This work presents a method of mapping deformation-related sublimation patterns, formed on the surface of ice specimens, at microscopic resolution (3–4 μm pixel−1). The method is based on the systematic sublimation of a microtomed piece of ice, prepared either as a thick or a thin section. The mapping system consists of an optical microscope, a CCD video camera and a computer-controlled xy-stage. About 1500 images are needed to build a high-resolution mosaic map of a 4.5 × 9 cm section. Mosaics and single images are used to derive a variety of statistical data about air inclusions (air bubbles and air clathrate hydrates), texture (grain size, shape and orientation) and deformation-related features (subgrain boundaries, slip bands, subgrain islands and loops, pinned and bulged grain boundaries). The most common sublimation patterns are described, and their relevance for the deformation of polar ice is briefly discussed.