Serif in Education

The art of optical illusions

Optical illusions are images that can be deceptive or misleading to our brains, and can involve patterns, colours or shapes.  What is actually happening to our brain is it is processing a “one tenth of a second” delay, which means it has to try and predict what comes next, and this is not always an accurate reflection, allowing some great tricks to take place.

Optical illusions can be made or sometimes (when we don’t even realise it) can occur naturally in everyday life.  For example, the silverware and tablecloth at dinner. When you touch both, the silverware appears to be colder than the cloth. The fact is, however, they are both at room temperature. This is because metal conducts heat away from your finger more rapidly that cloth does.

A computer monitor is also an optical illusion. The screen is made up of tiny red, green, and blue dots. The illusion is, you see more than just red, green, and blue dots; you see thousands of different colors. Our brains put the red, green, and blue dots together to make the colours.

There are some great “Natural” optical illusions here in this link which show real photographs of them in action.

Optical illusions and magic:

A good example of where this is used in real life for a purpose is with magic.  Magic is sometimes down to optical illusions, or illusions of the hand and eye co-ordination.  Tricking your brain into thinking something is there when it is in fact disappearing before your eyes!  One of the best magician acts of all time, Seigfried and Roy, even managed to make a huge elephant disappear in their act (which is rumoured to be performed with mirrors creating an illusion the elephant is no longer there).

An easy trick which involves optical illusions for primary children to try is here: with the magic strength tester illusion!

How do draw your own simple optical illusion using DrawPlus:

Step 1.  Use the rectangle tool in DrawPlus to draw a square black box in the middle of your page. (approx. 10cm)

Step 2. Draw a white square inside your black box, just leaving 1cm of black showing at the outer edge.

Step 3.  Draw another square inside this white box in black, again leaving 1cm of white showing at the outer edge.

Step 4. Continue until you have something like this below:

Step 5:  Stare at the centre of your square and keep staring for a few seconds.  You should see the square start to go blurry and “move” round the screen.

We would be intrigued to see how good your illusions are, so keep them coming in to us at the usual Serif address!


(thanks to for those facts!)