We've all seen patches of iridescent colours on a rainy day. Through another post on this site: What causes multiple colored patches on a wet road? I've also tried to understand the science behind it.

My question now is, if I'd like to create this in my house how should I go about this? From my understanding, we need a black background, some water, oil and light for this to happen.

[Q1] If this is the case, do oils like Olive oil work?

[Q2] Is the yellow light in homes sufficient to view this?

[Q3] Is there any way to fix this patch of colour? (To make the colours stay)

If the experiment goes well and if it is possible, I would love to photograph this phenomenon inside a studio!

Thank you!

Sharing some sample photos of the rainbow puddle below:

enter image description here

enter image description here

Edit: I was able to achieve the results on a wooden and glass base. Somehow a ceramic bowl (filled with water and a few drops of gasoline) just didn’t work. Thank you once again!!


You will not see colors under a yellow light; you can at best only see colors that are in the illuminating light.

The oil needs to be able to spread out into a very thin layer on water. Some oils won't do that. You may need to experiment with your available oils.

Illumination needs to be diffuse. Shine a white light onto a white wall, and let the scattered light from the wall reflect off the oil film.

The colors depend on the thickness of the oil layer. Usually the oil will get thinner and thinner until it is one molecule thick, and where it's that thin the color is likely to be grey instead of a pure color.

| cite | improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ "whei"? (probable typo) $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Nov 17 '19 at 20:16
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! When you say 'illuminating light' do you mean like the sun or white light? $\endgroup$ – Akr Nov 18 '19 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ Sunlight is effectively white light. By "illuminating light" I mean whatever light you use to illuminate the oil film. $\endgroup$ – S. McGrew Nov 18 '19 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks so much, S McGrew and everyone else for making science easier to understand :) $\endgroup$ – Akr Nov 19 '19 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ So, I did the experiment and I can see the faintest colour. I am still experimenting with different materials but theoretically, could there be a substance that would make the colours more drastic? $\endgroup$ – Akr Nov 22 '19 at 18:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.