DIY Oil Wheel Projectors

Written by halie theoharides
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DIY Oil Wheel Projectors
(hippies image by Evgeny Rodionov from

Oil wheel projectors use the natural properties of oil and water to create compelling light shows through a projector. Colourful and surreal, these projections are probably most famous for their use in the nineteen-sixties to add a psychedelic element to many rock concerts. Today with the rise of many experimental bands and art gatherings oil wheel projections are making a comeback and can be created in a short while and make a dreamlike addition worthy of any sixties concert. With a lot of creativity and experimentation and ingredients you can find easily at grocery and hardware stores, you can soon have your own light show.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • An overhead projector with bottom lighting
  • Dimmer to dim main power
  • Two or more convex faces of clocks, one smaller than the other to fit inside
  • Mineral Oil
  • Food colouring
  • Oil-based Candy dye
  • Eyedroppers or pipettes
  • Cardboard sheet
  • Utility or craft knife
  • Water
  • Fan

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  1. 1

    Make a cutout in the cardboard sheet which is slightly smaller than the edges of the clock faces with the utility knife. Cut the cardboard down to cover the base of the projector. Place the fan facing the projection area in front of the projector to increase air flow as well as to more continuously agitate the oil and water combination.

  2. 2

    Using the oil-based candy dye (sparingly to prevent too much opacity), dye the clear mineral oil. Store in the eyedroppers for use during the light show.

  3. 3

    Cover the projector with the prepared cardboard and turn the projector on. Place the larger clock face in the cutout area making sure the edges fall outside of the cutout shape.

  4. 4

    Pour a small amount of water into the larger clock face and then add the food colouring of your choice. Turn on the projector, and dimmer if you have one.

  5. 5

    Add a few drops to the larger clock face . Do a little at a time.

  6. 6

    Using the smaller clock face, gently lower and raise its surface to the oil and water mixture in the larger face causing the oil and water mixture to swirl and move. Don't drop the smaller clock face in.

Tips and warnings

  • Experiment with your materials to create different effects. Using another clock face above the two existing ones will create different distortions and textures.
  • Trying different movements with the clock faces such as spinning or rotating the smaller clock face can make another psychedelic projection.
  • Make sure to mask the edges of the clock faces properly with your cardboard cutout.

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