How to Set the World on Fire with Photoshop

  • Tutorial details

    Photoshop 7
    1-3 Hours

Learn how to create a detailed and cool looking sci-fi art piece in Photoshop. Grab your lighter and a big bottle of gasoline, because today we are going to set the world on fire. Check it out, and you might learn some neat tricks!

I know you Photoshop people love to set stuff on fire, so here is a tutorial on how to set the whole world on fire. Enjoy! 😉

Step 1

This time we will work with a square document. Make it fairly large 1280 x 1280 will do just fine (final comp will be a bit bigger).

Press D to reset FG/BG-color, then add a new Gradient Fill Layer – Name it “City Lights”. Pick a Radial gradient that goes from a white center to a black edge.

Step 2

Now we will add some filters, it can be helpful to use the Filter Gallery to append these three filters…

Filter > Artistic > Plastic Wrap

Filter > Stylize > Glowing Edges

Filter > Texture > Stained Glass

Step 3

Go to Image > Canvas Size and set it to 2048 x 1536px or whatever size you want your final composition size to be (note: the image will be scaled down later on).

Step 4

Duplicate the City Lights Layer, then scale down the original (City Lights) to the size you want for the earth on your final piece.

Merge City Lights with Background. Name the Layers as shown below.

Step 5

Working on the layer Flames. Select Filter > Blur > Radial Blur.

Step 6

Select Filter > Distort > Wave.

Repeat the filter 2 or 3 times, each time click the Randomize-button (Ctrl + Alt + F). Set the blending mode of Flames to Screen, and lower the opacity to about 70%.

Step 7

Duplicate Background and place it on the top of your layer stack, name it Smoke. Press D to reset your FG/BG-color, then select Filter > Render > Difference Clouds. Repeat the filter 5-6 times (or until you see a nice fire effect). Set the Blending Mode of Smoke to Color Dodge.

Step 8

Add a new Color Balance Adjustment Layer, place it on the top of the layer stack.

Step 9

Head over to sxc and download this stock photo (free membership required). Open up the picture in Photoshop, select the earth using the Circular Marquee Tool copy it and paste it in our fire document (I suggest you select a bit inside the actual edge, to leave out any white).

Step 10

Resize the earth so that it fits your “fireball” thingy 😉 It does not matter if there are some white dots outside the earth. In fact, it might even look cooler!

Step 11

Create a Layer Mask for Earth layer. Use a medium sized brush and start brushing the mask with Black/White to hide and reveal details.

Power tip: Use the smudge tool to mess up the edge of the mask, to make the fire look more natural.

Step 12

Add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer, choose to use previous layer as Clipping Mask. Lower the Saturation and Lightness.

Step 13

Create a new document 4000 x 3000 px, render some default colored clouds, copy and paste to our composition as a new layer Clouds.

Step 14

Set the Blending Mode to Lighten for Clouds. Add a Layer Mask, fill it with black. Grab a soft large brush, set the opacity to about 5%, then paint in some clouds by drawing on the mask with a white color. Draw around the earth, then crank up the opacity and lower the size of the brush when you get more close to the edge.

Step 15

Ctrl + Click on the Layer Icon for Earth. Create a new Fill Layer, any color. Set Fill (located below Opacity) of the Layer to 0%.

Double-click the layer and add an Inner Glow effect (dark red color).

Step 16

Duplicate the Inner Glow layer you just created. Move the layer down so that it gets placed just above Background. Un-check the Outer Glow effect, then add an Outer Glow instead.

Duplicate the top Inner Glow again, this time make the inner glow a bright red color and decrease the effect. Set outer glow of this layer to a bright red color and decrease the effect.

Step 17

For the star sky, create a new layer on top of all other layers. Fill it with black, then go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise.

Select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, set it to about 0,4-0,8. Add a Levels Adjustment Layer, use Previous layer as Clipping Mask and drag the Midtones-slider to the right until you see a nice sky. Mask out the earth, then set the Blending Mode of the sky to Lighten.

Step 18

Cool, almost there! Adding one final Color Balance Adjustment Layer on top of the whole layer stack will help you to tweak the colors of the final image. Add some blue for midtones and shadows, then crank up the yellow and red for highlights. Also on the Earth layer you can set the Lightness and Saturation to almost 0 and control the effect with a radial gradient + brush mask instead. If you want the lava less textured, you can duplicate the Background and blur it, then mask parts of the fire that you want to blur.

When you are happy with the result, save a copy of the image then go to Image > Resize.

Setting re-sampling algorithm to Bicubic Sharper will keep the stars and the lava crisp.

Step 19

Select the Background layer and go to Filter > Render > Lens Flare. You may have to play around with the position to get the flare right.

Step 20

Create a new layer on top of all other layers. Then repeat the Lens Flare filter (Ctrl + F). Lower the Opacity of the layer a bit and set the Blending Mode to Screen. You might want to mask out some of the details on this one.


That is it! Not so hard right? If you enjoyed this tutorial, please consider sharing it… it would mean a lot to me! (See below for details). Also, subscribe to stay updated with more tutorials like this one.

Thank you, have fun!

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PixelTango Original © 2010-08-26 | Usage

About the Author

Mickel is a web creative that is constantly looking for new challenges and ventures.

He is the founder of PixelTango, as well as a interactive web design agency. He also likes to DJ and produce music under the name Allic.

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