Abstract Titanium oxide nanoparticles (NPs) were successfully prepared by sparking off two titanium tips into water for 1–5 h. The nanoparticle-dispersed water was obtained for further characterization. The transmission electron microscopy result shows that the particle size is in the range of 1–5 nm. The electron diffraction patterns and Raman spectra reveal that the as-prepared and the annealed samples at 250 °C are the anatase phase. However, the anatase–rutile phase transformation was observed from the samples at annealing temperature as low as 500 °C. The result of methylene blue-decoloration testing under sunbath suggests that the NPs have good photocatalytic property.