Optical Illusion – Wiregrass Museum of Art

Optical Illusion


This lesson will focus on student's measuring a grid with a ruler and utilizing coloring and shading techniques to create an optical illusion.
Image Credit: Victor Vasarely, Titan C, 1985, serigraph, 1997.11.19

Essential Question

How can we successfully illustrate an optical illusion on a flat surface?

Student Learning Objectives

Students Will:
  • Use a ruler to create a 1 inch grid on their paper
  • Use complementary colors
  • Use shading techniques to create an optical illusion


Discussion Prompts

  1. What is an optical illusion?
  2. What makes this work a successful optical illusion?

About the Artist

Victor Vasarely is widely regarded as the father of Op-Art. He is a major master of 20th century art whose paintings are in the permanent collections of many important museums around the world.

During the 1960s and 1970s his optical images became part of the popular culture, having a deep impact on architecture, computer science, fashion, and the way we now look at things in general. Even though he achieved great fame he insisted on making his art accessible to everyone. His motto was “Art for all”.

The breakthrough brought by his “kinetic” visual experiments transformed the flat surface into a world of unending possibilities, book marking an era in the history of art and foreshadowing a new global reality shaped by programming and the internet.

Vasarely established the fundamental unites, the “A, B, C” of his new idiom derived from the basic elements of geometry. The cirlce, the triangle, the square, and their variations that would be matched to many different color scales: a fine arts “software” providing infinite possibilities to the creative act.

For more information on the artist and examples of his life’s work, visit his website: www.vasarely.com

Optical illusions are pictures that play tricks on our eyes and baffle our perception. They are not the result of faulty vision. Depending on light, viewing angle, or the way the picture is drawn, we may see things that aren’t there – and often don’t see what’s right under our nose. These tricks of the eye and mind have been part of human experience since the beginning of history. The ancient Greeks made use of optical illusions to perfect the appearance of their great temples. In the Middle Ages, misplaced perspective was occasionally incorporated into paintings for practical reasons. In more recent times, many more illusions have been created and implemented in the graphic arts.


square white construction paper, colored pencils, ruler, eraser, pencil sharpener, compass (optional)




On a white piece of paper, draw out a circle with a compass. If you do not have a compass, trace a circle from a cup.


Using a pencil and ruler, draw a 1-inch grid around the circle first. Once the grid is complete, draw a total of eight rounded lines in the circle. All lines should be curved away from the middle of the circle.


After finishing the pencil drawing, it is time to color! Using a colored pencil, begin coloring your board. When using only one color, start by avoiding the top corner square. Since this is a checkerboard design, make sure you are coloring every other square. Do the background first, then color in the circle the same way.

Note: It is okay if the checkerboard on the circle does not perfectly line up with the background. The optical illusion will still work!


Once you are finished with the colored pencil, it is time to do the shading. Using a graphite pencil, color in a dark outline around the original circle you drew. Draw the line very dark! Using your knuckle or a paper towel, rub the dark graphite line to create a shadow effect. Repeat until your illusion is popping off the page!




Review This Lesson Plan

This program has been made possible through grants from the Southeast Alabama Community Foundation, and the Support the Arts License Tag Fund.

Youth Art Education Policy

Outside of tours, family days, and open house events, individuals who are not enrolled in a class are not allowed in WMA classrooms except by written permission of the Executive Director. Parents may not join children in the classroom during instruction times in order to ensure an atmosphere conductive to creativity. It is important to limit the number of adults to keep the focus on the kids, their learning, and to accommodate limited seating in the studio. Parents are welcome to stay in the museum during class but must remain outside of the classroom during instruction time.

Museum educators are experienced in creating positive learning environments for all ages and are required to go through a background check to ensure the safety of our students. Parents and guardians are encouraged to visit the studio at the end of class to see what their child has created. All docents and volunteers working with children are also required to go through background checks.

Thank you for understanding our policy and priority on the safety and well-being of participating students.

Refund Policy

The Wiregrass Museum of Art may cancel any class with insufficient enrollment; students will be notified and given a full refund. If a student withdraws at least 1 week before the class begins, he/she will be refunded for the full cost of the class. If a student withdraws 24 hours before the class begins, he/she will be refunded for half the cost of the class. There are no refunds after the start date of class, and membership fees are nonrefundable. Students are not enrolled until complete payment is received.

Terms and Conditions

The Wiregrass Museum of Art reserves the right to photograph and reproduce chosen works publication, publicity, and educational purposes. Participation in this exhibition shall be an agreement on the part of the artist to these conditions. The museum reserves the right to exclude works submitted without appropriate preparation (documentation, mounting hardware, suitable frame/mat, etc.), or which are damaged or incomplete. The museum is not responsible for the safekeeping of any works left in its care ninety (90) days after the close of the exhibition.

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