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How to make Acrylic Ice for Photography

Updated on February 9, 2013
Acrylic ice can be stacked on a mirror, something that is difficult to do with real ice cubes
Acrylic ice can be stacked on a mirror, something that is difficult to do with real ice cubes

Why would you need acrylic ice cubes?

Ice cubes make an interesting subject for photography, however many times the ice made from water out of the tap has impurities that will show up in your photo once light hits them. This can ruin an otherwise perfect photo. Another issue with using real ice cubes is that you need to work extremely quickly when you are shooting in a macro studio with lights that will tend to heat up the area and melt your subject.

Acrylic ice cubes are a favorite among photographers as they offer a controlled atmosphere for the photo session. No worries about melting, impurities, being able stack them in positions that would not be possible with their slippery counterparts.

Acrylic Ice for Sale

Now, while you can purchase acrylic ice cubes from many places, I found them quite expensive. Also unfortunately for me, I was setting up my shot and realized just how uncooperative real ice could be. Since I did not have the time to get them shipped and there were no photo prop stores within driving distance, I decided to improvise.

After some intensive Internet research I developed my plan and headed to the local Walmart. I use Walmart a lot in my tutorials since they generally carry the same items and they are also a store that most people have access to.

Acrylic ice on paper as a background
Acrylic ice on paper as a background
Acrylic ice can still look "real" with some well placed water... Shown above positioned on a mirror
Acrylic ice can still look "real" with some well placed water... Shown above positioned on a mirror

The Wonders of "fake" ice

There are several benefits to using acrylic ice rather than real ice. One being the option of using non waterproof materials without risk of damage or "wet spots". Textured paper is a great background for an inexpensive macro setup, however it is not a good thing to set melting ice cubes on.

Things you will need

  • Clear acrylic beads (I used clear pony beads)
  • aluminum foil and ice cube shaped object (child's block works well) or metal ice cube tray and baking sheet
  • oven (or electric hot plate- I did this outside since acrylic STINKS when melting)
  • wooden toothpicks
  • heat resistant surface (for cooling)
  • 220 sand paper (optional)

Find fun ways to use your new Ice Cubes
Find fun ways to use your new Ice Cubes

How to make the Ice

Once you have your equipment it is easy...

For those using the oven and the metal ice cube tray... Set the oven to 375 - place the beads in the ice cube tray set it on a baking sheet... Start at 10 mins... Keep an eye on the level (as the beads melt it will get lower) add beads as it goes and it should be done within 20 mins or so. You can also used the foil method in the oven... *note* the toothpicks come in handy to smooth things out or add beads without burning yourself

Foil method.. Take your ice shaped object and wrap it with aluminum foil making a "cup" take the object out and fill with the beads following the steps above.

For those like me who do not want the house to stink... I plugged an electric hot plate in outside and set the foil cups on it melting the beads with a nice breeze..

Once everything is melted, place them on a heat resistant surface, I used a wooden cutting board, allow them to cool for at least 30 mins.

Once they are cooled remove the acrylic from your mold and take any sharp edges off with the fine sand paper.

Get Creative

  • Use different colored clear beads: blue, red, green
  • mix colors together for psychedelic ice
  • Fun "additives" : fake flies, ants ect
  • placing cubes in the freezer to cool will add more "bubbles" so try experimenting
  • while the cubes are cooling they are still mailable ... You can carefully shape them (but I would wear gloves)
  • use high temp candy molds (not sure I would want to use them for candy later, but...)


Great news... If you totally mess it up- you can always remelt it and start over!

Hope you enjoyed...

Until next time..."may you always have a seashell in your pocket and sand between your toes"


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    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 3 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      I've never needed fake ice cubes, but if I ever do I'll now know how to make them. Thanks a bunch!

    • dappledesigns profile image

      dappledesigns 3 years ago from In Limbo between New England and the Midwest

      What a great article - I've never thought about using face ice cubes before, And it seems so simple to make yourself. Thanks for the info! I think I may try this out for some stock photos.