Lets Make Something banner



Youtube graphic
I have a youtube channel with over 800 Project Videos!

Hi, Thanks for visiting my website. My name is Will and if you have questions
or would like to
contribute projects or ideas you can contact me Will

How to Make a Thaumatrope


This is a tutorial on how to make a small optical illusion project called a Thaumatrope. It is a disk that you flip and it has a different image on each side so persistence of vision in your eyes blends the two images together to make a new image. It will give the appearance of motion or action. In effect it is a two frame animation.

You just need a few very basic supplies and you can make one. And I have a video tutorial for this project at the bottom of the page.

I also have three thaumatropes ready for you to print out and use. That template is at the bottom of the page.


A thaumatrope

These next two pictures show the two sides of the Thaumatrope. These two images blend together when you spin it.

One side The other side

When you spin it the two images blend together to look something like this:

The two sides combined

Let's Make it!

Materials Needed:

  • 1 piece of something firm like foamboard or the lid of a cigar box. Cardboard is ok too
  • 2 rubber bands or 20 inches of string
  • White paper, pencils and crayons or colored pencils
  • Some kind of glue or glue stick
  • That's everything!


Cigar box lid

Get yourself a piece of something firm like cardboard, foamboard or the top of a cigar box like this. Cereal box cardboard will probably work fine too.








Draw a circle and cut it out

Draw a circle on the piece and then cut it out. It doesn't have to be a perfect circle. Just do the nicest job you can.

Make the circle about three inches in diameter. I used a roll of tape to trace the circle around.






The two sketches

Now you need to draw two different images. And you have a few options from here depending on what you are using for your circle. We drew out our images on tracing paper.





Tracing paper

The two drawings on tracing paper.






Transfer the drawings

This way you can see through them and draw them so they line up nicely -creating the illusion.







Cut out the drawings

If you used tracing paper you should transfer the images to regular paper and color them in. Then cut them out. If you are using regular paper then go ahead and color them and cut them out.







Glue drawings to disk

Now glue them to your disk. One on each side. And line them up so they work correctly when the disk is spinning.








Cut holes and add rubber bands

Draw a light line across the center of the disk. This is the axis you want it to rotate on. And punch a hole at each end. Put either a ten inch string or a length of rubber band in each hole.








Twirl it

Now hole each string or rubber band and gently twirl it. You will see the illusion!






Thaumatrope drawings for youI have three thaumatropes for you to print out and make. They are three inch disks. The first one is our wizard with his phone. The second on is Will with his phone and the third one is a traditional bird in a cage. You can download the pdf, print it up and use any of them for your thaumatrope. Download it right here pdf






Watch the Video Tutorial:



More Optical Illusion and animation Projects

Illusion DioramaIllusion Diorama A neat little diorama project that uses mirrors to trick the eye. Fun and easy. You look inside the peephole to see a scene that is two feet away. The Illusion Diorama





Pepper's Ghost Box

Pepper's Ghost Box diorama

Here's a fun project that fuses science with diorama's. In this tutorial we utilize something called Pepper's Ghost Illusion originally created by John Henry Pepper. This illusi on which was used in theater, projects a translucent version of a person or object several feet from a glass pane. Pepper's Ghost Box


Tatebanko Astronomer - Make an easy stop motion animation paper diorama

paper dioramaThis is a fun little animation project that uses the ancient japanese art of paper dioramas (tatebanko)- yet moves. I show you how. The Tatebanko Astronomer.



Sign up for my newsletter!

Do you like making projects and exploring a variety of hobbies?

Sign up for my free newsletter. I give you regular updates on hobbies and projects you can make. it is totally free and I don't share your email with anybody.