How to Create Optical Art on Paper

Written by pamela stephens
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How to Create Optical Art on Paper
Optical illusions play with the science of visual perception to trick the viewer's eye. (optical illusion image by dip from

Optical art draws upon the dynamics among colour relationships, geometric shapes and the science of seeing. The Tate Museum's Glossary defines optical art as tricking the eye with sometimes subtle, disturbing or disorienting images. A wide variety of optical art exists. A masterwork example created with concentric squares and colours is "Double Gray Scramble" by Frank Stella. A similar optical art design can be created using simple art supplies.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • 12-inch by 12-inch drawing paper
  • No. 2 pencil
  • Ruler
  • Coloured pencils

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    Drawing an Optical Illusion

  1. 1

    Select a vanishing point on the paper. A vanishing point is the place in a two-dimensional artwork where parallel lines seem to join in the distance.

    How to Create Optical Art on Paper
    The vanishing point in each rectangle is near the centre. (effet optique image by Sophie from
  2. 2

    Make a small dot at the selected vanishing point. The dot should be faint and no larger than the pencil point.

  3. 3

    Use a ruler to draw a straight line from the vanishing point to one corner of the paper. Lines drawn from or to the vanishing point are called convergent.

    How to Create Optical Art on Paper
    Convergent lines are drawn from or to the vanishing point. (flag image by The Blowfish Inc from
  4. 4

    Draw a convergent line to each of the three remaining corners and then number the convergent lines one, two, three and four.

  5. 5

    Place the ruler on the paper so that it crosses over convergent lines one and two. When the ruler is straight and about half of an inch from one edge of the paper, draw a connecting line between the two convergent lines.

  6. 6

    Move the ruler and connect convergent lines two to three, three to four, and four to one. This should create a frame around the paper.

  7. 7

    Move the ruler about half an inch from the frame you have drawn and then repeat the process of connecting the convergent lines. This will create a concentric square. Concentric means having a common centre; in this case, the vanishing point.

    How to Create Optical Art on Paper
    Each of the 25 squares in this image are created with concentric lines. (Red Square image by Christopher Howeth from
  8. 8

    Repeat making concentric squares until at least 10 are drawn.

  9. 9

    Use the coloured pencils to create an alternating pattern of colour.

    How to Create Optical Art on Paper
    Alternating patterns of colour help to create an optical illusion. (effet optique image by Sophie from

Tips and warnings

  • Create a more complex optical illusion with more convergent lines. Always use an even number of convergent lines.

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