This fire image:

enter image description here

As you can see, it has a black background, which I can't delete (because it would probably destroy the smooth-looking fire effect). I want to place some fire in a photo.

However, I remember it was possible to take such images and do something in photoshop so that when you place them over a photo, the black is gone and the fire is perfectly blended there. But I can't remember what feature or option was it. Any ideas?

Photoshop CS5.


3 Answers 3


On the Layer window change the mode of the fire layer from "Normal" to either Screen or Lighten and see if thats what you want. That's the easiest way to remove black.

Beyond that you can also go into the Blending Options and adjust the slider at the bottom where it says, "This Layer" and move the black tab on the left side in a bit but the results aren't necessarily that good for something soft like a flame. Hold the Alt key and hit the right side of that black slider and it will separate then you'll get much better results. I've got a video showing this method here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6IhXVxBSQM

enter image description here

A third option if you're just looking for a flame and not necessarily that flame is to look for a flame brush. I know bittbox has some free flame brushes that might work for you to achieve the desired end result.

  • Thanks! The first some seems to be enough. +1 for extra options though!
    – Saturn
    Commented Nov 13, 2012 at 1:45
  • 2
    +1 for the Screen blending mode. That's the way I'd typically do something like this. Also, if the background is near black, but not black, you may need to apply a Levels change as well. Commented Nov 13, 2012 at 4:16

In the GIMP, getting rid of the background would be as easy as opening the file, selecting ColorsColor to Alpha... and choosing black (#000000) as the color to make transparent. Here's the result, saved as a transparent PNG:

Fire image with transparent background

In Photoshop that's a little bit trickier, but apparently there's a free plugin that can do it.

(That said, in this case using the Screen blending mode, as Ryan suggests, may well be easier and give a more natural-looking result. In just posted this answer to point out that you can in fact delete the background without destroying the smooth edges.)

  • In Photoshop, create a selection using "selective color" with a fairly promiscuous setting (like 200), use the eyedropper on the black, and then add a new layer mask while the selection is still active..
    – horatio
    Commented Nov 16, 2012 at 20:44
  • @horatio: I don't have Photoshop to test that with, but if Photoshop's "selective color" behaves anything like the same feature in GIMP (and I suspect it does), then the procedure you suggest will still lose much of the fine detail around the flames. Commented Nov 17, 2012 at 3:11

Goto channels pallet in photoshop ctr + click on RGB channel than go to layers panel cleck ctr + J to duplicate the selected portion of the layer. Hope you are done.

  • you may ctr + click on other channels also to make wider selection if required Commented Nov 16, 2012 at 15:57
  • Really nice technique
    – Ryan
    Commented Nov 16, 2012 at 16:00

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