DIY 60s Projected Oil Light Show

Written by juan ramirez
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DIY 60s Projected Oil Light Show
Liquid light show blobs can be made with mineral oil and candy dye. (soap bubbles image by Stacey Lynn Payne from

Liquid light shows were a popular visual component of musical performances in the mid-to-late 1960s, and were created with basic, inexpensive materials and technology. The process with which these materials were successfully used, however, required a degree of skill, creativity and a visual flair. The central, non-negotiable piece of equipment for a liquid light show is the overhead projector, once the mainstay of classroom paraphernalia. Since they've almost been completely replaced with digital technology, you can easily purchase these projectors for less than £32.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Overhead projector
  • Two shallow, convex glass clock faces (one smaller, one larger)
  • Food colouring
  • Mineral oil
  • Eyedroppers
  • Assorted colours of oil-based candy dye
  • Two foot by two foot piece of thin cardboard
  • Exacto knife

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  1. 1

    Cut a piece of cardboard to size to cover the stage of your overhead projector, which is the top of the projector base, made up of a large Fresnel lens. Cut a hole in the centre of the cardboard with your exacto knife for the base lighting to shine through. Cut the hole into any shape you like, as long as it's slightly smaller than the smaller of the two clock faces.

  2. 2

    Mix small amounts of mineral oil with different colours of candy dye. Fill various eyedroppers with the different coloured oils.

  3. 3

    Pour a small amount of water into the larger clock face. Squeeze droplets of food colouring into the water.

  4. 4

    Place the cardboard piece with the hole in it over the stage of the projector. Turn the projector on. Place the larger clock face--containing the dyed water--on top of the cardboard.

  5. 5

    Add droplets of your different coloured mineral oil samples into the water in the larger clock face, a small amount at a time.

  6. 6

    Pick up the second, smaller clock face. Gently touch the surface of the coloured water and oil blobs in the larger clock face with it. Dunk gently and lift the bottom of the smaller clock face into the coloured water and oil blobs, which will cause the coloured blobs to pulsate and move around in the larger clock face. Make sure not to completely submerge the smaller clock face into the coloured water. Make the coloured blobs move around and change size to the rhythm of the dunking and lifting.

Tips and warnings

  • Having two projectors operating simultaneously, with both aimed at the same screen, can create a stunning overlap effect. Another fascinating visual effect is to aim a traditional film projector at the screen on which you're projecting your light show, overlapping a moving image with the pulsating coloured blobs.
  • Cutting the hole in the cardboard slightly smaller than the smaller of the two clock faces keeps the edges of the clock faces from projecting onto the screen.

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