As I was browsing images for an upcoming article on body painting, I stumbled across a painting of a leopard by artist Craig Tracy. I stared at it for a long while but just couldn’t quite understand what it was doing among other body painting images. Then I realized that the leopard I was looking at was in fact painted on a woman’s back. This got me thinking about optical illusions.
I’ve seen a lot of amazing optical illusions over the years and have always enjoyed finding new ones. For that reason, this article was a lot of fun to write. Optical illusions always make me think about what our eyes really see and whether or not we see the world at large the way it really is. Of course, that’s just me over thinking things. Regardless, I decided to share some of my favorite optical illusions with you. Below the illusion, you’ll see instructions on how to get the full effect. If the photo is small, click on it to see the larger version. Enjoy!
Ambiguous Image Illusions
These are the types of illusions I remember seeing when I was a kid. Some of them are real classics while some have a more modern spin. All of them are great illusions. This is probably my favorite kind of illusion.
I’m not sure if this one’s an optical illusion but I found it interesting so it’s on the list. Do you see good or evil? Either way, you’re right. Pretty neat.
So the face is obvious, right? How about the word liar? This one took me a moment. Big hint – the word is written in cursive and the eyes are the L.
Do you see a chalice or do you see two people facing each other. Either way, you’re right!
Do you see a face or a person playing a saxophone? How about both?
Is it a rabbit or a duck? Both! Classic – there’s even been an episode of How I Met Your Mother based around this one.
These illusions will make you see colors where there are none, see colors differently then they appear or will trick your mind into believing you’re looking at two different colors when you’re actually looking at the same one. Some of these can be hard to believe so I’ve also included instructions on how you can verify them in the captions for the illusions.
A blue dog and a yellow dog, right? Nope! Both dogs are the same color. As with some of our other color illusions you can use your favorite photo editing software to confirm.
Every gray rectangle in this image is the same shade. The rectangles around them make them appear darker. This is another illusion you can check with your favorite image editing tool.
In this illusion, A looks far darker than B. In truth, they’re the same. Same the image and use the eyedropper tool in your favorite image editing program and test the theory.
A, B and C are the same colors but the blocks around them, the checkered background and the shadow cast all combine to make them dramatically different. The eyedropper tool will confirm this one too!
Although it doesn’t look like it, the buttons in this picture are the exact same shade. Don’t believe me? Cover up the line where the buttons connect with your finger. See? Same shade!
In this illusion, it appears there are two different sets of chess pieces in the pictures – white on the top and black on the bottom. The truth? Both sets of pieces are the same color.
As the title indicates, the following images are all related to lines. Line illusions cover a wide range of optical illusions so instead of splitting them into smaller categories I decided one category to cover them all would be a better option. Some of my favorite optical illusions are in this category.
The slanted lines inside the rectangles combined with the small triangle in the center create this illusion, tricking your mind into believing the rectangles are slanted when they are in fact parallel. Confirm this one with a ruler.
It might appear that these lines are bent but that isn’t the case. The background in this image causes distortion giving the viewer a skewed view by creating false depth. These lines are all in fact straight.
Looking at these lines, it’s pretty obvious that the horizontal lines are bent but in truth, they’re not.
The red and blue lines are different lengths, right? Wrong. Aside from color, both lines are exactly the same.
Here we have a gray vertical line and three diagonal lines; a black one on the left, a blue one on the right and a red one on the right. Either the red time or the blue line is a continuation of the black like. If you guessed it’s the blue line, you’re wrong and perhaps don’t get the point of optical illusions. It’s never what you think. Use a ruler to confirm this one.
After Image Illusions
These are some of the most common optical illusions but they come in many different forms. Most often, you’re given a black and white image and are asked to focus on one particular part of the image. For this section, make sure you read the instructions carefully. If it doesn’t work for you the first time, try again. You’ll get it.
There are so many variations of this illusion out there that if you’ve found your way to this article, you’ve probably seen something similar to it before. Focus on the red dot in the center of the picture for thirty seconds. After thirty seconds look at a flat, plain surface like the wall, ceiling or floor. Close and open your eyes repeatedly. You’ll see an image of Obama.
Stare at the flag for thirty seconds. When thirty seconds has passed, look at a flat surface such as the wall, floor or ceiling. Close and open your eyes repeatedly. You’ll see the US flag in full color.
Focus on this image for thirty seconds. After thirty seconds look away and turn your attention to a flat, plane surface like the wall, floor or ceiling. Close and open your eyes repeatedly. You’ll see the Italian flag in full color!
Negative images make for great optical illusions. Stare at the red dot on the young woman’s nose for thirty seconds. When thirty seconds is up, look to a solid, plain surface like the wall, floor or ceiling. Close and open your eyes repeatedly. You’ll see the image in full color! Click the photo for a bigger version if the smaller version doesn’t work for you.
Moving Image Optical Illusions
I have to warn you in advance that it might be a good idea to skip these ones if bright colors or rapid movements bother your eyes. Some viewers may get headaches or even upset stomachs when looking at these ones.
Focus on the blue dot at the bottom right of the image. Don’t take your eyes off that dot. As you concentrate on that, the moving gray bar will eventually appear blue although the color doesn’t actually change.
With this one, you want to focus your attention on the black plus sign in the center of the circle. As the pink circles spin and fade in and out, they will eventually start alternating between pink and green. (by Jeremy L. Hinton)
This image is not moving. I’ll leave it at that. Sorry if you get a headache from this one.
This one isn’t moving either. Again – sorry for the headache!