• Northern Lights Fireworks

Your Guide To Firework Types and Effects

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

At Northern Lights Fireworks we always get asked about firework types and effects. We've produced this simple guide to help you understand fireworks.


A lancework or often referred to as a set piece is a combination of small lances, which are small thin paper tubes that produce a steady coloured flame or change colour usually lasting a minute. These can be fused together to produce writing, pictures or logos, including; heart and initials and messages such as "Happy Birthday".

Catherine Wheel

A Catherine wheel consists of a flattened paper tube of composition coiled around a plastic centre. It spins around the centre causing sparks to fly of in all directions. Other wheels may consist of two ore more 'drivers' (Tubes filled with composition).

Catherine wheel wedding fireworks northern lights fireworks

Fountains or Gerbs

A fountain or gerb is a thick walled tube fulled with composition chocked near the end. To produce a just of sparks.

Fountain Wedding fireworks Wiltshire


A sparkler is a type of handheld firework which emits sparks or often coloured effects.

Sparklers wedding fireworks


A waterfall is made of a number of suspending gerb-like devices upside down from a long wire above the ground causing sparks to fall to the ground.

Waterfall firework effect Northern Lights Fireworks
Display in Collaboration with Sirotechnics

Bengals (Ground Flares)

Bengals or 'ground flares' are simple devices consisting of a paper tube and a slow burning of colour of often strobing effect. They burn with a bright flame are are usually used at ground level or in trees.


Candles or roman candles consist of a single cardboard tube fulled with pellets or starts of composition. A delay fuse inside causes a series of repeating stars of other effects to shoot out at regular intervals. Candles are often fused together or bunched with different colours and effects. They can also be used in fans or crossovers.


A multi-shot battery consisting of a number of closely grouped roman candles linked by a fuse. Each candle may fire sequentially, in rows or in waves. Larger ones are often referred to as 'single ignition cakes' and can last up to three minutes.

Fan Cakes

Similar to that of normal cakes, 'fan cakes' are multi-shot batteries arranged at angles or 'fans'.

Single Shots

A single shot is a similar comet which produces a single large pellet of composition propelled upward. Single shots have varying effects, colours and sounds. Often single shots are used in pyro-musical displays to ensure fireworks can be fired on the beats of the music.


Stars are thrown up into the air producing a sudden plume of effect erupting from a mortar tube.


A rocket is a typical firework aerial shell that primarily are consumer use products. A motor propels the rocket body into the air with a trail of sparks, often accompanied with a whistle or screech and ending in a burst of colour. The stick on the rocket is what stabilises it in flight. As a professional firework company rockets are not used as they have unpredictability in the wind and the debris (the stick) is a hazard to spectators when it falls back to the ground.

Gemstone Fireworks


Aerial Shells are often confused with rockets. Aerial shells are spheres or cylinders made of paper or plastic containing stars, burst charge and delay fuse. Shells are fired from mortar tubes, and are propelled into the air by the lift charge composed of black powder. The delay fuse can sometimes be seen glowing in the air as the shell spins. The arrangement of the stars in the shell determines the effect when the shell bursts.

Shape or Pattern Shells

Shells which are designed to create shapes in the sky as the star emerge in a well-defined geometrical pattern. Patterns including hearts, smiley faces, or spirals.


A pattern in which the arts leave no visible trail and give the appearance of points of light radiating outwards from a central burst. Often peony shells consist of multiple colours or change colour.


A strobe shell is similar to a peony effect, however the points of light often have a shimmer effect in sky or have the appearance of points of lights flashing.


A shell that consists of long burning stars, usually silver or gold, that falls substantial distance from the initial shell burst.

Horsetail (Waterfall)

A shell that is similar to that of a brocade where long burning stars fall a substantial distance, however these are in small clusters and is achieved by ensuring the shell has a 'soft break' and stars aren't propelled from a central point outburst on burst.


A common spherical 'floral' pattern in which the stars leave a visible trail.

Salute (Maroon)

Salute shells are designed solely to create a loud report or bang and are commonly used to end a firework display with dramatic effect. Salute shells can be fired on the ground (ground salute) or launched from a mortar (aerial salute)


Comment down below your favourite firework effects. #fireworkeffects #fireworktypes #northernlightsfireworks

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