Friday, September 14, 2012

Optical illusion cube - tutorial

Here is an attempt at a tutorial for my optical illusion cube!

This is a pretty complicated lesson, and requires a lot of attention to angles and parallel lines. I did this with grade 5 and 6, and they found it pretty confusing, but were definitely able to work their way through it and finish it in about 2 or 2.5 hours. A ruler is a MUST!

To start, I gave my students a template for the outside. I did this because I thought the project would be near impossible if they started with a blank sheet. All of the sizes would be different, the angles likely wouldn't be right. It gave them the start they needed to succeed. I've uploaded the template for you guys here. Let me know if you have trouble downloading it!

Here's my attempt at explaining this complicated project on the computer. Let's see how many times I use the words line, cube and parallel. 

 Students will start by making the outside lines that frame the cube. This part isn't too difficult. They need to use a ruler first to give them a guide as to how far down to draw their parallel lines. I referred to this as an imagined line, meaning they didn't draw it or trace it, but they used a ruler to make themselves aware of where the parallel lines would meet.

They essentially do this all around the template, to close in the part where the cube will go. This entire process took about 20 minutes, and I modeled it explicitly on our document camera, drawing with them as we went.

This is where the fun starts. Making sure that the template is positioned as shown (with one of the three template lines facing the top) students will start to create their 3D cube. Start with the line that's in blue, going approximately halfway up the space left within your lines. Then, they connect the red lines, eyeballing it to make sure that it's all even. I told my students to make sure that they had created three equal square shapes. This took some of them a few tries, erasing as they went. Even in the photo I made here, I can see the squares aren't exact, but they'll still work.

Next, they need to create a 3x3 grid on their cube, making sure that the lines from one side connect into the lines of the other side. They also need to make sure that their cube lines are parallel to the lines they created at the beginning of this project, and the lines in their cube... (is this making sense?!)

Now they need to start on the grid outside. I colored the template lines in yellow, to show that the lines they are pulling up from the cube need to be parallel to the lines on the template. They should have six lines going up, and six to each side, plus the line that already existed in the template. The lines should meet up with the lines they drew in the cube.

Now they're going to add two long lines going down and across to each section. These lines sort of need to be eyeballed as well, just making sure that they are creating squares that appear equal to the squares they made in their cube. My drawing is pretty off, but it would still work if a student was that imprecise with their lines. It just needs to work in general, it doesn't have to be perfect.

Once they are done that part, they get to begin the coloring. This is the fun part. Most of my students chose to do a two color scheme, but some decided to have a rubix cube in the middle and more muted colors on the outside.

We talked about how hard to push with your pencil crayons - I made a scale on the board, and showed a 10, a 7 and a 5. The two dark sections should be colored as a 10, pushing as hard as they can. The two mid toned sections should be colored as a 7, pushing but not too hard. The white sections should be colored as a 4, not pushing very hard at all on the pencil crayon.

Following this, I had them cut their cubes out, and glue them on their choice of colored cardstock. They really look amazing all together!

Just make sure when you try it that you are constantly circling the room, helping them to catch their mistakes before they get too far. I had a few kids that ended up doing total redos, as they made little mistakes that I didn't catch (such as drawing the cube in while the template was upside down - doesn't seem like a big deal, but it ruins the whole picture!)

Please let me know if you try this, I'd love to see your results!


  1. Thank you so much for posting the tutorial and the template!!! Very helpful! Greatly appreciated!

  2. Are you kidding me? You totally rock! This is AWESOME! You even have a template! You are so the coolest girl! I cannot wait to try this!!

  3. Ok, this is amazing! I just discovered your site today (via Runde's Room) and I have spent the whole day so far being inspired with ideas! I will be doing this optical illusion activity with my grade 5 class asap. It's pretty tricky, but very doable. What a ton of great activities you have - and all are very straightforward with little materials. I now know where to go to for all my art activites!
    Love it! Thank you.

  4. I always do an Op Art lesson with my 5th and/or 6th Graders and was looking to change up the plan...this is perfect! Thank you for sharing! I will be giving you credit on my blog (missartypants.blogspot) for the results and idea in the near future! Thank you again

  5. Can u please tell me that what is the shape of paper??

  6. Can u please tell me tht wht is the shape of paper if anyone knw then please reply me i am waitin,


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