Photography Project – Creating abstracts with Food coloring

Food coloring abstracts

After a year of crazy schedules, Peter and I have finally found some time to return to writing about our creative projects and trips. I decided to return to a project I tried 10 years ago, creating abstracts using food coloring and water.

The Set Up

This can be messy, so pick a place that you can easily clean. I have a work table on wheels that we bought from Home Depot, and love to use it for projects because I can wheel it into position for the best light. I positioned the table in front of a window that was receiving direct light. Using a diffusion panel over the window I diffused the light and also achieved a white background. A white towel under the vase created a white “floor” underneath. The list:

  • Square sided glass vase
  • Food coloring
  • Diffusion for the window
  • Remote for the camera
  • Straw for focus
  • White towel/rag

Capturing the image

I first used a straw placed in the middle of the vase and manually focused in the middle of my frame. I tried capturing a single drop of color as it moved through the vase, then I tried two spacing them apart. After a couple of drops, I used the straw to mix the color into the water and create a different color background. Sometimes I captured the swirls in the water to use as a background in my final composites (see cover image),

Food coloring in water

This project requires patience to capture the drops and frequently change the water. As much trial and error as this was, it was a one person job, and easier than capturing ink in water. Now for the tricky part, bubbles in the water, which you can see in the image above. I tried warm water, cold water, letting water sit for days, and really couldn’t figure out how to get around the bubbles in the water. I ended up cleaning much of them up in post.


My three final images are composites of different images captures. This image includes: the background, and two “drops” of color. I flipped drops and stretched them using the Free Transform tool, I recolored them using the Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer, and I used Topaz’s Restyle to completely change the color.

Abstract: Food color in water

This image I created using the same techniques, but finished using Color Effects Pro from the Nik Collection.

Abstract with food color and water

The cover image was the most complex, involving two backgrounds, and four drops.

Abstract – Food color in water

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