How can I create a solar flares effect using GIMP or Inkscape?

Something like this image:

enter image description here

Edit: first of all thanks for all the great comments and suggestions. My initial idea was to create the image based on real surface features of the sun, as seen in this image. My steps were

  1. sun disk: create circle, create granule-like structure using GIMP's plasma effect, then perform desaturation, Gaussian filtering, colorization, and bloom effect

  2. corona: copy sun disk layer and apply Gaussian filter with large radius (1/3 of image width maybe), overlay layer additively

  3. transition region: in principle the same steps as for corona, but with a smaller Gaussian filter radius and added bloom

  4. flares: for this step I did not have any good results, I tried some brushes, but nothing looked acceptable

Here is my intermediate result (without flares):

my result


This looks like a composite of actual images of the sun from the SOHO solar observatory.

The sun itself is probably a single image and the prominences are probably hand-picked, rotated, and then placed. The "blown out" nature of the prominences adjacent to the sun's "edge" is probably caused by the individual layers being set to a blend mode such as "lighten."

A large portion of NASA's imagery data is "open-source" in a sense, at least the RAW unprocessed type may be. Most of their imagery is actually greyscale taken at a specific wavelength or narrow wavelength band and the colors are simulated. Even for the "real-color" versions.

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  • see also: hic.msfc.nasa.gov/gallery.html – horatio Apr 29 '14 at 18:52
  • I will say though that parts of the sun's body look like cloud patterns rather than the sun's distinct and odd textural appearance. – horatio Apr 29 '14 at 19:00

Here is what I did to make this:

enter image description here

This is actually the moon. I am not sure what the original image uses as a base but I used the moon. The secret to such images is to layer images and set the layer mode to Linear Dodge(ADD). This gives the light emitting feel. For this particular image I used the Liquify in Photoshop. I guess GIMP has it's own feature. The Liquify gives the thicker "rays" by just Smudging the original base image. For the finer rays I "exploded" a simple brush with BLUR->Radial Blur (Zoom). Then a few liquified copies in order to give the curvy rays. Overall: - Duplicate - Smudge - Color mode to ADD - repeat :)

Hope that helps.


enter image description here

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  • @Dominic Sure. That's the beauty of this world. Everyone is different. :) – Komental Apr 30 '14 at 0:09
  • As a note - I am not sure what "liquify" is on Photoshop,but it looks like the effect in filter->distort->iWarp in GIMP up to 2.8. Anyone using the nightly builds for 2.9, or otherwise a recent build from GIMP in GIT Master can have iWarp as a tool instead of a filter. – jsbueno May 2 '14 at 3:36

Those flares around the sun are made using fractal IFS flames, most likely using Apophysis - it is also available on Gimp under

Filters > Render > Nature > Flame ...

Hit 'Edit' and select the spherical variation and you should get similar flares. Hope this helps.

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