ell, as many of you will have noticed I posted these images of my finished Phoenix Guard recently, and I had a lot of requests for a tutorial on how I did the flame. So here it is.
First the get-out clause. I am by no means good with greenstuff. So
the first thing to take from that admission is that anyone can do this.
Second, I am not saying that my flames are particularly good and there
are bound to be others out there with a better technique that produces
better results than mine. However when I decided to start this project I
did search for tutorials on how to make flame and couldn’t find
anything decent at all. As a result I just made it up myself and found
that it was actually very easy to get fairly effective results.
Hopefully some people will find this useful.
I’ll run through three quick examples that took me, all in all, about 20 minutes to do.
The first is some free-standing fire on an 80mm x 20mm regimental
base. The idea is that I will use this as a marker in the game for
spells such as Wall of Fire or Flames of the Phoenix.
1/ Sausage time.
Start with the base, get a fair bit of greenstuff, make an
appropriate length sausage and stick it on. I find with flames that,
unlike a lot of other greenstuff modelling, that you can only do it
while the greenstuff is fairly fresh and soft. Once it starts to harden a
little it is too resistant to the teasing (see below).
2/ Squish and squidge.
Next I shaped it a little. I’ve found that the height of the flames
will depend upon how much greenstuff there is in any one place, and as
you want some variety in the height of the flames, you want to vary the
thickness of the greenstuff. Also, as you’ll be teasing the greenstuff
away from the base to which it is stuck, you need to make sure you have a
pretty good adhesion. So squish it down a bit and squidge it around.
(Not sure if I can take out a patent on the terms Squish and Squidge…)
3/ Prod and tease.
Now to the core technique (if it can even be deemed complicated
enough to be regarded as a “technique”) of making flames my way. In this
example I used the citadel modelling tool, however you can use anything
with a thickish point – although you don’t want it too sharp at this
stage or it will pull through the greenstuff.
Also, you need lots of spit at this stage. You don’t want the
greenstuff sticking to the tip of your tool, so you need to keep
lubricating it. Spit works fine, otherwise you can keep dipping your
tool in beer, which seems to work ok too and doesn’t change the colour
or taste of the beer noticeably at all.
This is what I recommend:
Now I usually select a spot on the greenstuff where there is a bit
of a natural bulge or excess of greenstuff, rather than going for a
divot. I’m not certain that this is essential when working with quite a
lot of greenstuff as with this base, but it is better when working with
finer flame sculpting such as on a sword, as you’ll see later.
Prod the tip of the tool into the greenstuff, then simply tease it up. Tease gently, or the tool will pull through too easily.
Repeat this again and again, working first on one side, until all
the greenstuff is teased up. It will look like this. At this stage it is
all a bit too uniform and straight, but that will change.
5/ Go around the back and undo all your good work.
Now that you’ve done one side, turn the base around and start on the other side. Prod and tease, prod and tease.
By now you should be getting rather bored, and be a little concerned
about the unconvincing appearance of your flame. Never mind that, prod
and tease away. Remember to work from the centre out, and go right to
the edge of the greenstuff, making the tiniest little “flickers” on the
margins of the greenstuff.
You will notice now that you seem to be wrecking the nice job you
did on the other side of the greenstuff, and that as you tease up the
greenstuff it is curling over the flames on side 1.
Don’t worry. Firstly because the job you did on side one probably
wasn’t that good anyway, second because it is a necessary part of the
6/ One side to the other….
So once you’ve finished side 2, go back to side 1 and start
correcting all the curling that you’ve just produced to get the flame
standing upright again. You will need lots of spit and a bit of care at
this stage. What you will notice is that the greenstuff flame is now
getting thinner and thinner, and that if you’re to rough you will just
pull through it. As the flame gets finer, you may want to switch to a
finer tool (I used the back edge of a scalpel) to finish off as the
citadel tool may be getting a bit thick and clumsy at this stage. Just
keep switching, from one side to the other, teasing the greenstuff up
until it is all flickering upwards, is high enough, and you are happy
with the result. It will now look something like this:
7/ Let it harden.
In this case I dried it upside-down. This is probably irrelevant and
is the first time I’ve tried it. But I have found that gravity will
curl over the finer tips of the flame, and you don’t want your flame
curling over too much or it will look silly.
8/ Paint it.
I’ll get back to the painting later.
For example 2 I’ll add some flame to the sword of this hero. This is
a little unusual as the sword blade he is holding is flat, whereas most
models have their weapons edge-up. It doesn’t really matter. You just
have to remember that flame rises, so however the object is, you need to
be teasing the flame upwards.
So, first up is sausage time.
Then squish and squidge.
For the squishing on weapons I tend to use the “sharp” edge of the
modelling tool and create loads of grooves in the greenstuff, running in
the direction the flame will be going – i.e. up. This helps create and
define the blobs that you will be teasing up into flame.
Then prod and tease, both sides, come back again, do each side a couple of times and hey presto!
You’ll find you’ll need to be a little careful with smaller flames
as there is often not much adhesion, and as you are prodding and
teasing, the greenstuff sometimes comes off the object altogether and
you’ll have to start again. That’s why the squishing is important as it
sticks the greenstuff down fairly securely.
Well, here’s a very old mage of mine that doesn’t really need a
flaming sword, but he was the nearest thing I could reach and as I’m not
too attached to him I’m not too worried what he looks like.
Squish and Squidge.
(Sorry, photo didn't work. But same principle as above.)
Prod and tease.
Oops! You’ll see that on one side of the sword the greenstuff pulled
away. I don’t really mind this, to be honest, as flame should look a
bit random, and that’s exactly what mistakes like this achieve.
A final note. This is just the beginning of making flame. Another
thing flame can be used for is to create a sense of movement. Charging
cavalry or flying creatures, the flames will flicker behind as the model
I haven’t tried this yet but am about to. The model below is my next project.
The rod from mouth to rock is going to become a great spout of flame
from the dragon’s mouth. I envisage it engulfing one side of the rock.
On the other side of the rock will be a model trying to hide from the
flames. But also, as it is a fire-breathing dragon, I am going to use a
bit of flame on its’ body. From the wings for example, streaming behind,
and hopefully I will achieve the effect of a dragon swooping at great
speed, flame flickering behind it, and a great eruption of flame from
it’s mouth. It will also provide the support to suspend the dragon.
I’ll keep you updated.
I will also paint the above models and post photos of this too, so there will be a finished product.
Update. Finished the flame on the dragon using the above technique. I
don't think I'll put the dragon in flames as it may detract from the
big spout from his mouth.
So, a bit more greenstuffing on the mage - mainly hair and cloak
flailing behind to give the appearance of rapid descent from above - and
used the flame technique again to create the fire bursting from his
wand. Used a paperclip and then built the flame around it.
One Empire hero hiding behind the rock: I will also do a stout
soldier of Talabecland on the ground, bum in the air, hands over his
So here is how I paint the flame. Remember that flame is actually
white at its' hottest, and gets darker to the cooler tips which can be
depicted as a red-brown-orange colour depending on your taste. Also,
dirty fuel burns dirty, so with 40K flame (a flamer for example) you may
want to finish it off with a brown-black drybrushing at the tips. As
I'm doing dragon fire, however, it will be a "clean" flame.
First, white undercoat. I have given it 3 coats to try and get it very white.
I used vallejo paints. I think the pigments are stronger which is
important for reds and yellows, and as they don't dry up in the pots
there's no fiddly thinning down etc.
First, a 60:40 mix of white and golden yellow (same in GW).
You'll notice that I've spared the deeper recesses of the flame, to
allow the hot "core" of the flame to show through. Also, I've allowed
more white to show through closer to the mouth where the flame will be
hotter. However, the white didn't look harsh enough for me so I went
back with a small brush and carefully picked out the deeper bits I
wanted white, once again with more of it closer to the mouth.
After this I went to pure golden yellow and highlighted the flame,
bearing in mind that I might not go much past golden yellow at the
mouth, but would be going all the way to red gore/scab red at the rock
end of the flame. The highlighting itself is pretty easy. You do want to
make it fairly neat, but it doesn't have to be perfect. I did a sort of
"wetbrush" where I use a normal amount of paint on the brush but run
the side of the brush, rather than the tip, over the raised edges of the
I continued this technique but shifted to a smaller brush and was a
little more careful about the highlights, making sure I kept the next
layer - this one orange fire - within the boundaries of the golden
You'll notice there is very little orange near the mouth, and far
more at the extremeties of the flame. This is important to try and help
with the source of the heat.
Next, orange, once again working on the very tips of the flame, and
starting further away from the mouth again so that, near the mouth, some
of the final highlights are no more than golden yellow or orange fire.
At this stage the next highlight would be bloody red (blood red),
however I didn't like the effect on the falling/burning Empire soldiers
so I skipped that shade and went straight to gory red/red gore. I was
very sparing with this, once again using more at the distant flame, and
none closer to the mouth than midway along the spout of flame.
Of course painting the flame is only part of it. Then you need to do
the source lighting, i.e. the reflected light from the flame on the
objects around. You will notice that I have drybrushed very lightly the
nearby rock in orange and yellow, and highlighted the Empire soldiers
very brightly where it is opposite the flame, and almost not at all on
their "dark side".
When the model is finished and the Empire soldiers glued in place,
the grass done etc., I will go back and improve/strengthen the source
lighting. I will probably update the tutorial at that stage.
Hope this helps. Flame is pretty easy really, you just need to have a go.