Color Inspiration: Flames

Inspiration can be found everywhere we look, and if you happen to have been staring at a candle last night you might have been inspired by the intriguing colors of a flame.

The color and temperature of a flame are dependent on the type of fuel and amount of soot present in the combustion. A red flame is the coolest part, then as the temperature rises it changes to orange, yellow, and finally to white, being the hottest part. A blue flame will appear if the concentration of oxygen is high enough and creates enough energy to excite and ionize gas molecules in the flame. It can be seen near the base of candles where airborne soot is less concentrated.

Photo by wikipedia

Different flame types of a Bunsen burner depend on oxygen supply. On the left a rich fuel with no premixed oxygen produces a yellow sooty diffusion flame; on the right a lean fully oxygen premixed flame produces no soot and the flame color is produced by molecular radicals, especially CH and C2 band emission. The purple color is an artifact of the photographic process.

Flame Colors

Flame color depends on several factors, the most important typically being blackbody radiation and spectral band emission, with both spectral line emission and spectral line absorption playing smaller roles. In the most common type of flame, hydrocarbon flames, the most important factor determining color is oxygen supply and the extent of fuel-oxygen “pre-mixture”, which determines the rate of combustion and thus the temperature and reaction paths, thereby producing different color hues.

Yellow Flame

Photo by young_einstein

In a laboratory under normal gravity conditions and with a closed oxygen valve, a Bunsen burner burns with yellow flame (also called a safety flame) at around 1,000°C. This is due to incandescence of very fine soot particles that are produced in the flame.

Blue Flame

Photo by Jeremy Brooks

With increasing oxygen supply, less blackbody-radiating soot is produced due to a more complete combustion and the reaction creates enough energy to excite and ionize gas molecules in the flame, leading to a blue appearance. The spectrum of a premixed (complete combustion) butane flame on the right shows that the blue color arises specifically due to emission of excited molecular radicals in the flame, which emit most of their light well below ~565 nanometers in the blue and green regions of the visible spectrum.

Flame temperatures of common items include a blow torch at 1,300°C, a candle at 1,400°C, or a much hotter oxyacetylene combustion at 3,000°C. Cyanogen produces an ever-hotter flame with a temperature of over 4525°C (8180°F) when it burns in oxygen.

Red & Orange Flames

Photo by matildaben

Generally speaking, the coolest part of a diffusion (incomplete combustion) flame will be red, transitioning to orange, yellow, and white the temperature increases as evidenced by changes in the blackbody radiation spectrum. For a given flame’s region, the closer to white on this scale, the hotter that section of the flame is. The transitions are often apparent in TV pictures of fires, in which the color emitted closest to the fuel is white, with an orange section above it, and reddish flames the highest of all. Beyond the red the temperature is too low to sustain combustion, and black soot escapes. A blue-colored flame only emerges when the amount of soot decreases and the blue emissions from excited molecular radicals become dominant, though the blue can often be seen near the base of candles where airborne soot is less concentrated.

Flame Palette Inspiration

Photo by Candor & atomicshark
glowing center from red to blue
Photo by SadJr
2 cl flame in 4 cl SteppingThroughFire
Photo by João [Pêlo] Schmidt

From the CL Library

flames in my mind flamenco

Color Within a Flame Gimme Five

Flamed Flame-Throwered

Flame Calla Lily flames to dust

Header photo by Cade

Source: Wikipedia

Author: evad
David Sommers has been loving color as COLOURlovers' Blog Editor-in-Chief for the past two years. When he's not neck deep in a rainbow he's loving other things with The Post Family (, a Chicago-based art blog, artist collective & gallery.

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  10. The color palette of flames is so dynamic and intriguing. The deep crimson hues symbolize intensity and strength, while the vibrant oranges evoke a sense of warmth and energy. Together, they create a mesmerizing dance of colors that’s both soothing and exhilarating to behold.

  11. I can’t help but think of transformation when I see these flame-inspired colors. The transition from the cool blues at the base to the fierce yellows and reds at the tips mirrors the process of personal growth. Just like flames shape-shift and evolve, we too can evolve into better versions of ourselves.

  12. To me, these colors not only represent the literal flames we see but also the metaphorical fires of creativity. The mix of warm and cool tones reflects the balance between being on fire with inspiration and keeping a cool head to execute our ideas. It’s like a reminder to stay passionate yet grounded

  13. The play of light and shadow within flames is beautifully captured in this color palette. It’s a reminder that even in our darkest moments, there’s a spark of hope and light waiting to be ignited. These colors motivate me to embrace life’s challenges with a positive spirit, knowing that I can emerge stronger.

  14. These colors instantly transport me to cozy evenings by the fireplace, wrapped in a warm blanket. The gradient from amber to deep red mirrors the comforting transition from the chill outside to the toasty indoors. It’s amazing how colors alone can evoke such a strong sense of comfort and nostalgia.

  15. The mesmerizing hues of flames have captivated human imagination for centuries, igniting a sense of warmth, energy, and intensity. From the deepest reds to the brightest oranges and yellows, the spectrum of colors found in flames evokes a range of emotions and associations.

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