Introduction: How to Make an Ames Room Optical Illusion Used in Lord of the Rings

Picture of How to Make an Ames Room Optical Illusion Used in Lord of the Rings
This instructable shows you how to construct a miniature Ames Room from a layout using paper. An Ames room is a distorted room that gives the optical illusion of depth, distance and varying size. Setups like this were used in 'The Lord of the Rings' movies.

Play this video to see what the optical illusion looks like.

Step 1: Layout and Tools

Picture of Layout and Tools

Tools required: 1) Cutting blade 2) ruler 3) stiff paper or card 4) adhesive tape or gum 5) objects such as a key, pen, playing cards, toy figures.

The illusion is noticeable if the layout and prints are large, so print as big as possible.
Below is the layout for the Ames Room. In an image editor, the size of this image is 48 inches width x 54 inches height.

Step 2: Divide the Image Equally

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This step assumes that you cannot print large. Therefore, the image must be divided equally for easy printing. There are 3 rows and 4 columns.
Each column is 12 inches wide. Each row is 18 inches high.

Step 3: Print the Sections

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Ideally, you should print on a printer that's larger than your desktop printer.
Here the prints are 12 inches wide x 18 inches high.

Step 4: Lay Out the Sheets

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Once the printing is done, lay out the sheets accordingly and cut away the outer white portions, leaving the tabs in place.

Step 5: Cut Out the Inner Parts

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Once the outer portions are removed, stick the different sections with tape or gum. Then cut the inner parts marked with X i.e. the windows, ceiling and observation hole.

Step 6: Fold the Tabs and Walls

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Next, fold all the tabs and edges of the walls.

Step 7: Fold the Entire Room

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Finally, fold the entire room. This is the tricky part as each edge should meet the adjacent or opposite edge. Using tape or gum, stick the edges together.

Step 8: The Room Is Done

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The finished room is trapezoidal in shape.

Step 9: Test the Illusion

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The final step is to test the illusion using various objects such as pens, keys, playing cards or small toy figures. Place an object in one corner of the front wall and look through the observation hole to view the inside of the room. Move the object slowly to the other corner and notice its apparent change in size.

In the figure, you can see playing cards of the same size but which appear differently sized due to their apparent position in the room. As shown in the video in the intro, move the cards past each other and see one apparently grow as the other reduces in size.

Play this video to see what the optical illusion looks like.

The Ames room was invented by American ophthalmologist Adelbert Ames Jr in 1946.


@Cabo_lorduy. (author)2015-04-29

como descargo esa caga

idoda (author)2015-02-20

Thank you so much for this great resource!
Where can I find high resolution images of the room?
The image in links below gets blurry when I enlarge it.

activfilms (author)idoda2015-04-20

These are the only images available. The given dimensions works well on a small scale as shown in the video. Beyond these dimensions, the images might get blurry. I would suggest, have someone - a graphic designer - re-trace and color the design on a vector graphics software and then print it. The result should be in high resolution.

nikki.payton.14 (author)2015-02-07

THANK you for your response! 2 weeks! I have been trying to "enlarge" going around the perimeter first by 4".that did not fold up right...then 1"...can't get the folding creases to come out correctly..wrong angles! Wall shape and size are wrong! Sooooo frustrated! I don't think I care for trapezoid's anymore!!! LOL I didn't have a measured the angles old fashion way..nope! I feel so stupid! I have my son working on it now! I even separated the 3 pieces then enlarged! Still did not fold up correctly! I realize that through enlarging..things are going to be in different places (such as the folding lines) but they're not even coming out on same angle! SMH Someone who draws up blueprints could've probably done it in 20 minutes! We will DEFINITELY get a picture on...if we ever get it done! Thank you so much again!

Sorry it took us so long to get these pics on, and the quality, had my son take them! LOL He got FIRST place for the third year in a row!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to help others!! We are quite grateful!

Belated congratulations to your son. Glad to have helped out.

nikki.payton.14 (author)2015-01-27

We are making this for my son's Science project. Just wondering what are the measurements of the room after it's folded? Will it still work if it is a little smaller? TY

Since the room is trapezoidal, the measurements will vary, with some walls being 7 inches high and others 10 inches high and widths will be between 10 and 17 inches.. Step 3 above will give some idea about the dimensions. You may choose to print on smaller sheets of paper so obviously the measurements will be smaller.


jpgoogles (author)2011-10-08


kdwilliams1999 (author)2011-02-20

How do I get the sections to print.


Please scroll down the page and see my comments below where I have mentioned how to print the layout.

The links where you can download this layout is also mentioned in one of my other comments.

Puzzledd (author)2010-11-24

This is brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing it.

I'm going to try the "2 sheets of A3" version in greyscale - or maybe i'll try the separate rooms idea :)

Duct Tape Dude (author)2010-04-29

Damn this is gonna take a long time for me! Having no printer sucks!!! I'll try it though only because my Gardner's dragon worked. (5*s of 5*s!!!)

ScubaSteve (author)2009-10-02

Could i have the name of the music? Thanks.

iamthemargerineman (author)2007-12-18

mmm... this is cool and i'd like to try it... but... how do i do the whole expand the picture print it on more than one sheet thing?

Search "Rasterbator" Its a free web utility/program designed for blowing up images across many sheets of printer paper

You must use an image editor such as photoshop or corel draw or Microsoft Picture Manager that allows you to re-size the layout to 48 x 54 inches as shown in the video. OR, in any image editor, start of with a blank page size 48 x 54 inches, then paste the room layout image onto the blank page and stretch it uniformly (using the transform tool) until it covers the area (step 1). Using guidelines, divide the image equally so that each section is 12 x 18 inches (see step 2). Using a marquee tool cut / copy each section and save it as a separate file. You should have 9 printable sheets. An ordinary deskjet printer will not do. You'll need to use a larger printer.

ongissim (author)2008-03-23

Wasn't this also used in Willy Wonka?

Kiteman (author)2007-11-21


I've got to build one of these!

Actually, I think I'll build lots - my Science clubbers will love this!

Kiteman (author)activfilms2007-11-21


Kiteman (author)Kiteman2007-11-22

I've been a bit cheeky - printing out all that colour would cost too much (when I want 20 kids to make them), so I "drew round" your template in Corel Draw. It's come out as a two-part template that works nicely if you print it out on A3. I've added the Corel file and jpeg versions of the two pages (make sure the outer rectangles are identically-sized and they will work fine).

activfilms (author)Kiteman2007-11-22

A3 size paper; that's 11.69 x 16.54 inches. Should be enough the observe the illusion. As a separate task, the kids could color the rooms using crayons or colored pencil. Certainly the floor should be colored black and white to give the illusion of depth. Maybe later, to construct a larger room, each room can be printed on a separate sheet of A3 paper, ensuring the largest areas i.e. the floor and ceiling fit exactly within the paper. Of course the other rooms will have to be proportionally sized so that everything fits. Glad this has been useful.

Kiteman (author)activfilms2007-11-23

Already there - A3 copies work nicely, even in B&W.; I'll try and get photos of the coloured & built versions for you to see in just over a week.

Kiteman (author)Kiteman2007-12-09
They worked, but I forgot to take my camera! Sorry.

BTW, there's a YouTube video of your room, but the guy that posted it thinks that this 'ible has been removed?

activfilms (author)Kiteman2007-12-09

Kiteman, if you don't mind, please remove the embedded video from your comment. You may provide only the link though.

Kiteman (author)activfilms2007-12-10

Why is that?

dsi1 (author)2007-12-04

Neat stuff! What's the music?

DirectorsCUT (author)2007-12-03

Ah, very fun. Good job!

proffesor cuddles (author)2007-12-02


myth-bstr225 (author)2007-11-30

This is so cool and looks real. Good mind bender. :) and to TheScientist that video was cool. Google visual Illusions there are some cool ones there to

royalestel (author)2007-11-24

Ah, very fun. Good job!

TheScientist (author)2007-11-21

as another FYI:

if you ever happen to be in New Zealand, near a town called Wanaka there's a place called "Puzzling World" with a human sized room :)

here's a youtube link for it:

and the place itself:

it's a neat place to visit for a few hours! :)

mainlinx (author)TheScientist2007-11-21

Wow!! Puzzle World looks so awsome. Too Bad the US has nothing like that.

New Zealand ROCKS!!!!!
(Like Lord of the Rings and Flight of the Concords)

ProfessorZ42 (author)mainlinx2007-11-21

Actually, if you're in San Fransisco, the Exploratorium has a great, life-sized version of this. Big enough to walk through yourself!

Puzzling world is about the best place south of Christchurch =)

bad_dog (author)2007-11-22


activfilms (author)bad_dog2007-11-22

Explain. How is this fake?

omnibot (author)2007-11-22

Other programs to make posters can be found here :

Cool instructable.

tyep (author)2007-11-21

cool, I'm gonna try it too. I've used this site for other posters.

egreen767 (author)2007-11-21


mainlinx (author)2007-11-21

Nicely Done. If I wasn't told how its done, I would've kept staring at it untill I noticed the shadow starting on the first row of tiles and ending up on the second row of tiles or visa versa (depending on which direction you start from). Also, that's a cool FYI that LOTR used the same technique.

GorillazMiko (author)2007-11-21

this is awesome! im favoriting it.

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