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Afterimages: The Colorful Tricks Eyes Play

Have you ever wondered how visual illusions are made? When we see special effects in movies, or a magic show, we often witness illusions that challenge our ability to correctly perceive things. One way in which our eyes play tricks on us is through afterimages. Afterimages are the images you see after staring at an object for several seconds and then looking away. In this science activity, you will look at afterimages to reveal the secrets of how your eyes see color.

Student Guide

Look at the image of the colored circles (focusing on the small white spot in the center) for 30 seconds.

After staring at the circle for 30 seconds, look at the white space to the right of it.

  • What do you see?
  • How are the colors in each part of the afterimage different from the parts of the original colored circle? ‚Äč

More Afterimage Fun!

Taking It Further:

How Do Our Eyes Work?                       Vocabulary                                          Worksheet


Photoreceptors: Rods and Cones

Image result for rods and cones

Careers: Optometrist                                                                                         Neuroscience for Kids: The Eye

Persistence of Vision

Persistence of Vision is the retention of a visual image for a short period of time after the removal of the stimulus that produced it. This phenomenon produces the illustion of movement when viewing motion pictures. Watch this video to see how it works!


thaumatrope is a toy that was popular in the 19th century. A disk with a picture on each side is attached to two pieces of string. When the strings are twirled quickly between the fingers the two pictures appear to blend into one due to the persistence of vision.

DIY Thaumatropes


Image result for education eastman house org discover kits files thaumatrope 2
The phenakistoscope was an early animation device that used the Persistence of Vision principle to create an illusion of motion. The Phenakistoscope is regarded as one of the first forms of moving media entertainment that paved the way for the future motion picture and film industry.


A zoetrope is one of several pre-film animation devices that produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs showing progressive phases of that motion.

Make a Zoetrope



Image result for robovies zoestrips


Image result for zoetrope



flip book is a book with a series of pictures that vary gradually from one page to the next, so that when the pages are turned rapidly, the pictures appear to animate by simulating motion or some other change.

Skeleton Flip Book Download

Flip Book Video




Create Your Own Animated GIF

What is an Animated GIF?

An animated GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) file is a graphic image on a Web page that moves - for example, a twirling icon or a banner with a hand that waves or letters that magically get larger.The GIF format supports multiple "frames" that give the impression of motion when displayed in sequence, much like a flip book.

Make Your Own GIF

Select 4 pictures to create your Gif or Video.
Download these four pictures to create a spinning wheel like the one above (to download right-click or click with two fingers and save image):


You can use your own images or clip art. Just be sure that all four pictures are the same size.

     You can edit your pictures on the Online Picture Editor PIXLR.
        *To make your object rotate, use PIXLR editor to rotate the picture 90 degrees for three frames.
        *To make your object grow larger, use the PIXLR editor to resize your picture for three frames.

        *To make something “move” find three similar pictures to upload as in the gorilla above.

Upload your four pictures to the GIF Maker.

Create and save your animated GIF!

PIXLR: Online Picture Editor

Gif Maker

Coding Links

     Makey Makey

Project Idea Links


     Kinetic Toys & Machines

     Rubber Band Powered Cars

     littleBits Projects

Other Helpful Links:

     PIXLR: Online Picture Editor

     Cool STEM Sites for Kids