Introduction: Secret Image Shadow & Light Sculpture

Picture of Secret Image Shadow & Light Sculpture

This hanging light sculpture looks interesting from any angle, and makes nice shadows. But from one precise viewing point, a secret image is revealed! You can build a sculpture like this from any number of different materials.

Step 1: Select Your Materials

Picture of Select Your Materials

I built this sculpture using scrap plastic triangles and this brass rod. Any number of other materials could be used. You just need some stiff bendable wire (brass or copper around 1-2mm diameter are good choices) and a lot of chunks of material you can easily fasten the wire to.

Step 2: Make Attachment Points in the Chunks of Material

Picture of Make Attachment Points in the Chunks of Material

here, I laser-cut small holes in the plastic triangles. If using wood or metal pieces, you can just drill holes. We'll be inserting the wire into the holes so it fits tightly. As an alternative, you could not bother with holes and glue, solder or weld the wire to the pieces.

Step 3: Assemble the Sculpture

Picture of Assemble the Sculpture

i did not plan this sculpture out much. I knew what secret shape I was making, and then I just started sticking together wire and plastic and bending it around.

Draw the secret shape you are making on a piece of paper, and tape that paper to the wall. While you are assembling, you will be constantly holding up the sculpture at arm's length and viewing against the template on the wall. then bend any piece which is out of position to fit the template.

Wear latex gloves to keep fingerprints off the pieces, otherwise you will need to clean afterwards with alcohol.

After assembly, I put a little glue on a lot of the connections to prevent shifting. Or, you could dip the entire thing in paint.

Step 4: Hang From Ceiling and Enjoy!

Picture of Hang From Ceiling and Enjoy!


CarlzAmez (author)2010-10-12

this is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cool!!! I <3 it, ur very creative! :D

ill4tune (author)2009-09-24

THNEEDLE already asked my question. how thick should it be? as in, how deep from the hidden angle should the sculpture as a whole be? oh, and how many feet/meters of wire did you use?

dan (author)ill4tune2010-01-24

it doesn't really matter.   if you are viewing it from 3 feet away while constructing, then when you shine a light at it the shadow will be best seen with the object 3 feet from a wall.  a deep object will have more parallax, and thus will be viewable from less variation in distance, but always fine from the exact distance used during construction.  the first photo is about 90 degrees rotated from the 2nd. 

matroska (author)2010-01-15

 This mixed with another similar instructable will make me do a "the cake is a lie" hidden message :D

Sam_I_Am (author)2009-09-21

I love this idea! This could make an awesome mothers day/valentines day gift!

zascecs (author)2009-09-14

Pretty cool

coerul (author)2009-09-13

Tim Noble and Sue Webster have made several art pieces based on this concept. They're really impressive, and I thought of them immediately when I saw this 'ible!

KreaKatri (author)2009-09-11

Very nice! I'm definitely going to try and make one of those when I get my own place How hard is it to get the shape right? Could you fx make a star or a flower, or would that be too difficult?

Tommyhzy (author)2009-09-11

Absolutely genius.

Kenta-Rin (author)2009-09-10

So, you kind of just wing it? That is so awsome! :D

tjk94 (author)2009-09-09

For those of you that watch warehouse 13 doesn't this remind you of the sculptures that made a map with their shadows when aligned correctly :) great job!

Modarius (author)tjk942009-09-09

missed that episode...

tjk94 (author)Modarius2009-09-09

It was the one with the Native American artifacts and the cloak that allows the wearer to pass through solid objects. It's hard to describe an episode without giving to much away:)

moseph (author)2009-09-08

This is so cool. It reminds me of this sculpture they have at UChicago that looks abstract but on May 1st the sun is at an angle such that it displays a hammer and sickle (the artist didn't agree with UChicago's economics dept.)

mattthegamer463 (author)2009-08-06

Any idea how long the wire is?

TazzyUK (author)2009-03-28

Cool. Very much like the TV 'channel 4' sequences they have during ad breaks (in the UK). It's not noticable at first as then as time goes by, or you get closer, or the scene is rotated, a shape emerges...which in case of the TV channel 4, is a number 4. I did a computer graphic version many years ago using 'Imagine' 3d software I think on my Amiga 3000. Brings back fond memories :-)

scoochmaroo (author)2008-11-18

This is my new favorite thing.

Gypsyman (author)2008-07-08

i still have no clues how you did that haha.

thneedle (author)2008-06-23

I'm confused. What happened btwn steps 3 and 4? Did you "build" it as a flat shape and then pull it out to a 3-D version afterwards? It looks very cool!

dan (author)thneedle2008-06-23

i built it in 3-d. step 3 *is* 3-d, but we're looking at it at the precise angle where all the black bits line up in front of and behind each other to show the pattern. that's the magic!

Tintan (author)2007-12-06

Wow! This is fantastic, thanks:)

STi 33W (author)2007-11-23

You could also use little plastic hearts which would accent the secret image. And maybe for a more difficult feat, when the secret heart appears, have the wire spell out your and your significant other's names.

wahlia (author)2007-06-15

Wow, I have thought about doing something similar to this for years but never got around to putting it together. I love seeing yours. I often think that the objects that make up the cosmos would perhaps cast an interesting shadow if one could just achieve the right perspective.

abbabibble2 (author)2007-04-18

wonderful. simply wonderful.

PlantMan (author)2007-02-24

This is great. I'm making one for my gf. One note for better results is to hold it further from the screen when you're checking alignment to avoid holes in the image(like at bottom left in these images).

T3h_Muffinator (author)2007-02-23

Beautiful, simply brilliant! I've got to make a muffin version of that for me.

foothillfrontier (author)2007-02-12

an excellent way to recycle, and make art. Looks like a great craft for the camp I work at.

master-of-chaos (author)2007-01-13

very kool but what i want to see in the furure is a sculpture made out of glass that will refract the light into an image and a spell check for thies coments

cyberchops (author)2006-12-16

this is great. I love it!

gummyfish (author)2006-12-04

that is awesome! i will try to make my own, but i don't have any plastic triangles. where did you get those?

dan (author)gummyfish2006-12-07

i guess they were industrial scrap. but you don't need plastic triangles, you can use other easily cut materials like wood, and you don't have to use triangles, you could use any shape. the shapes don't have to be all the same either. there are lots and lots of different ways this could be put together, with different aesthetics. like, you could use large metal bolts for the 'triangles', and then just glue or solder wires to them. or you could use matchbox cars.

crestind (author)2006-11-14

That's cool!

andresm (author)2006-11-08


indomitable (author)2006-11-08

awesome idea! im soooo gonna try this.

BlueRock (author)2006-07-12


PeterTheUnGreat (author)2006-03-06

Ingenious and simple! Winning combo

andy (author)2006-02-25

wow, cool. very impressive

Angry J (author)2006-02-20

That is very cool. This would make a great gift.

softhands (author)2006-01-08

Nice one- lovely effect!

About This Instructable




Bio: Dan Goldwater is a co-founder of Instructables. Currently he operates MonkeyLectric where he develops revolutionary bike lighting products.
More by dan:Giant Xylophone made from Bed SlatsEasy Mothers Day Fudge (with small child)Mosaic Tile Pixel Art Car
Add instructable to: