Making smoke without fire

Secure and alternative methods to making smoke without fire.

Back from the GNiales, I share my FX Tips to you, in this post, today, the smoke!

Effect’s description

A vaporous spirit manifests itself under a glass globe without anyone touching anything, a mad scientist tinkers a machine and it goes down, emitting smoke, an alchemist mix some products and suddenly a plume of smoke escapes from a bottle, or a villain in the James Bond demonstrates the power of the acid in which the spy will be thrown in a few drops on a metal plate, which is instantly attacked … If you’re a fan of steampunk, you know the stress of producing smoke in your creations…

Nice idea!

When we talk about LARP’s FX, it is believed PROPs, visual effects, ingenious machine. When we talk about the effect of smoke, we think of machines dedicated to that purpose, or smoke pyrotechnics. Too often we forget the chemical effects! Here are various techniques to make smoke completely harmless, without using a flame or bulky machines. In addition, you will discover that this method is probably the cheapest way to produce smoke!

How it work

Where gonna talk about very small fog machines, but also scientific methods to produce smoke. Remember your lessons in physics and chemistry. Especially those redox. We will bring together the highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide with potassium permanganate.
This reaction is quite exothermic, that is to say, it gives off much heat. On the effect of heat, water changes from liquid to gaseous state (water vapor) and this water vapor is condensed back instantly into fine droplets of water in suspension, giving a white fog.


Let’s smoke machines aside, because we will return at the end of this article. Then we have:

  • Some Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2), à 110 ou 130 volumes. 110 or 130 volumes. It is found in drugstore or hardware store. You need to dilute (half peroxide and half water and normal tap works fine …)
    WARNING! This degree of concentration is very important! No eye contact and it can be harmful if swallowed or inhaled, and is a powerful irritant. In case of contact, rinse your hands thoroughly. The product will leave white marks that will disappear after a few hours …
  • Some Potassium permanganate (KMnO4).
    WARNING! If this product is not poisonous, it is harmful if ingested, it promotes the combustible material (oxidizer) and it is very toxic to aquatic organisms, may cause long-term adverse effects for environment (water still).

Recipe (Chemical method 1)

Take the equivalent of half a pea permanganate that you put in small piles in the middle of a sheet of paper. With the back of a spoon, you crush the crystals using a circular motion, until the permanganate had reduce to a fine powder. After that, everything depends on the effect you are looking for… For a small effect of steam, like an ectoplasm trapped under a glass, I take a little bit of patafix, I kneaded into a ball, and I rolled in permanganate. I pay 4 drops of hydrogen peroxide in the glass, and throws the little ball of patafix. For a mad scientist, I throw a little of that direct powder in a test tube containing a centimeter of hydrogen peroxide.
If you what to make smoke appear directly at the opening of a bottle. Simply enclose a bit of permanganate in filter paper (coffee filters, tea bags), all tied with a thin wire and the wire end trapped between the neck and cap. When you simply remove the cap, the paper falls to the bottom of the bottle containing hydrogen peroxide, and the smoke is instantaneous.
A few drops of hydrogen peroxide that is dropped on an area containing some permanganate gives a fabulous effect of acid on a surface!
Tip: You can also delay the effect of the reaction. Take a small capsule of medication, complete the re permanganate, lock it a tiny screw (to the ballast), and throw down there a little bit of hydrogen peroxide. It takes 30 seconds to ready the reaction begins. You need more time? Same principle, but shut up this capsule in another larger capsule, and this time it will take just three minutes before loan smoke do so!

Recipe (mecanical method)

The Zerotoys Wizard Stick

So expensive sometime, today they can be so cheap. We will focus more particularly to a series of toys produced by the U.S. company Zero Toys.
This company offers based fog machine toys using the same product as traditional machines, glycol. This product is brought into contact with a resistance heating for spray (atomized they say) and produce an innocuous smoke, white and opaque. The Wizard Stick is one of them, and even if it just had very little time a sacred inflation from 6 months ago, it remains totally affordable! Comes with a carrying case, adapters and tips, a little liquid smoke and various gadgets around, he can produce cheap but bright smoke!
Also note that electronic cigarettes are neither more nor less than small portable fog machines! Again, the same product is used.
I present you two videos made by fans of Steampunk also:

The Wizard Stick used in a steampunk wheelchair

What can be done with other toys from Zerotoys.

Recipe (chemical method 2) Bonus!

This technique is diffucult to be applied because it can be potentially very dangerous! I would advise against it, but it is true that sometimes we don’t have other choice. Its uniqueness is that it does not quickly produce lot of smoke, but rather slow, very evanescent and mysterious swirls…
Both products are used:

  • Some Hydrochloric Acid (HCl). It is found in drugstores or hardware store.
    WARNING! It is corrosive. In case of contact, wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Some ammonia (NH4OH). It is found in drugstores or hardware store.
    WARNING! It is corrosive and dangerous to the environment (and it smells horribly bad)! In case of contact, wash your hands thoroughly.

The idea will be to put 4 to 5 drops of acid to the bottom of the glass container, then, cover it with a piece of cardboard that you previously drop 4-5 drops of ammonia. About 10 seconds after, a vapor will appear out of the acid and invade the vessel.
CAUTION: This chlorine! This gas is dangerous, even if such quantity and concentration is light… Practice this experiment in a ventilated area! Also, let me give you two advices:
- Close the bottle of acid after depositing drops, ditto for ammonia, plus the fact that you limit the risk of awkwardness, you avoid the fumes of ammonia to reacts with the bottle of acid, that would be tragic!
- Place the drops of acid on glass or plastic, not metal or fabric, nor wood, nor anything else! Otherwise it will not work, but the acid will attack your support!

Suggestions have

As stated in the introduction, the hydrogen peroxide reaction is highly exothermic, water is vaporized, which means that we are above 100°c
Pay attention to the container in which you’ll practice the experiment. Be careful, also, do not burn yourself, the better, still experimenting!
Although used, this effect had a truly magical side, as intangible objects always have a lot of impact on players …
A last little note to tell you again to store the products in sealed bottles, and in different places. It’s the best practice to avoid any unfortunate blunders! Remember also that potassium permanganate is a fragile product! He feared the heat, and especially light. Keep it in an opaque bottle!

- Download this article in PDF (french only)
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  1. Coucou ! Dis, je suis actuellement PNJ sur la préparation d’un futur GN. Ils sont en train de bricoler un costume de dragon. Je réfléchissais à l’intégration d’un dispositif mécanique de type “bidule qu’on place dans les cheminées des locomotives de modélisme ferroviaire pour faire de la fumée” dans la gueule du monstre.

    Tu penses que ce serait viable ? Ou est-ce que le volume de fumée créé serait trop faible pour être intéressant, selon toi ?

    Et sinon, tu aurais une autre idée pour concrétiser l’effet “fumée qui sort de la bouche du dragon” ?

  2. Génial ! Le seul souci est le poids (environ 1 kg), qui risque de déséquilibrer la tête. Je vais tâcher de persuader le concepteur ^_^ Merci à toi, et biz !

  3. Bonjour,

    J’aimerai épater mes amis en leur servant des cocktails qui fument. Mon soucis, c’est que j’ai besoin que ça se conserve (donc pas de glace carbonique). Je pourrais accrocher un mécanisme au verre?
    je suis vraiment perdue, pouvez-vous m’aider SVP?


  4. Bonjour,
    Je suis en classe de 3ème et en art plastique, je dois construire et présenter un cube “remarquable”. Pour cela, j’aimerais faire sortir de ce cube de la fumée lors de ma présentation. J’aimerais utiliser la méthode chimique numéro 1 ( avec l’eau oxygénée et le permanganate de potassium). Mais je me demandais, si on respire la fumée ( car lors de ma présentation je serais dans une salle de cour ), cela n’est pas dangereux ni pour moi, ni pour mes camarades ?

    • La fumée n’est en fait que de la vapeur d’eau, donc pas de danger. En revanche, la réaction est exothermique, ce qui veux dire que le récipient à l’intérieur du cube doit être en verre (si possible Pyrex ou en plastique (qui résiste à la cuisson). Pas en métal, sinon l’eau oxygénée réagirait avec celui ci.

  5. Bonjour,

    y a t il moyen de rendre cette fumee coloree? (autrement que par un eclairage au travers)

  6. Bonjour,
    Suite à la réalisation d’ un bras articulé, je souhaite y incorporé de la fumée, le Wizard Stick me semble le plus adapté mais est ce que ce site est fiable, et les recharges sont elles uniquement achetables sur celui ci ou on peut mettre le liquide des cigarettes électroniques?

    En vous remerciant et en espérant vous rencontrer.

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