Creating Liquid Fire

Creating Liquid Fire Preview

In this photo manipulation tutorial we’ll turn water into fire by creating a wave of water that transforms into a wave of fire. We’ll use some advanced color tools such as Levels and Curves to accomplish this, and we’ll also add some matching text.


Liquid Fire in Gimp

Step 1

The photo we’ll be using is a smaller part of this photo:

large photo

I cut it out and rotated it, you can download it here.
(when the image opens Right-click on it and choose “Save as”)

Step 2

The first thing we need to do is to duplicate the layer.
Next, name the bottom layer “water”, and the top layer “fire”.
Then click on the eye next to the “fire” layer so it becomes invisible.

Layer duplication and renaming

Step 3

Select the “water” layer, then go to Colors->Levels.
Set the left slider to 35, and the middle one to 0,75.

The left slider controls the shadows (the dark pixels) in the image,
while the one in the middle controls the midtones (the pixels in between the dark and bright pixels).

Adjusting levels in Gimp

Moving the sliders to the right will make it darker, so we are effectively making the shadows and midtones darker.
That gives us this result:

Water with darker shadows and midtones

Step 4

We’re going to sharpen the water a great deal to get the effect we want, to do this we’re going to use
the Unsharp Mask filter.(Filters->Enhance->Unsharp Mask).

Just use the default settings and click OK.

Sharpening image with Unsharp Mask

That should give us this result:

Sharpened image

Step 5

Now let’s work on the “Fire” layer.
First select the “Fire” layer, then make the layer visible by clicking where the eye should be.

In order to make the photo easier to color, we’re first going to desaturate the image.
Go to Colors->Desaturate.
Just keep the default setting. (Lightness).

Desaturate based on lightness

Step 6

We’re going to use the Curves tool to color the image. Go to Colors->Curves.

The Curves tool allows us to manipulate the channels in the image, this is an RGB image, so it has
three color channels (Red, Green and Blue).

We’re going to alter the green and blue channels to create a fire-like color.

Where it says Channel, select Green.
Now click inside the chart, this will add an anchor, drag the anchor so that it’s in the same position as in the image below. (Coordinates 160, 27).

Adjust green color channel with Curves tool

Now do the same on the Blue channel.
First select Blue where it says Channel, then create an anchor (by clicking inside the chart) then
drag it to the same position as in the image below. (Coordinates 227, 26).

Adjust Curves to get fire

If you haven’t already, click OK on the Curves tool.
Our image should look like this now:

Water colored like fire

Step 7

There is a little white spot in the image that we should get rid of.

white spot inside fire

Zoom in on it and use the Free Select tool to create a selection around it:

selection around white spot
(Tip for Gimp 2.6 and above: If your selection doesn’t seem to connect, press Enter on your keyboard.)

Step 8

Grab the Dodge/Burn tool.
Set the Type to Burn, and use a large solid brush (not a fuzzy brush) that covers the entire selection,
anything over size 11 should be fine.
Click on the selection about 7-9 times so that it darkens and blends in with the rest of the image.

use the burn tool on the white spot

Get rid of the selection. Select->None.

Step 9

Now we’re going to add a layer mask to the “fire” layer. To do that right-click on the layer in the layer dialog, and click on Add Layer Mask. Then select White (Full Opacity).

add a layer mask in gimp

The layer mask controls the opacity of different areas on a layer, black areas in the mask will be transparent, while white areas will be solid. We can use it to make half the layer see-through and the other half solid.

To do this, we’re going to add a gradient inside the layer mask.
So click on the layer mask once in the layer dialog to make sure it’s the layer mask we’re working on and not the layer itself.

Then use the Blend tool to create a gradient like this one:

gradient inside layer mask

That should give us this result:

transition from water to fire

Step 10

In order to add some text we first need to merge the two layers into one.
(right-click on the top layer in the layer dialog and select Merge Down).

After you’ve done that, duplicate the layer, and name the top layer “writing”.

Duplicate the layer, then name the top one writing

Step 11

Now add some text, and use the Move tool to position it inside the wave.

I used a font called Zenda, you can get it from
I set the size to 120, color doesn’t matter.
Make sure you don’t make the text too large, it has to fit inside the wave.

Text positioned inside the wave

Doubleclick on the text layer in the layer dialog so it becomes active, that will enable us to click on
Path from Text in the text options on the toolbox.

Path from Text

Delete the text layer, we don’t need it anymore. Next, doubleclick on the path in the Paths dialog, this will make it active and enable us to get a selection from it by clicking Selection from Path.

Selection from Path

Click on a random tool so that the path will go away, like the Pencil tool.
Now we should see just the selection and not the path.

Click on Selection->Invert.
Now everything except the text is selected, hit the “Delete” button on your keyboard.

Now get rid of the selection. Select->None.

Make the bottom layer invisible by clicking on the eye. Things should look like this now:

Bottom layer invisible

Step 12

We’re going to give the text a dark outline.
Make sure the layer called “writing” is selected, then go to Filters->Light and Shadow->Drop Shadow.

Set the Offset X to 0, Offset Y to 0, and Blur radius to 10.
Untick the box that says Allow resizing.

Drop shadow settings

That should give us this result:

Text with dark outline

Step 13

Duplicate the layer called “writing”, and move the duplicate below the Drop Shadow layer.

Layer dialog

Do a Gaussian blur by 10 on that layer. This will give a small outer glow to the letters.

Gaussian blur by 10

Now click on the little chain next to the “writing” layer, the Drop Shadow layer, and the duplicate of the “writing” layer.
This will make it so that all three layers are affected when we move them.
Use the Move tool to move the text to the top of the image.

Chain enabled in Layer dialog

Now all that is left is to make the bottom layer visible again by clicking on the eye. After you’ve
done that your image is done:

Liquid Fire

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    September 25th, 2010

    cant seem to do the text bit as i do path from text then delete the layer nothing happens then go to paths theres nothing there??

  2. Velarchitekt

    December 8th, 2010

    In latest GIMP there is possibility, when you right click on text layer, select text to selection, this will transform text directly to selection and you can ctrl+c it

  3. cg

    December 18th, 2010

    Really good tutorial, thanks!!!

  4. Ravi

    December 24th, 2010

    Very nice tutorial, Thank you!!

  5. Cheyenne

    May 11th, 2011

    Amazing tut, thanks so much. I can use it for many things. 😀

  6. no_light

    June 20th, 2011

    wohooo! i’ve done it

  7. Theory

    July 26th, 2011

    Awesome tutorial, though i have a small problem, the text in mine is darker than it should be, but it’s still cool ^^

  8. V|King Joker|V

    August 1st, 2011

    thx now i can make things O.o

  9. Carolyn

    August 7th, 2011

    wow, awesome tutorial. it worked prfectly for mee! 😀

  10. Nena

    November 2nd, 2011

    Beautifully done easy to understand instructions! Well done!

  11. Inona

    November 3rd, 2011

    can you help me with naming layers? I can rename it but whenever I click somewhere else it changes back to the old name 🙁 thanks

  12. Swathi

    October 7th, 2012

    Amazing tutorial. Easy to follow instructions made it very simple to follow 🙂

  13. zagmain

    June 30th, 2013

    nice tutorial, got some troubles with the text path step but its ok though! 🙂 Detailed instruction so its easy to follow! thank you!

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