark-brown color and shift it slightly to the left.

## Step 6

Take the Pen Tool (P) and create a place where the wood is burnt. These areas are filled with a linear gradient composed of dark shades of brown color.

Both of these objects must be located in the under layers below the match head.

## Step 7

Create pores on the match head. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create an ellipse. For the fill color, use solid color of the fill of a radial gradient of the match head. To take the color, use the Eyedropper Tool (I) and hold down the Shift to select.

Often object selection interferes with choosing the right color, you can turn it on, go to View > Hide Edges (Command + H). Use the same combination of keys to activate the selection. Copy and paste the ellipse in front (Command + C; Command + F), reduce the size and fill it with a solid dark brown.

Using this technique to create more pores on the match head.

## Step 8

Now we’ll proceed to create the match flame. At this stage, you should learn one important property: black objects when overlapping over other objects become transparent if you set the Screen Blending mode for them in the Transparency palette in RGB color mode.

You can see below the same objects in the CMYK color mode.

If you are still working in the CMYK color mode, then in order to achieve this effect, you should use absolute black.

## Step 9

Create the shape of the flame. Take the Ellipse Tool (L) and create a circle. Using the Direct Selection Tool (A), pull the top anchor point up. The shape of the flame should be located in the under layer below the elements of the match.

## Step 10

Select the shape of the flame, and go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh… and set the number of rows and columns in the dialog box.

Remember that you can edit the grid lines that are obtained automatically. Use the Gradient Mesh Tool (U) to create new lines, and use the same tool to remove them but this time hold down the Alt. Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) for grid line distortion and movement of the nodes.

## Step 11

Thus, bring the lines and nodes of the gradient mesh to the view shown in the figure below. Flame is a movable object, so your grid can have a completely different shape.

## Step 12

Select the gradient mesh with the Selection Tool (V) or by clicking on the appropriate under layer in the Layers palette and fill it with black. Set the Screen Blending Mode in the Transparency palette.

## Step 13

Proceed to the coloring of the flame. Select the grid nodes and apply yellow and red colors to them. Nodes that lie beyond the borders of the gradient mesh should remain in black, otherwise we get the sharp edges of the flame, which is unacceptable.

## Step 14

Create another object above the match. Using the technique described above, create a simple gradient mesh based on this object and color it.

And this is how two gradient meshes look together.

## Step 15

Now create two more feathers of the flame.

And all the elements of fire together.

When coloring the gradient mesh you can use the colors of the already colored grids. In this, you can rely on your artistic taste to create a very interesting work.

## Step 16

There is no smoke without fire, and vice versa. Start creating smoke. Take the Rectangle Tool (M) and create a rectangle filled with black. And set the Screen Blending Mode in the Transparency palette.

## Step 17

Keep the rectangle selected, go to Object > Create Gradient Mesh… and set the number of rows and columns in the dialog box.

Transfer the rectangle to the background in order to choose the right color, and replace the color of the two bottom central points of the gradient mesh with blue.

## Step 18

Now you need to bend the rectangle shape into the shape of a smoke stream. I used the following tools to transform such objects: the Direct Selection Tool (A), Lasso Tool (Q), and Rotate Tool (R).

Let’s take a look at the transformation technique. First, lock all the objects except the rectangle in the Layers palette. Place the rectangle at the right place in your work, take the Lasso Tool (Q) and select all the nodes of the grid, except those that are on the left side.

Take the Rotate Tool (R) and set the center rotation at point A and use the same tool to bend the object.

Now make another bend. Using the Lasso Tool (Q) select mesh nodes, as shown in the figure below.

Take the Rotate Tool (R) and set the center of rotation at point B and bend the object using the same tool.

In addition, you can move individual nodes and (or) several nodes using the Direct Selection Tool (A). Grid line operation is the same as with operating any other vector objects. I think you’ve got the working principle down. Bring the object to the view shown in the figure below.

The smoke stream is located below the match in the Layers palette.

## Step 19

Using the technique described above, create a few more streams of smoke.

You’ve probably noticed that for the creation of these streams both sides of the original rectangle are colored in shades of blue, while central nodes of the grid stay black. Check how all the elements that make up the smoke look.

## Step 20

We only have to create a composition. Creating a composition in the technical sense is always the final stage. Of course, before creating the work, you should have an idea about the final result, you can even make a few sketches. But it is convenient to complete your work with this stage. Why do you think it is so?

The thing is that it is easier to work with gradients if an object is placed vertically or horizontally. Imagine how much time you would spend on setting the gradients of the wooden piece of the match, if it was located at an angle to the normal line?

And the thing is not only in gradients, it is convenient to work with any object if it is located horizontally or vertically. Thus, unlock all objects in the Layers palette (in step 18, we locked some objects) and group up all the elements of our work and rotate them as shown below.

Also resize the background in this step so that the composition looked harmonious. When creating a composition pay attention not only to the harmony of objects, but to the harmony of empty space as well.

Now hide all the objects protruding beyond the background. Copy the black rectangle (background) and paste it in front (Command + C; Command + F). Move the under layer with the rectangle in the layers palette so that it is above all objects.

Select all objects Command + A. Now go to Object > Clipping Mask > Make or choose the appropriate option from the context menu.

## Conclusion

Having mastered the technique described in this tutorial, you can create realistic vector flames, lighters or torches. Who knows, you might want to make a fire? And give it some heat!

• http://www.flickr.com/photos/pvshutterbug Charles.Roe.Photography

This was an Awesome fun great tutorial. its only the 4th vector art ive tried but ive gotten mad compliments and learned so much. THANK YOU!!!

• Mike

Great tutorial however I am still “green” when it comes to the use of Illustrator with much to learn. Can anyone help me out on step 13? How do you apply the colors of the flame? Is it necessary to create additional painting layer? Apply with gradient or paint it in?

thanks so much!

• http://bucketothought.com/loungekat/blog/ LoungeKat

Take the white arrow (the direct selection tool) and select the white squares on the gradient mesh, from there change the colors and they will be added to the flame

• http://www.gbsjax.com Roberto

Best tutorial I have ever done! Thank you, this produced an amazing logo design for me, thank you very much!

• Alice

Call me a newbie ;-) but I have a little problem at the step 2 with the bending option. It’s not working. The preview is disabled. I don’t have a clue what I’m doing wrong. I would appreciate any hint about this.

The match looks sooooo great, I wanted to try to build this so badly.

Cheers,
Alice

• http://bucketothought.com/loungekat/blog/ LoungeKat

Make sure you have both shapes selected to make the blend :)

• Alice

Thank you so much for the hint LoungeKat. This was my mistake. I always was choosing the Blend Options and not blending first. I’m a real newbie ;-). But now I’m at step 13, and the result is going to look better and better.
I think this tut is wonderful, I’m learning so much about illu. And because it’s not step by step in the smallest detail, I’m learning even more. Big THX to the author.

Cheers,
Alice

• Greg Hebb

you will never succeed :)

• Alice

Me again ;-)

sorry to nerve that much, but I really would like to know if the gradient mash shown in the Step 14 is really the one that was used to color it. I already had a big problem by the Step 13 to get the gradient look almost similar. But by the Step 14 I have the feeling it’s not possible to color it this way with the mash like that. Or am I missing something by this procedure?

Thanx for any hint,
Alice

• Alice

I solved this by myself. Wow this is really working. Now I’m finished and even if the result is not 100% the same as the original, I’m really happy what I managed to build. :-)

• Vikrant

very best tutorials. I learnt more than i want.

• Vikrant

I learnt more than i want.

• http://echoia.com/ Echo S.

This was really wonderful! I’ve been drawing and illustrating in Adobe for several years, but always have been too confused by GM to bother. I really needed a tutorial that would result in a finished product rather than just a quick explanation, and now I feel very excited to keep learning about this tool!

Thank you so much, Iaroslav : )

• Tex

Step 13′s got me stuck.
I’ve set the black background and the flame mesh to RGB:000, also the transparency filter is “Screen” w/ 100%. However even before I add any colors to the mesh it already looks foggy and even after the colors it still doesn’t look as crisp as the example — any suggestions?

Screenshots:
Mesh RGB:000
http://ScrnSht.com/bymzby

Mesh w/ color
http://ScrnSht.com/lgnbir

• http://echoia.com/ Echo S.

Hmm, try File> Document Color Mode and make sure RBG is checked?

• Arian

Urg! I’m having the same problem. I have CS6. It is in RGB mode, and when I put it on screen in the transparency palate, it gets foggy like that. The black doesn’t disappear. :’( Help!

• john

• jane

thank you very much!

• http://www.hias.tv Hias

thanks – great tutorial … will see if I try this but at the moment it scares me too much … ;)

• http://www.izzatkamel.my/ Izzat Kamel

this is so cool! so gonna try it

• john

good luck…….

• http://www.menacedesign.pl Artbeard

• Roque Tan

LoungeKat, you’re an adobe illustrator genius. Thank you for sharing,

• Ben Fleischman

I cant even get the match >.> i blend it and it doesnt even look like the thing?

• nbn

UNBELIEVABLE ! AMAZING ! MIND BLOWING ! No words to express.

• Linda

GREAT!!
You’re mastering of Illustrator is awesome!!
I’ve never worked with Gradient Meshes and can’t wait to try.

Quick question . . . Do you think working with Gradient Meshes will help me make an image like this —

Linda

• http://bucketothought.com/loungekat/blog/ Kate McInnes

Yes, but not in the way you think. First make a grey mesh, then make a rainbow gradient on a layer above and set it to multiply. This will make a rainbow background. I will make a Quick Tip about this ;)

• Linda

WOW!!!! GREAT!!! WONDERFUL!!! — Thank you so much!!! :)
I’ve looked at tons of website and have been unable to find a tutorial on it.
Glad I found you. Thanks again. :)
Linda

• john

The smoke and flame are a very effective use of gradient meshes but I agree with tomas rivas; flames go up, not perpendicular to the match; and if there was a breeze then the flame would still be TRYING to go up, and the smoke would be disturbed.

Also, I’ve posted this on several tutorials now, but I repeat; once you start using blending modes or transparency or many of the effects, the artwork is no longer vector as these are raster effects. In some cases it will make no difference but in some cases it most certainly will.

• vectorscribble

I’m getting some vector edges. The flame is vector edging over some smoke trails. How to I blur away those edges?

• http://taimoorsultan.com/ Taimoor

AWESOME! really wonderful

• 7 6 O’side

Thanks for the tutorial! It worked perfectly. The mesh is a hard tool to use but can make some really awesome effects. Mine turned out ok i think.

• Asya Jikia

Great tutorial, thanks. I had some problem with the smoke – mainly, lack of patience. Placing the smoke in areas that are more yellow/white made the blue (smoke) look white, so I just placed it on the side and over the matchstick-head.

Thanks for the tutorial, very helpful although I applied it to the illustration of my guitar I was also completing at the time.

• SYLVIA

You Tutorial is Perfect …The match is soo realistic :) & you tutorial is soo clear…Thank you soooo Much

Iaroslav Lazunov For sharing :)

i would like to hear your opinion about my drawing which i followed your tutorial to draw it

I am a beginner & would like to hear what do u think about the way i use Adobe Illustrator Cs6
Not soo accurate like your Drawing :)

I loved your tutorial you are soo Talented
Thanks again :)

• Jens Torudd

Thanx for a great tutorial! Your match look very cool, tried to make mine more life like. ;)

• jens torudd

my image did not post, trying again…

• Varun Singh

Thanks for the tutorial !!!!!!!!!!

It is awesome effects

• Manojkuriakose

Hi…. Thanks For the tutorials ………

• Nikki

Great post, thank you for the step by step! What an awesome effect!!

• dedy

HELP I’m lost between step 13 and 14, my first flame is beautiful because it is deriere the match, but the second is ugly when she is before I surround black, I don ‘did not find a way to transparency. Help