Video Poster Image

Elemental Foundations

Instructor: Dan Elder
Included with VFX-A All Access

Learn about the different principles used in 2DFX animation. Level up the visual appeal of your effects with these lessons on fire, liquid, dust, debris, and more!

In All Access

3.5+ Hours

This course includes over three and a half hours of FX training.

Skill Level

Beginner Level One course for new artists. 

Videos & Files

This course includes downloadable project files to follow along.

Instant Access

This course is immediately available to All Access members. 

Course Breakdown

Lesson overview.

Principles of FX Design

The BMS (Big, Medium, Small) technique is not just for defining positive shapes, but also negative ones!

Try to design with variation, whether that is variation in your shapes, thickness, depth, line weight, or avoiding symmetry overall.

The Wave Principle 

The Wave Principle will help you design effects with good flow and motion. It's used to create a wide variety of FX.

Think of a wave as an arc traveling up from an anchor point. Then control the speed by how many arcs you include before the wave reaches the end.

Creation & Dissipation

Burst a collection of shapes to life with creation, and dissipate FX away.

There are a variety of methods that can be used but at the introductory stage, focus on designing positive and negative shapes.

Cycles for Looping FX

Making looping effects look good is difficult. You can use keyframes to cycle FX forever. 

Plan your frames ahead of time to ensure you create a design that transitions well from your final frame back into the first.

Fire FX Foundations

Learn the principles and techniques that will bring your fire FX to life. Fire's behavior relies on the scale of your effect.

Small scale, like a candle flame, is a great use of the wave principle, while large scale, like a campfire, will rely on follow through. 

Water & Liquid Foundations

Realistic fluid effects are one of the most difficult VFX to create.

Regardless of the type of water effect you are designing, it is important to keep in mind how water likes to break apart. The viscosity determines how liquids glob together and their overall speed. 

Smoke & Dust Foundations

Create all kinds of amazing smoke and dust effects from a smoke bomb to the biggest duststorm.

Smoke wisps behave more like fire, while billows act like clouds. Overlapping lines and shadows will help you define depth within your shapes. Think of smoke as overlapping shapes to help you define how light should interact with them.

Lightning & Flash Frames

Make snappy dynamic lightning effects full of energy.

One of the biggest mistakes when drawing lightning effects is designing it to travel across the screen.  This actually results in slowing down the entire effect. Getting acquainted with different styles of flash frames will help you avoid this issue!

Debris FX Foundations

Shatter objects into pieces! Debris is essentially a miscellaneous category, as it includes things like props and background elements, not just objects breaking into pieces.

Get practice with drawing things in rotation, and using other elements as a base to create an effect from a prop.

What members say about VFX Apprentice

Ron Anati

VFX-A All Access Member

Been in love with game VFX since I can remember. I joined VFX Apprentice after a LONG time thinking about it, and loving every moment of it, studying whenever I can.

Bruno Cano

VFX-A All Access Member

Joining VFX Apprentice was, for sure, the best decision I've made in my early VFX career. The courses are great and the mentors and students are always trying to help. I just love being here!

Learn 2D and 3D FX with VFX-A All Access

All 2D FX, 3D VFX, and Advanced courses are included with VFX Apprentice All Access. Learn stylized and real-time FX from professional artists and animators.


All Access (Annual)


12 months billed once

  • Save $680 vs. monthly
  • 200+ Hours of VFX Training
  • New Lessons Monthly
  • Weekly Live Sessions
  • Project Files + Assets
  • Lifetime Community Access

All Access (Monthly)


Billed monthly

  • 200+ Hours of VFX Training
  • New Lessons Monthly
  • Weekly Live Sessions
  • Project Files + Assets
  • Full Community Access

More FX Courses Like This

Take what you learn in this course and apply these skills to creating FX for games and animation. 

FX Concept Painting - Elemental Studies

2D FX: Level One
Try your newly-acquired skills while creating concept art of various elementals!

Learn More

FX Design Principles

2D FX: Level One
This series covers five design principles of animation and how to apply them to VFX.

Learn More

FX Timing Principles

2D FX: Level One
This series covers seven principles of timing in animation and how to apply them to VFX.

Learn More