Food, Photography and Lifestyle Blog

Dancing Paint

Inspired by Canon’s Pixma printer advertising commercial shots with some paint apparently splashing into the air, I got interested in how this was done and had to try this myself. A little research showed I wasnt alone in trying this out, but as far as I could find only one, the shooter hired by Canon was able to pull this off very well.

I have tried now several times and gotten better and better at it, with limited resources, no sound trigger nor a sound generator I went to work.

Dancing Paint What you will need:

A small cheap computer speaker

Black Balloon


Background material

flags and reflectors


Sound Generator (i used garage band on my mac)





Camera, lens and about 3-4 flashes depending on how you wish to photograph and light this.


Make sure anything valuable is packed in plastic bag or put far enough away to avoid any splashes of paint damaging it. I can tell you I have learned the hard way and have now rather colorful flash units!

I hope the below shot clarifies a bit how I had this set up, this was my 1st trial and afterward the set ups got a lot more complicated, but I didn’t take any shots of them…..just think 2-3 more flashes, a different background with light behind it.

I first tried to make the room dark, open the lens on bulb etc approach and then fire the flash when i wanted to take the image………this was very cumbersome and totally unnecessary in this case and I now do this by simply setting my camera to 1/160 of a second, F16 aperture to get a good depth, the flashes (and this is much more important) were all set to about 1/64 and 1/32 of a second, quite low power, so thats why the flashes were only inches away from the paint. at this power setting the flashes work extremely fast, hence the 160 shutter speed almost blocks out any ambient and the fast flash freezes the action of the paint in mid flight, or anywhere else you wish to catch it.

dancing paintYou have to use a remote shutter cable for this, and I have found out that in garage band none of the instruments really produce the right frequency, but there are some sound effect which do!

So the trick now lies in finding the right sound, making the right paint consistency (later more) and firing the shutter on the right moment to capture the perfect shot.

Paint consistency: for obvious reasons I have used water based paint, to get the consistency right though I sued a mix of 1/3 paint, 1/3 Glycerin and 1/3 water….teh paint brand was from Crayola (shhh dont tell my son)

Once you have the right paint, you take the balloon, cut of the bottom end, and stretch it tight over the loud speaker. Next you grease it with some lube so the balloon is nice and shiny and no dust shows up on it.

You then continue to place some drops of paint on it, try whatever you like, single color, mixed etc, also try topping off the paint with some lube on top of the paint for a smoother result.

Next you have to switch off as much ambient light as possible, set your focus and switch it to manual. Then the fun part starts, press the key to make your sound and at the right time press the shutter button…..ahhh just to late…….ok no problem, just clean up the whole scene, rub the balloon with paper tissue, lube it again, etc etc……do this about 30 times and you will end up with at least a few amazing shots.






I hope this explanation is useful for others wanting to try this, and if you do please share your findings as the sky is the limit!


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