How can I make a "marbled effect" ice cube?

Hi everyone. A slightly weird query here. Related to both photography and (sort of) food, so I figured this was the best place to ask.

I’m getting into macro still life photography (i.e. very close-up photographs of everyday objects) and something I’d like to try is shooting ice cubes at extreme close up, so a single cube would fill the frame. I think that it would expose all sorts of interesting details. A follow-on thought was that it might be interesting to try and make ice cubes that are shot through with some kind of “marble” effect. I thought about mixing food colouring into the water, but I assume that would just result in coloured ice cubes, rather than the streaks of colour I’m looking for. I wondered about something with a different consistency to water mixed in - oil? Gelatine? I don’t need the ice cubes to be edible, so it doesn’t necessarily need to be a foodstuff. I’ll be using a dedicated ice-cube try for this as well. :slight_smile:

Any ideas are very welcome. :slight_smile:

Not sure how to accomplish this. Clear ice cubes are made in commercial ice makers by keeping the water flowing and building up the ice crystals in layers. Ice cube trays are always going to give you cloudy ice.

If you boil the water and then freeze or freeze+thaw+freeze, you can get clearer ice. These methods both help to drive out some of the dissolved gases which can create the bubbles. The ice sculpture people bubble gas through the water as it freezes to degas the water for the large clear blocks.

I think for the colored effects, TwoCarrotSnowman, you are just going to have to experiment yourself as I have no good ideas at all.

Thanks both.

One idea I had overnight (I was tired when I posted this…) was maybe to put a thin layer of water in the tray, let it freeze, and then squirt some oil paint or something on the frozen layer - let THAT freeze, and then top up the tray. Maybe even build up multiple layers this way.

I’ll have a play. :slight_smile:

Layer idea isn’t bad, though that would probably end up looking pretty uniform (like stripes). I’ve never observed or timed ice freezing, but I’m sure it doesn’t all go solid at once. What I might try if I was doing this experiment would be to time the process and try putting colored drops in at different intervals as it gets partially frozen. I would suspect the edges probably freeze before the center, but it wouldn’t be in a totally uniform way. You might also try sort of the reverse, where you let some cubes thaw and partially melt, then put them back in the tray with color in the gaps. Might take a few iterations.

Anyway, let us know how it turns out. Sounds like a fun project!

I spent a fair amount of time figuring out how to freeze large, perfectly clear blocks of ice, and came up with a workable solution involving foam insulation.

I wanted to try making colored blocks using food coloring, but ran into a curious problem–the freezing process displaced the dye. The actual clear ice potion was perfectly colorless, whereas the remainder (which was actually still liquid) contained the coloring (suitably concentrated).

It might be possible to use a layering technique or the like to embed color–I didn’t experiment further. But I can say that just mixing color in will probably not do what you want. Various industrial processes actually use this same technique to purify materials as they solidify.

If you do some up with a way to get a marbling technique working, especially one with food-grade materials, I’d love to hear it!