You love fireworks – but do you know how they work? Each year, firework displays fill the night air with miraculous sparkles and explosions. It’s easy to take for granted the science behind the magic.

Satiate your curiosity by learning more about what’s inside a firework and how it affects color.

The Anatomy of a Firework

Before you can understand how fireworks work, you’ll need to understand what’s inside a firework. The anatomy of a firework can be broken into several parts.

One of the most important parts of the fireworks is the fuse. This is on the outside of the firework and is what you light to send it flying into the air. The fuse fits inside a launching tube, which is filled with gunpowder at the bottom. Once this gunpowder ignites, it shoots the firework into the air, leaving behind the launching tube.

Inside the actual firework, there is more black powder that will ignite once in the air. Depending on the size of the firework, there may be different cardboard compartments holding different kinds of stars. This way, one rocket can cause a couple different kinds of explosions at the same time. These compartments are known as breaks, because they break off at different points in the sky to illuminate a bigger area. Additionally, this lets the colors of fireworks vary throughout the show.

These are eventually lit by a time-delay fuse, which causes the beautiful display you’re used to seeing.

Generally, this is how aerial fireworks work, but other types of fireworks are pretty similar.

How Do Fireworks Work?

Now that you have a basic idea of the anatomy of a firework, it should be easier to understand how other kinds work.


Sparklers are a simple type of firework, as they are basically only a stick covered in charcoal and sulfur for fuel, an oxidizer, iron or steel powder, and a binder — like sugar or starch to hold everything together.

woman holding sparkler


Firecrackers are slightly more complicated in the they contain typical black powder wrapped inside a paper tube with a fuse.

Colors of Fireworks

Curious how they get fireworks to be so many pretty colors?

It’s pretty easy if you understand chemistry. Each fireworks color is created using a chemical mixture, such as the following:

  • Red – lithium salts and strontium salts
  • Gold – incandescence of iron, lampblack, or charcoal
  • Silver – titanium or magnesium powder flakes
  • White – white-hot metal like aluminum or magnesium
  • Orange – calcium salts
  • Yellow – sodium compounds
  • Blue – Copper compounds with chlorine producer
  • Green – Barium compounds with chlorine producer
  • Purple – mixture of strontium and copper compounds

How do fireworks work? Hopefully, you have a better understanding now. Next time you’re sitting on a blanket under the night sky watching the telltale trails and stars, you can explain to the rest of your companions the inner mechanism of the show they love so much.

Need some fireworks to brighten your long summer nights? Check out our online supply of goods, or stop by any of our locations today to stock up on everything you need to keep the party going.

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