How to Create Colorful Artistic Images Using Oil and Water

How to Create Colorful Artistic Images Using Oil and Water

Colors are the smiles of nature. We see colors all around us and it makes us feel happy and alive. Just imagine a life without color, where everything is simply in black, white and in between, how dull and boring it would be. Luckily, our beautiful world is full of colors.

In this article, you’ll learn how to create some colorful images using just water and oil to make your world even more beautiful.

Oil in Water 17

I am sure you have seen oil and water images on the internet before and may have even tried to photograph it. But this is your lucky day, as you are going to learn a very easy technique where you don’t need any flashes or artificial lights and your pictures will come out beautiful and vivid.

Are you ready for this? Okay, let’s move on.

What you need

Like any other kind of photography, first, you need a camera. You can use any DSLR or compact camera or even your mobile phone. There is no restriction on lens choice as well.

Second, you need a glass dish. Just look in your kitchen and you will find one. If it’s square, that will work great otherwise, a round dish will work too.

I took some photos using a glass bowl but found a little problem. Bowls usually have a smaller bottom compared to the top and this shape affects the picture. Also, bowls may not be 100% transparent, so I went to a local aquarium shop and had them make an 8×12 inch glass tray with one-inch depth. You can also get the same for yourself.

How to Create Colorful Artistic Images Using Oil and Water


Next, you need background images and there is a super simple trick. Go to Google and search for “colorful wallpaper” images. You’ll find lots of wallpapers that you can download and use. Download whichever ones you like, just make sure they have lots of colors and patterns.

Now send these photos to your iPad or tablet (or Google directly on the iPad and save). You will use these pictures as a background instead of a printed one, so you don’t need any lights and the colors will be very bright. If you don’t have a tablet, you may lay your computer monitor or laptop down and use it.

NOTE: If you do this, please do so at your own risk and take all safety precautions.

Other than this, you’ll need water, vegetable oil, dish soap, a plastic sheet to cover your tablet and two boxes about six inches high.

Setup and camera settings

Okay, place the two boxes about 8 inches apart so you can place your tablet between them. Now put your glass tray on top of the boxes. If you are using a glass bowl and it’s small in size, put two metal rulers on the boxes and place the bowl on them.

Now pour some water in the tray and add 4-5 tablespoon vegetable oil to it. When it’s ready, set up your camera. You may fix it on a tripod or you can shoot handheld, but it’s always better to use a tripod and get your hands free to do other tasks.

Set the ISO to 200, aperture to f/5.6, and your shutter speed will be around 1/25th (depending on the brightness of your screen). If you have a wide aperture lens like a 50mm f/1.8, it’s better to use that (you don’t need a lot of depth of field for this type of shot).

Since the water and oil bubbles are on the same focal plane, even if you use an aperture of f/1.8, the entire picture will be in focus. The background will be more blurred which is actually a good thing. So, just go with the widest aperture your lens allows and change the other settings on the camera accordingly.

Now place your tablet below the glass tray. It should be around six inches below the tray. Make sure you wrap it in plastic so if you accidentally drop some water or oil on it, it will be safe.

How to Create Colorful Artistic Images Using Oil and Water


Now relax because the hardest part is already done and all you have to do now is change the image on the tablet and take some pictures. When you shoot one image, use a spoon to stir the water gently, let it settle down and take another shot. After four or five shots, change the image on the tablet and repeat the process.

You’ll find that oil drops are very big in size. Don’t worry about it and take some shots. When it’s complete, put a few drops of dish soap or any other liquid soap into the water, mix it well and voila, the oil drops have now become smaller. Don’t try to understand the science behind this, just change pictures on the tablet and shoot three or four pictures, change the photo again, and repeat the process.

Large oil droplets.

Smaller droplets created by adding soap.

Even smaller yet.

Post-processing and finishing up

There is no need for heavy post-processing, just levels, sharpening, and cropping is enough.

Okay, call your friends and tell them that you’ll be busy next Sunday because you’re creating some extraordinary beautiful images. Just do it, share with them and don’t forget to share in the comments below too.

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Ramakant Sharda is an iOS App publisher, author, and a passionate photographer based in the beautiful “Pink City” of India, known as Jaipur. His work has been published in various magazines, newspapers, and blogs. He writes about photography and also teaches photography in his workshops. Check out some of the masterpieces at or download his free app for iPhone and iPad 30 Days to Become a Better Photographer.