How to Make a Kaleidoscope Without Mirrors

Written by jessica frame
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How to Make a Kaleidoscope Without Mirrors
Make a 3-D kaleidoscope without mirrors. (kaleidoscope image by Christopher Ursitti from

Making a kaleidoscope without mirrors provides a fun way to view the outside world. A kaleidoscope distorts images and colours, making ordinary objects look unique, interesting and colourful. Kaleidoscopes made without mirrors use transparency film instead of mirrors to provide a reflective surface, allowing students from elementary to college levels to produce a kaleidoscope without handling sharp, breakable mirror pieces. Using a few household items, you can make a kaleidoscope in no time at all and enjoy the vibrant and flashy images your kaleidoscope can create.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Paper towel roll
  • File folder
  • Scissors
  • Compass
  • Hole punch
  • Transparency film
  • Rubber cement
  • Masking tape
  • Black construction paper
  • Sequins

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  1. 1

    Trace the top of the paper towel roll onto the folder, and cut out the traced circle. In the centre of the circle, punch a hole in the centre of the circle with the hole punch. This hole will become the eyehole for your kaleidoscope.

    How to Make a Kaleidoscope Without Mirrors
    Create an eyehole with file folder. (file folders image by Kathy Burns from
  2. 2

    Measure the outer edge of the circle with the compass. Mark every 1.5cm around the circle and make small cuts with scissors on the marks. The cuts will form tabs around the edge of the circle.

    How to Make a Kaleidoscope Without Mirrors
    Measure the outer edge of the circle with a compass. (ruler and pencil image by Hao Wang from
  3. 3

    Cut a piece of transparency film large enough to cover the eyehole on the circular piece. With rubber cement, glue the transparency film down over the eyehole. Place the circle on one end of the paper towel roll, fold the tabs down and secure with masking tape.

  4. 4

    Cut the file folder, black construction paper and transparency film into three 6.5-by-27-cm strips. Glue the strips together by placing the black construction paper on top of the folder, then the transparency film. When finished, you should have three sets of layered strips. The transparency film on top of the black paper will provide a mirror-like surface.

  5. 5

    Place the strips on your work surface, transparency side down, side by side. Put masking tape on the top and bottom of the strips, on the folder side. Fold the taped strips to form a triangle; with the transparent side on the inside, tape the triangle together and place the triangle into the open end of the tube.

    How to Make a Kaleidoscope Without Mirrors
    Tape strips together to form a triangle. (scotch tape image by Adkok from
  6. 6

    Cut out two circles of transparency film the exact way you made the piece of folder that became the eyepiece. Cut each piece of transparency film to the same size as the circle you traced from the paper towel roll; cut tabs into it without the eyehole.

    How to Make a Kaleidoscope Without Mirrors
    Cut transparency film into circles. (scissors image by dinostock from
  7. 7

    Place one of the transparency circles into the open end of the tube so that the circle touches the mirrored column and the tabs face outward. Secure the circle to the paper towel roll with tape, and place sequins into the open end of the tube.

  8. 8

    Place the other transparency circle over the open end of the tube on top of the sequins. Fold down the tabs onto the outside of the paper towel roll, and secure with tape.

Tips and warnings

  • Try adding glitter, rocks or bits of tissue paper to the kaleidoscope. You have many choices; be creative and experiment with new items.

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