Paints: How to make basic flames

Discussion in 'Tutorials and How Tos' started by StarFire_MK2, Feb 20, 2008.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. StarFire_MK2

    StarFire_MK2 'Till All are One!

    Jan 19, 2004
    Trophy Points:
    I tried to post this is the tutorial section but couldn't; I assume only mods have that power.

    As the name suggests, we’re going to make a basic flame pattern. There are many different ways to do it; I’m going to show you a simple method involving a mask that can be used with an airbrush or aerosol cans. You’ll need:

    *sharp scissors
    * role of low-tack painters tape (green or blue); the wider the better.
    * sharp blade
    * pencil and white eraser
    * sketch of how you want your flames to look
    * patience!


    First, a comment about paints. Drying times and curing times are not the same thing. Paint may dry in one hour, but can take up to ten days to cure (properly harden and become fully ‘stuck’ to the substrate it’s been applied to). You need to know the dry and cure time for your paints before you attempt this. As a general rule:

    Lacquers take 4-5 days to cure
    Krylon takes 7 days to cure (it’s similar to a lacquer)
    Oil enamels take up to 10 days to cure (quick dry enamels may cure a little faster)
    I have no idea the dry or cure time on acrylics as I don’t use them. If someone knowledgeable about them wants to pm me that info, I’ll add it. After all, it’s not the tools—it’s the workmanship.

    Why does this matter? Because we’re going to be taping off and burnishing a completely painted surface to make our flames, and we don’t want the paint to lift. As a former professional painter, I can tell you there’s nothing worse than having to do the job over again because you rushed your tape job. As a rule of thumb, I like to wait half the full cure time before taping. Also, you need to make sure the paint you’ll be using for your flames is compatible with the base-coat you’ve applied. Never apply acrylics on top of oils or lacquers; they simply don’t bond well. In the following project, I’ve used oil enamel for the base coat, and synthetic lacquer for the flames.

    Here’s my painted wing, with some of the markings already applied.


    Using the painters tape, lightly tape of the entire surface. You need to pull this off, so don’t press hard or burnish it. I should have used wider tape, but none of the paint stores in my area had any. That’s ok, just overlap the tape half a centimeter or so. The overlaps must be lightly burnished to prevent bleed. Burnishing in this context just means rubbing the surfaces so they have a tight bond; your thumb and thumbnail work just fine.

    You should already have a sketch made with the flame pattern you want.


    Copy the pattern onto the tape with a pencil (I’ve used pen because it photographs better, but traced my pencil marks). You can erase any mistakes with a good white eraser, so don’t be afraid to do so. Just make sure you don't lift any of your tape overlaps.


    Pull the tape off, and place it on a cutting board. Note that if you’ve used multiple layers of tape as I have, you must cut “down” the tape, so you don’t lift your overlaps.


    Carefully cut out your mask. This is the most important step in getting nice flames, so don’t rush it!!

    Position your mask on your piece, and burnish the edges well.


    Then paint, using multiple light coats…I used 3 or 4 to get the colour I wanted. As soon as you’re satisfied with your paint job, pull your mask off. I wait a few hours, then ¬gently go over the flames with 5000+ grit sandpaper to minimize the paint lines at the mask edge.


    That’s it! You may need to do slight touch-up on your base coat.

    You could so this several times, to create multi-colour flames, or flames with shadows (using this method means the shadow layer is the first one to paint) but you’ll have to make sure you don’t paint too heavy, or you’ll get raised paint lines, and you’ll need to use high-grit sand paper between each coat (if you do that, try to avoid metallics—they don’t sand so well).

    Hope this is useful!

    Attached Files:

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.