Introduction: Creepy Eye-Following Pictures

Picture of Creepy Eye-Following Pictures
This simple trick can be accomplished using photos or copies of paintings.  I wanted "creepy pictures" for my family room at Halloween.  The room's theme is "abandoned house."  I have sheets on the furniture and cobwebs over everything.  These pictures are the perfect decorative accent.

Research has shown that any picture in which the subject is looking directly ahead will have eyes that appear to look at you no matter the angle from which it is viewed.  This is because pictures are 2D representations of a 3D world.  As such, our brains ignore the clues that remind it that we are looking at a flat object and focus instead on the dimensional illusion created by the representation of light in the picture.  No matter the angle from which we see it, even if it is a very skewed view from the side, we'll perceive it as a cohesive picture oriented toward us.

The alteration I'm describing adds an actual 3D effect to the picture which is not consistent with the cohesive view, making it disturbing and, thus, creepier than a static picture with eyes that look directly forward.  It works by receding the eyes below the surface of the picture.  The depth of the eyes allows the edges of the eye sockets (which are not receded) to hide the whites on the side it is being viewed from, just as would happen if an actual person was turning their eyes toward you.

Step 1: Gathering the Stuff

Picture of Gathering the Stuff

You need: 
a graphic file of your picture of a subject looking straight ahead
OR two prints of the same subject that are the same size and resolution
poster board or card stock
a sharp craft knife
a pin
markers or colored pencils
glue stick
frame with or without mat - the effect is easier to see without the frame's glass

Step 2: Printing

Picture of Printing

What you are about to create is a sandwich of paper, three (or more ) layers thick. The eyes will be on the bottom, blank pages of cardstock (with holes cut out of them) will be in the middle, and the original picture, minus the eyes will be on the top. 

For this I'm making a picture for an 8"X10" opening so I am printing the image on a single sheet of standard cardstock.*

Using graphics software, format your picture to fit the page.   Save your document.  Then save the document again with a new name.  On the second picture, crop everything but a box around the eyes.  This box should extends about 1/4" or more around the eyes  in the exact same spot on the page.  You can simply use a second copy of the picture, but I only like to print the eyes to prevent wasted ink.

*A larger picture can be assembled from tiled standard prints--as you might do using your home printer. This is purely a matter of your own choice. However, it is important that each eyes be completely on a page and not divided between two sheets where the edges of pages might connect, however the picture is printed.

Step 3: Removing the Eyes

Picture of Removing the Eyes

Use your craft knife to cut out the almond-shaped portion of the eyeball that shows, including irises.  (See photo.) I find that it's easiest to use a needle to poke holes in the left and right points of each eye. It prevents me from cutting too far beyond this points when doing these cuts.

Step 4: Blending

Picture of Blending

The cut white edge of the cardstock is going to show. So you will want to give it some color to blend in with the picture. Select colors of marker or pencil that will blend and blot out the whiteness of the edge.

Step 5: Creating Blank Layers

Picture of Creating Blank Layers

Next, you will want to cut a window in this page that allows for the eyes on the bottom layer to show through.  Stack a blank page on top of your eye page.  Using a light table, holding it up to a light, or laying it against a window in the daylight, mark out the rough position of the corners of the eye box onto this blank page. Use your craft knife to cut this box out of the blank page.

Stack the three pages with the eyes on the bottom, the blank in the middle, and the full picture on the top.  Compress them down and look at it from either side to see if you are satisfied with the depth of the eyes.  The deeper the bottom layer of eyes are below the original picture, the stronger the eye-following effect.  You can cut more blank pages of cardstock to make the eyes recede more.  However, going too deep begins to look absurd.  I like two layers of blanks on a small picture like this.  A larger picture allows for more depth and a very small picture should only have one blank layer..

Step 6: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

Glue together the stack of blanks, if you have more than one.  Glue especially well around the rectangular holes and hold them together with heavy books while the glue dries.

Apply glue to the top of the eye page everywhere but the eyes.  Line up the blank page(s) so the cut box is over the eyes and press it down.  Again, you may want to place a few heavy books on top to keep the pages flat while the glue dries.

Apply glue to the back of the photo page.  Arrange this over the other pages so the eyes are lined-up and press together.  Place books over the stack to hold it tight while the glue dries.

Once the glue is dry, frame your picture.


lambsb (author)2011-09-19

Super duper! I never knew I needed one of these until now.... Great instructable! Hmmmm..... Got my card stock, printer, X-Acto ready. Now for a picture......

Puzzledd (author)2011-09-19

Very effective and easy to do, too! Top 'ible:)

damianzuch (author)2011-09-18

This is great - I'm going to try it for my haunted house! Thanks so much!

roadnarrows (author)2014-09-24

What works for an even more dynamic effect is to put ping pong balls that have been cut in half behind the photo. The eyes will really freak you out when walking past them.

souz (author)roadnarrows2017-03-03

Where do the half ping ping balls go? They replace the middle layer?

allen.benge (author)2014-12-17

When I was a kid, my aunt and uncle had a painting of a Native American whose eyes would follow you. I was terrified of it. To keep me out of a room, they would set a chair in the doorway and put the painting on it.

stevephillips131 (author)2011-10-11

omg! i have that same book collection!!! this is really cool. i have a shot glass that follows the same concept. theres a picture of a "drunken buddy" on the outside of the glass and the eyes are painted on the inside. so he can watch u take a shot.

carolb4 (author)stevephillips1312011-10-28

What is the book collection you are talking about?

starshipminivan (author)carolb42011-10-28

It's Time-Life Books' "The Enchanted World" series that are pictured stacked on top of pages with glue drying (this helps them to dry flat). The books were published in the 80's and sold through a mail order club. I used to find them for a few dollars each in a used book shop I frequented. I never got the full set though. I might have to look for used copies online to complete the set.

Looking4Rocks (author)2011-10-28

Anyone remember the movie Carrie? The last photo reminds me of the Jesus with the scary eyes!

Win Guy (author)2011-10-04

Just an FYI for everyone who's wondering what the painting is, it's a portrait of John Wycliffe Taylor, an oil on canvas from 1864, painted by John Everett Millais.

You're welcome.

Win Guy

val_r_ie (author)2011-09-15

Exactly what I was thinking!

Win Guy (author)val_r_ie2011-10-04

Me, too... o_O

TimPo (author)2011-09-29

I'd suggest editing a little, with a software like Photoshop or Gimp, the eyes that will be at bottom. Extending the white border of the eyeball, so depending on the view angle decreases or increases this area.
Sorry for my english, I hope it could be understood.

Sugeriría editar un poco, con un programa como Photoshop o Gimp, los ojos que estarán al fondo. Extendiendo el borde blanco del globo ocular, para que dependiendo del ángulo de vista aumente o dismunuya esta area.

starshipminivan (author)TimPo2011-09-30

You can also use the eyes that have been cut out. Glue them onto white backing and use this in place of the eye layer.

hihihi0hi (author)2011-09-28

omg thats creepy!

vincent7520 (author)2011-09-21

didn't Leonardo Da Vinci make the same with the Jocunde ???…

mentalman (author)2011-09-21

I'm a wood carver this works real good with wood too ,
The trick I was taught way back in the early 60's . By a hippy art teacher .
Make the iris as close to perfectly round as you can.
Then shade the eye into the socket like under the top lid and in the corners.
On a painting or sculpture or what have you. That seems to be the key.
But this method works well too.
I did a fine line ink drawing , just 10 inches tall , of Jesus when I was 18 and people used to get chills looking at it.
They would always comment with excitement .
"Wow ! It looks like he is looking directly at me no matter where I am in the room.
Just never tell them how you did it. and the magic stays with them.

mrmerino (author)2011-09-16

Now, the third picture...
That's creepy.

mslaynie (author)mrmerino2011-09-18

Sheesh, no kidding! Forget putting the eyes back into the picture, just hang THAT on the wall and watch people freak! :D

Digibeam (author)mslaynie2011-09-20

or just the one with a pin in the eye...this is getting easier all the time !!

frikkie (author)2011-09-14

very cool optical illusion.I wanted to make my own one in the past but never did.I m thinking of using the piece of paper with the eyes on them and to make them move left and right just a little bit with small servo motor.This also made me think of an idea were one makes a puppet head that turns and looks at someone in the room.I know there is an electronic circuit that does something like that.

drbob_drbob (author)frikkie2011-09-19

The servo idea is interesting.
With the one picture being REALLY creepy with the eyes MISSING, maybe an intersting combination would be to have this depth eye moving being the default state, then every once in a while SLIDE the eyes with a servo such that they roll up completely leaving the blank eye holes.

Maybe even motion activated, So, someone sees the eyes move as they walk by, then they come back to see what is going on, suddenly the eyes roll up and they get the blank eyes. - really creepy!

dragonflylane (author)2011-09-18

That is really cool an I will have to try it this year...thanks

Lorddrake (author)2011-09-14

I have always wondered how that was accomplished ... now to have some fun ..

1) alter all the family photos on the wall without telling my wife
2) personal hilarity ensues
3) ???
4) profit

p309 (author)Lorddrake2011-09-18

)3 You get your butt kicked by your wife of course
4) I don't see the profit in that? Fill me in on what you meant, please!

simplebeep (author)p3092011-09-18

It's a common meme as explained here.

CatTrampoline (author)2011-09-18

Nice job! And curse my procrastination! I made a following-eye cat painting 19 years ago that came out really well. I hung it in my brother-in-law's house as a joke. It was on my list of Instructables to write in the next few weeks for Halloween.

jimtran93 (author)2011-09-18

I wonder, would putting more layers of card stock between the cover sheet and the eyes make the effect more intense? Any ideas?

CatTrampoline (author)jimtran932011-09-18

Yes, the deeper the eyes are set, the greater the parallax and the greater the "following" effect.

Yes, I think it can. A bigger picture will also need more layers (or maybe a layer of foam sheet or cardboard) to create a good effect. You could use scrap paper or cardboard prior to gluing it all together to play with the thickness and see what works best for you.

sheldor (author)2011-09-18

Great Instructable! Where did you get the picture, if I may ask? Care to share the source? Thanks! :)

starshipminivan (author)sheldor2011-09-18

A search of flickr will yield a huge array of choices. I searched for Victorian portraits and used the advanced search feature to find results that were both large in size and had a Creative Commons license that allowed for a wide range of uses.

PeterTheUnGreat (author)2011-09-18

Clever - and oh so creepy!

superhendrix (author)2011-09-17

thats scary if you look at the picture and move side to side it looks like she is watching you through the screen

sunshiine (author)2011-09-16

This is awesome! Thanks for sharing your hard work! Have a fantastic day!

starshipminivan (author)2011-09-15

LOL! I did, actually. It would have been weirder if it had been a photograph. I thought it was quite creepy enough with the eyes missing before they were added on the back layer.

Emiliano Valencia (author)2011-09-15

Making one! So cool!

qewt (author)2011-09-15

Pure Genius!

rachel (author)2011-09-15

Cool idea and great implementation! I'm gonna show this to my goth friend :)

aramanthe (author)2011-09-14

This is pretty awesome, and especially useful with Halloween coming up. I'm thinking that some of the office photos are due for a little creep factor (other than that from the creepers that work here!!)

ChrysN (author)2011-09-13


tinker234 (author)2011-09-13

wow cool easier than sevros

About This Instructable



Bio: I'm a Renaissance woman. I love to create things with a fantasy, medieval, or geeky edge. I'm also a math/science nerd. I ... More »
More by starshipminivan:Seasonings Greetings: Flying Spaghetti Monster Santa Candy TreatsDon't Panic: Embroider a Towel With a Standard Sewing Machine, Just Like a Hoopy FroodMerry Rx-mas: Pill Bottle Advent Calendar
Add instructable to: