Simple Fire Particles – Unity Particle System Tutorial

Have you ever thought how different your favorite games would be without effects like fire particles or magic particles?

Things such as sparkles shot from magic wands or fire sparks coming from a bonfire are small details that can add much more credibility to the sceneries and games we create. They are also an important aspect of “game feel” that can just, in general, improve the user’s experience with the game. So – as you can imagine – it doesn’t hurt how to learn to do them as a developer.

In this quick tutorial, we’ll show you how to make fire particles in Unity. We’ll go over the settings and adjustments needed to bring your particles alive inside this powerful game engine. Moreover, you’ll also have a glimpse of the numerous features Unity has already available for you to explore when designing your particle systems.

Let’s dive in!

Fire Particles – Project Files

You can download a copy of the source code files for the project done in this tutorial here.

This tutorial assumes you have a few basics of Unity and, most importantly, that you have Unity installed. Also, just to be clear, we are using Unity’s default particle system, not the VFX graph. That’s a tutorial for another day. ;)

As we delve into the complexities of Unity’s Particle Systems in this tutorial, Zenva’s Unity Game Development Mini-Degree might interest you. This comprehensive course guides you step-by-step in building cross-platform games with Unity, teaching you everything from basic game mechanics to creating cinematic cutscenes which includes helpful sessions on special effects like fire particles. As Unity’s proficiency is behind AAA game hits and its application stretches beyond the gaming industry, mastering this skill offers immense learning and earning potential.

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Unity’s Particle System

First, let’s create a particle by right-clicking in the Hierarchy and selecting Effects > Particle System:

Creating a Particle System in Unity

In the small pop-up menu at the bottom of the scene, we have several configuration options at the ready:

Particle effect pop-up menu in Unity

We can pause, stop or restart the particle emission by altering the playback time of the particles, and also slow it down by changing the playback speed. By checking the ‘ShowBounds‘ checkbox we can also see how far the particles are reaching:

'Show Bounds' enabled for the particle system in Unity

This comes very in handy for us to quickly test how our particles are behaving. Nonetheless, we have a much richer range of settings for our particle system inside the Inspector:

Particle System tab in the Inspector

Each tab has a different feature you can apply to your particle. We see that the Emission and Shape ones have a little check symbol in front of them, meaning that they are currently enabled for our particle system. The Emission tab controls how many particles we emit over time, while the Shape tab indicates the sort of shape we’re emitting from (a cone, a box, a circle, etc) and sets up the angle and radius, among other properties:

Shape properties of the particle system in Unity

Another tab that’s checked in is Renderer, which allows us to customize how the particles face the camera. Right now they are set to ‘Billboard’ and if we change it to ‘Horizontal Billboard’ we’ll see the particles flat as well but facing the up direction instead:

Customizing the Renderer tab in the Inspector

We can also change the material of the particles in this tab, as well as the trail material. To add any trails to your particles, you need simply to enable the Trails tab:

Enabling Trails for the particle system in Unity

Particle System Properties

Let’s see all these properties in action! We have:

  • Start Lifetime – Dictates how long the particle exists in the world

Going back to the Particle System tab, if we bring down the Start Lifetime property from 5 seconds to 1 second we immediately see how it changes in height, as the particles are only alive for 1 second now:

Changing the Start Lifetime property of the particle to 1 second

To add a more organic feel to it, you can click on the arrow next to the value entered and select “Random Between Two Constants“. You can then enter two numbers, such as 0.5 and 1.5:

Setting the Start Lifetime property to be a 'Random between two constants'

Note how the particles don’t all disappear at the same time anymore. We can do so with the Start Speed property as well to add more variety in how fast the particles are emitted.

We also have:

  • Start Size – how large the particles are when they start out
  • Start Rotation – the rotation of the particles when being emitted
  • Start Color – the color we want the particles to be
  • Simulation Space – designates the spread of the particles in the world

If we switch Simulation Space from ‘Local’ to ‘World, we see that the particles are now being moved along with our cursor to whatever position we place it:

Setting the particle's Simulation Space property to 'World'

Other interesting tabs are Velocity over Lifetime and Color over Lifetime, where we alter the speed and color of our particles over their lifetime periods. We can use the latter to make our particles fade out as time goes by:

Making the particle fade over time in the Color over Lifetime tab

Or have multiple colors to our gradient as follows:

Adding multiple colors to the gradient of the particle in Unity

Going to the Size over Lifetime tab, it allows us to change how large the particle is over time, based on an animation curve as seen below:

Setting up the size of the particle in the Size over Lifetime tab

You can edit the curve by adding points to it and the particle will reflect the changes directly:

Editing the curve for the size of the particle in Unity

The Noise tab is also helpful to add some randomness and organic movement to our particles:

Noise tab in Unity

Remember to be careful of the Collision tab, as it adds a collider to every single particle and you may have an impact on performance by having too many of them. You can add colliders to make an explosion effect and also trigger an OnCollisionEnter function for that, for example.

Let’s put all this to use by creating our fire particles!

Want to learn more about particles in Unity? Try our complete Intro to Particle Systems for Games course.

Fire Particles in Unity

Create a new particle system and name it “Fire Particles”. From there, let’s change how the particles look by setting the Render Mode to Mesh and the Material to Sprites-Default in the Renderer tab:

Changing the appearance of particles in Unity

In the Particle System tab, set Start Lifetime to 1 – 1.5, Start Speed to 0.2, and Gravity Modifier to -1. Also set Shape to Sphere and Shape Radius to 1 (or 0.5) in the Shape tab:

Setting up the Particle System in Unity

Next, enable the Color over Lifetime tab, and set the Color gradient to the one below:

Setting the color for our particles in Unity

Back to the Particle System tab, set the Start Size to 1 – 1.5:

Setting a Start Size for the particles in Unity

Enable the Rotation over Lifetime tab, and set the Angular Velocity to 45 – 90:

Enabling Rotation and setting up an Angular Velocity for the particle system in Unity

Also enable the Size over Lifetime tab, and set the Size curve to the one below:

Setting up the size curve for the particle system in Unity

You can bring the first point more to the left-up corner for the fire to get bigger faster as well, and then it’ll get smaller as time goes by. Feel free to tweak this as you like.

Finally, set Rate over Time to 20 in the Emission tab:

Setting the emission rate over time for the particles in Unity

If we change the background color of the camera to a solid black, we can better visualize our fire particles all set up:

Fire Particle in Unity

Notice how it’s changing color and has the fading-out effect, just as wanted!


Well done on concluding this tutorial!

Here you learned how to create simple fire particles in Unity in a fast and easy way! This is your first step towards designing all other sorts of particles, whether you want portal effects, magic attacks, or more. Unity allows us to customize our particles quite a lot through its default Particle System, and the more you explore it the more organic your particles will look.

We encourage you to practice with the Particle System more and try coming up with unique designs on your own! You may also want to take a look at Unity’s VFX Graph at some point as well, which takes particles to a whole new level with more power and performance – and much of the same fundamentals at play.

Interested in taking your Unity skills beyond particle effects? With Zenva’s Unity Game Development Mini-Degree, you can significantly enhance your proficiency in Unity, the engine that powers over half of the world’s games. Not only will you learn to create impressive fire particle systems like in this tutorial, but also dive into game mechanics, enemy AI, animation, and so much more. From tutorials for beginners to advanced lessons, this Mini-Degree offers a comprehensive look into game development that fits into any genre or platform.

Regardless, good luck with your games, and we hope they “feel” that much more exciting!

Did you come across any errors in this tutorial? Please let us know by completing this form and we’ll look into it!

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