Landscapes, Painting

How to Paint Fireworks: A 4th of July Art Project

June 5, 2014

By Alina Bradford

fireworks painting 2

Red 4th by Alina Bradford.

After the 4th of July and New Years an artist’s mind should be reeling with new painting ideas. Fireworks are great inspiration. They are simple forms with very complex lighting. 

To learn how to paint them, first you must learn the different shapes. Take a look at the sketch below. These are the basic shapes, round, star, bowtie, sparkler, spinner, and fountain. 

Think back to the fireworks you saw. Which shapes appealed to you? Did you like the fountains that sat on the ground and spewed pretty molten rivers of color? Or did the perfectly round bursts charm you? Maybe it was the simplicity of sparklers that held your attention? 

A great place to look for inspiration is Stock.xchng. Just type in “fireworks” in the search box and over thirty-five pictures of fireworks will come up. Note: Do not copy these pictures. Take the idea that you see in the picture and make it your own. 


No matter what type of firework you liked, there are some basic principles that apply to all fire works. 

Follow along with the steps and pictures below: 

Step One: Sky 

Never just paint a black sky. Laying down a nice, colorful underpainting will make your night sky glow. Chose a dark underpainting. A royal purple or ultramarine blue are both nice color choices. Then, on top, lay down a thin glaze of Mars black. Better yet, make your own “black” by mixing a dark red, golden yellow, and a dark blue. Experiment with different colors to make an interesting sky. 

Step Two: Light 

Next, start with the lightest area of the burst, which is usually the center and some of the closer “arms” of the burst. This should be an almost white version of the overall color of the firework. 

Step Three: Color 

Finally, add those bursts of color. Make sure not to make your burst flat. Fireworks explode in a 3-dimensional form, so paint part of it going away from the viewer and part of it going towards the viewer. Do this by painting thin, long strokes on all sides of the center. 

Step Four: Clean-up 

The painting is almost done and just needs some additions to make it “extra”. Make the sky around the firework lighter. You can also add a smoke trail, other fireworks, or people watching. 

Start with these simple steps and soon your canvas will be covered with many beautiful bursts of firework light!

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