Artists Resource for Fire

Fire Information

Coloring Flames

Using different chemicals to produce different colors in flames.

One often neglected aspect of fire as art is the color of the flames. So often when you watch a regular fire burn, you see a big range of colors as it burns. We give very little thought to it, but fire is really more than just yellow flames. Even the fire on the wick of a candle has some variations on the color of the yellow.

Thankfully the spectrum of colors is amazing. You can produce yellows, greens, reds, blues and some more obscure hues with a little more effort, a little more expense, but it is a lot more enjoyable.

Coloring Agents

When I wrote this article, I had in mind using denatured alcohol as the flammable liquid to make the colors. You can use them in a variety of other ways, but I am focusing on alcohol.

The easiest colors to create are yellow, orange, white, blue and green. Alcohol burns blue with no colorant, so that's easy. The rest work like this:

Red can be produced with a variety of chemicals. It is the easiest color to make. Red can be produced by using Lithium Chloride or any soluble lithium salt. Another chemical is Strontium Chloride.

White can be produced by mixing in Magnesium Sulfate, better known as Epsom Salts.

Yellow can be produced by mixing in Sodium Chloride, better known as table salt. It will produce a very yellow flame.

Green can be produced by mixing in Boric Acid. Despite it's name, Boric Acid is a fairly safe product which is used in a variety of applications such as eye wash and ironically enough as a fire retardant. It is also found in some roach powders and in the household cleaner, Boraxo. You can also purchase it at drug stores such as Walgreens. You can purchase Hot Shot roach powder in a 16 oz size that is at least 95% pure boric acid at Home Depot. It is also known as Baron Salts. The color is actually more of a yellowish green, but it's an easy color to make.

A deeper green can be created by mixing Copper Sulphate (blue vitrol/Bluestone).

Although I mentioned that you get a decent blue from burning plain alcohol, you can get a deeper blue by using Calcium Chloride (bleaching powder) to create the effect.

To Be Continued

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The information on this Web site is for informational pourposes only. Nothing should be attempted without first consulting your local Fire Marshal or the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) in your area. Some of the activities described may be illegal in your area and in no way should you attempt any activity without the expressed consent of the AHJ.