Make Colored Fire in Every Color of the Rainbow

Use chemistry to color flames

These are instructions for making colored fire in all the colors of the rainbow. I also have a video of a colored fire rainbow, so you can see the effect of using multiple colorants.

How to Make Colored Fire

Metal salts in methyl alcohol burn as colored fire.
Metal salts in methyl alcohol burn as colored fire. Philip Evans, Getty Images

Here are individual colors for a rainbow of fire, for flame colors from red to violet...

  • Red Fire
  • Orange Fire
  • Yellow Fire
  • Green Fire
  • Blue Fire
  • Violet Fire

To make a rainbow effect, pour small piles of each chemical onto a heat-safe surface, such as a sheet of aluminum foil. Pour fuel across the chemicals and light one end of the "rainbow". Probably the best fuel for this effect is isopropyl alcohol because most chemicals are soluble in it. Rubbing alcohol is another good choice because the alcohol dissolves certain salts, while the water dissolves others. If you're concerned about using flammable liquid alcohols, consider using hand sanitizer as a fuel. This is a gel consisting of mostly water with a smaller amount of ethyl alcohol. The hand sanitizer is safer because it doesn't spread across the surface and because it's mostly water, so it automatically extinguishes the flames. On the other hand, the display won't last as long.

Red Colored Fire

Strontium compounds are good for coloring fire red.
Strontium compounds are good for coloring fire red. Clive Streeter, Getty Images

Red fire is produced by strontium salts, which can be found in road flares, among other places. Lithium (like from batteries) and rubidium also color flames red. This fire color is very bright.

Red Fire Instructions

Orange Colored Fire

Calcium ions can produce an orange flame.
Calcium ions can produce an orange flame. Frédéric COIGNOT, Getty Images

You can create orange fire using a chemical you likely already have at home. Got calcium? Most calcium salts will work to make orange fire. Just make sure they are sodium-free or else you'll get a yellow flame.

Make Orange Colored Fire

Yellow Colored Fire

Sodium imparts a bright yellow color to a flame. Barium turns a fire greenish-yellow.
Sodium imparts a bright yellow color to a flame. Barium turns a fire greenish-yellow. Clive Streeter, Getty Images

Yellow fire is a natural color for most fires, but it's very simple to change the color of a blue or colorless flame to yellow. In fact, you might accidentally make a colored fire appear yellow because any trace of sodium in the fuel can mask other colors.

How to Make Yellow Colored Fire

Green Colored Fire

Copper(II) ions produce a green flame, while copper(I) ions make a blue flame.
Copper(II) ions produce a green flame, while copper(I) ions make a blue flame. Trish Gant, Getty Images

Green fire is one of the easiest colors of fire to produce. The common chemicals that can be used to make green flames are copper sulfate, borax, and boric acid. Both written and video instructions are available.

Blue Colored Fire

Methylated spirits were used as the fuel to make this blue flame.
Methylated spirits were used as the fuel to make this blue flame. Dorling Kindersley, Getty Images

Blue fire can be produced by burning a fuel which produces a blue flame or by heating a chemical that produces blue fire, such as copper chloride. Driftwood gathered from an ocean beach often burns blue because of trace metals from seawater.

How to Make Blue Colored Fire

Violet or Purple Colored Fire

Potassium compounds make a violet flame or you can add a bit of lithium or strontium to get a fuchsia fire.
Potassium compounds make a violet flame or you can add a bit of lithium or strontium to get a fuchsia fire. Lawrence Lawry, Getty Images

Purple fire is easy to make using non-toxic potassium compounds. Salt substitute is an inexpensive, readily available option. Violet or purple is a flame color that is easily overpowered by other colors, so if you want a purple fire it is best to use a blue-burning fuel for your fire, such as an alcohol.

Make Purple or Violet Fire