Make Rad Abstract Photos From Milk and Food Coloring

Picasso had his paint brush, Michelangelo had his marble, Escher had his sketchbook, and now you have a milk carton?

Strange as it may sound, you can make twisted tie-dye swirls and churning volcanos of color by simply mixing milk, soap, and a little food coloring.

This is the stuff of dreams if you are one of those photographic Jackson Pollocks who gets their jollies from abstract snaps.

Plus, you don’t need any fancy gear and all it costs is lunch money.

Poke your head in the pantry, swing by the fridge, check under the sink, and in minutes you’ll be making your own Moona Lisa.

Make a Modern Milksterpiece

Why It’s Cool:

Your fifth grade baking soda volcano may not have turned out so well, but take our word for it this experiment is an easy and fun way to make abstract art!

You never know what creations will come out of this churning rainbow wonderland and it’s good times for everyone from kids to Great Aunt Edna.

And although it’s quick and easy to clean up, it won’t be short on the wow factor.

Milk swirls in Action from Photojojo loves you on Vimeo.

The Ingredients:

  • Whole or 2% milk
  • Dinner Plate
  • Food coloring (red, blue, green, yellow)
  • Dish-washing soap (Dawn seems to work well)
  • Q-tips

STEP 1: Pour the Milk

beforeSet your dinner plate somewhere level and safe from getting knocked over, and then pour in a layer of milk.

A thin coat will do, you don’t need to go overboard.

STEP 2: Add a Dash of Color

beforeGrab your droppers of food coloring and add a few drops of each color to the center of your plate of milk.

The food coloring will allow you to see the reaction that happens in the next step so feel free to experiment with the placement of your dye drops for different effects.

STEP 3: Get Soapy

beforeApply a good dollop of dish soap to one end of a clean Q-tip.

Twirl the soap around a bit to make sure the whole cotton swab is coated.

STEP 4: Dip Your Q-Tip

beforeDab your soapy swab into your milk and dye mixture and watch the colorful explosion!

You can keep dipping your Q-tip and reapplying soap to create new shapes, colors, and textures.

STEP 5: Capture the Color

beforeGrab a phone, compact, or DSLR and start snapping.

We found that increasing the saturation, contrast, and sharpening, helps to get pictures that really pop.

If you are using a phone, you can do this after the fact with an app like Photoshop Express or Pixlr.

Try using a macro lens with your phone or DSLR for super close ups.

Also, using a fast shutter speed will help prevent the moving colors from blurring.

You can experiment with new color combinations, try using a different type of milk, drop colors around at random, use two or three Q-tips at once, or anything else you can think of to spice up your pics.

Taking It Further



Many thanks to Casetofoane for use of their song ’90’ in our video!