Make Your Own Fake Ice Cubes For Photography Staging
I’m an impatient person. I’m also very singularly-minded, so when I get an idea in my head, everything else gets put on hold while I’m pursuing it (and, often making a mess in the process).
I needed some artificial ice cubes for a few personal photo projects, but I didn’t want to have to buy any or be arsed to wait for them to arrive in the mail. So, I decided to make my own, adapting a great tutorial by Kyle May.
Sourcing the materials for the project is probably the easiest part of the whole operation. You will need:
- Clear Craft Beads: $2 – I soured mine from Walmart, but I’m certain that any craft store would carry them.
- Aluminum Foil: ~$2 – Again, sourced from Walmart (and you will have plenty left over to that mind control helmet).
- Small box, piece of wood, or something else similar in shape to your desired ice cubes. This will function as the form for your mold. – Mine was a small essential oils box, again, from Walmart. (That’s what you deserve when you send the wife shopping for you.)
- An oven
- Utility knife (if needed to trim edges)
- Metal file (if you really want to shape and sculpt them afterwards
1. Create your mold
Fold your foil several times to get a decent thickness. Tear or cut it to a workable length for wrapping around your form (it’s always a good practice to wrap your wood). Make sure to leave enough to fold around the bottom and to give you a total height at least twice as tall as your want your final ice cubes to be. Then, wrap the foil around your form, and fold the bottom like you would a Christmas gift…just keep going around until it’s all nicely creased.
2. Fill your mold
Next, fill your mold with the clear plastic beads. Now, because of all the empty space inside of and around the beads, they will sink down as they melt, so fill the beads up to about twice the intended height of your final cubes.
3. Bake ’em
Put them in the oven at about 400º to 450º degrees for approximately 30 minutes. Cooking time can vary, and mine took a long time to get going before I cranked up the heat. Feel free to check on them regularly.
4. Cool ’em
When they are all melted, pull them out of the oven and allow them to cool. The cooling can take a while. Grab a book, watch a movie, or try to solve a Rubik’s Cube.
5. Strip ’em, and shave ’em
Once they are finished cooling, unwrap each of your cubes. Use a knife, a file, or some time of rough object to wear down any sharp points and smooth out the edges. I found that a file worked best for rounding things a bit and for removing the lingering pieces of foil that got trapped in the resin.
If you find that your cubes are pretty rough and scratched after your last step, you can pop them back in the oven on a flat surface for a few minutes. This will start to melt them just enough to smooth things out and give you a nice finish on the outside.
Here’s a few shots of the final product. For $2 of beads, I got 4 large cubes. Obviously, if you shoot for a smaller size, you would be able to make more. There’s some things I will do differently on my next batch, but I’m fairly happy with the results of round one.
Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.