Wall Illusion: Easy Forced-Perspective Wall Art (Without Using a Projector)

Picture of Wall Illusion:  Easy Forced-Perspective Wall Art (Without Using a Projector)


Using only a cheap digital camera, some masking tape, and Illustration or Photo-Editing software, you can make some amazingly-handsome Trompe-l'oeil/Forced Perspective wall-art (yes... very much like that awesome parking garage that everyone on earth forwarded you). Your friends and neighbors will be astounded by your cleverness.

Viewed from the proper angle, the illusion of a 2-dimensional "flat" image is presented, but viewed from the side you will see the gross distortions that make the "proper" angle possible.
Note of Thanks: This Instructable was influenced greatly by--and wouldn't have been possible without--the help I received from this thread on AskMetaFilter. There are some smart and creative folks there who can really help a guy out with a project. (If you can wade through the questions about recipes, pets, or relationships, you'll find some absolute gems.) Thanks guys; awesome input.
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Step 1: Tools and Materials Required

Picture of Tools and Materials Required


  • a Blank wall meeting at a corner
  • a Vector or very-high-resolution raster image or logo (here's one source I like... there are hundreds more)
  • a Digital Camera - I used a cheap, old 6 Mp Canon, but I suspect you could get good results with even a 3 Mp camera. Much lower than that, and you might have problems.
  • Drawing or Photo Editing Software - (I used Illustrator and Photoshop CS2, and provide instructions for these packages, but there are several other Free and Non-Free software packages that would work just as well).
  • a Measuring Device
  • Masking Tape (Must be a visibly different color than your wall).
  • a Printer or other output device. - You can Rasterbate your image, or have it done fairly inexpensively at a print shop. I'm not big on Kinkos, but they can do it pretty cheap -- (<$5)
  • a Utility or X-Acto knife


  • a Spirit Level
  • a Second Color of Masking Tape
  • a ladder or step-stool
  • a Second Set of Hands (makes the ceiling bit a lot easier... but far from a requirement).
  • a Protractor or Combination Square
  • Sandpaper (for surface prep)
  • a Vinyl Plotter (or make a friend in a sign shop. Completely optional -- looks great printed, too.)
  • Cleaning Solvents (for surface prep). I used a mild soap and then rubbing alcohol

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randomray1 year ago
Okay , this is cool I'm going to have to try it . But , unlike many/most people here I do have an overhead projector .
Spindoctor6 years ago
nice project! But wouldn't all that be much easier using an overhead projector? Of course, it's a hard job drawing all the lines by hand and the question remains where you get an overhead projector from. But especially for the project you mention in the last step, I would go for the overhead projector instead of playing arround with photoshop. If you look at the surface of the door I can hardly imagine you get it the way you want using photoshop...
jjijj (author)  Spindoctor6 years ago
You hit the nail on the head with that one... well said.

If you read the Instructable itself, or any of the many slide- and overhead-projector-related comments below, you'll see just how much I wish I could've used a projector. Sadly, I could not.

I live in a very small country, Caspiar, that has been suffering from several economic and political hardships for quite some time. We are admirers of the culture and people of the United States, but very few Americans have heard of our struggles (which is understandable... we are a very small country).

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, not one new slide- or overhead-projector has been imported into my country. Now, we keep the ones we have as nice as we possibly can -- our tradesmen are miracle-workers in fixing and salvaging them -- but it is a sad fact that we lose many of them each year, and none can be replaced.

The ugly irony is that the handful of overhead projectors that remain in my country are all in the homes of the exact same oligarchs and politicians who are most responsible for the shortages! We have a saying here... "When Ivalyo Pavlovich [Tonev, the Prime minister of Caspiar] gives up his projector!" -- This means that whatever it is you are talking about will never happen!

On the black market a projector like the one you speak of, even in a very bad state of disrepair would cost 5, or maybe 6 months of my salary. As much as I would like to have it, it is simply not a possibility for me.

So I made this instructable to work around my limitations. Where there is a will, there is a way! Cheers

hehe, took me some time finding out where Caspiar is, as I don't live in America either ;-) My country is nearly as small as Caspiar, but fortunately overhead projectors are not THAT hard to get. And even if they were, I think I could get the parts needed to build one (I'm sure there's an instructable of how to build an overhead projector). I'm glad you could at least get vinyl. (By the way - yea, I should have read the other postings before writing a posting myself...)
jjijj (author)  Spindoctor6 years ago
(don't worry about it, friend... If reading dozens of comments before feeling entitled to post was a requirement, we'd all be in trouble. No harm done.)
If i can save up the money, i would like to sent you guys some stuff. Do you guys live on the European side, or the Asian side of the former USSR? I may have family near you that could pass the stuff off to you guys.
jjijj (author)  natman34004 years ago
Caspiar is actually both on the European and Asian sides. Sounds strange, but it's true.

And your offer is a very generous one, and it speaks to your kind heart. But we are a very proud people and we can't accept charity... even from the kind-hearted.
We have no projectors here in Islandia, either, so your instructable was very well received. (Like you, we have computers and digital cameras, just no projectors). Good job!
jjijj (author)  emerson.john4 years ago
Aren't sanctions a pain? I'd love to come visit you in Islandia... but they just canceled the last direct flight outta Caspiar. Now we're stuck trying to make connecting flights through the stupid Aeroflot hub in Voronezh. Nothing against the people of Voronezh, but their airport sucks, the layovers are horrendous, and unless you like Cinnabon, you just ain't getting fed. That's no way to travel.
haha, you gotta love aeroflot... but all honesty, this is even a good 'ible for me, just because i am too lazy to get a projector and draw it all out. id much rather sit on a computer doing the exact same thing!
jjijj (author)  jjijj6 years ago
(Before anyone starts organizing relief packages of projectors to Caspiar...)

There is no shortage of projectors 'round here. The choice to not use a projector was very much intentional.
Projecting on a wall and tracing is a perfectly legitimate and effective method to create this effect... but I wanted to output to vector, which a projector can't do.

If you want to output to vector (printer/plotter), or simply do not have access to a projector... then this instructable was designed for you.
crazyg jjijj4 years ago
going for the hardcore method is good 80s graphic design style,especilly sorting out the viewing point with methods noted in art history lectures(recomend hacked photoshop 6 for bending images) but isnt a projectors lense its vector origin? was going to post a pic of my used once nobo plastic ohp but the fake iphone has a unforgivably bad camera and its managed to crash my laptop once today.becides youve allready posted a pic of prjkta
jjijj (author)  crazyg4 years ago
I'm not sure regarding "vector origin", but if I'm understanding you right, then, yeah. Problem is, to plot or cut vinyl, I needed vector output (as in EPS file).  Which is next-to-impossible (or at best "a huge hassle") to do with only projectors.
MjPadfoot jjijj5 years ago
and this reply just so totally made my day.
can i suggest moving to a different place? say.. the US for example?
Szajba4 years ago
made my day :)
MaXoR4 years ago
I'm a little confused..... I understand you are getting a lot of comments on "use a projector", and most are simply saying it as an "easier" way to get this effect up on a wall. You have made other great points on the VERSATILITY of your method, and that helps a bit.

What I don't understand is why in one post, you stated how hard projectors were to get, and then the very same day, only a few hours later, posted how projectors aren't hard to come by "round here".... I guess you were just being flippant again.

I could see that green star picture is a basic overlay, however.....whoever said photoshop would have problems with that, obviously has NO CLUE how to use photoshop, and it's features. I do designs like that (not needing to print them after however) for people online, as I'm a graphic designer. I like your ible, it's really a neat idea, and easy to carry out in photoshop.

Oh, one more question.... why wouldn't you just use vanashing point to modify the angle of your cuts? It saves time over using the transform method you talked about. If you ever want to talk, or ask a question, just PM me here, I use CS5 adobe products, and CS4 is where I have the most experience, but they are similar in their operation, and methods.

Have a great day!
jjijj (author)  MaXoR4 years ago
Apologies for the confusion. Yes, I was joking about projectors being hard to get. I don't live in Caspiar, and I own many projectors. I was being flippant -- perhaps too much so.

I agree that Photoshop alone would be more than sufficient to complete this instructable. (As would Illustrator alone, or Gimp alone for that matter). I used Illustrator because I was exporting to EPS (though, come to think of it, I'm sure that there's a documented or undocumented way for Photoshop to export to eps as well... I was just going with what I knew). There are many ways to work with this concept -- some, no doubt, quite a bit more clever than what I have come up with... I'm excited to see how people customize this.

I'm not understanding how I'd use a vanishing point (is this a tool in an Adobe product?) on this project, but if you have a second, tell me about it. Thanks.
MaXoR jjijj4 years ago
Yeah, vanishing point is a plug-in in the filter menu of photoshop. It basically lets you draw a perspective square, then simply drag and drop your selected layer into the "perspective square" you drew. It automatically modifies the angle of the picture to make it look and fit the square. Once you get the hang of it, you can do it quickly, and since vanishing point is only used for this one thing, it does it well if you're accurate.
MaXoR MaXoR4 years ago
Lol, that chair looks really comfy too....
big-jamie4 years ago
this question is gonna be one of two things, either relevant to almost everyone, or stupid...but...

since i only have a normal A4 printer, does that mean my design has to fit on, and so be no bigger than an A4 sized rectangle ?
jjijj (author)  big-jamie4 years ago
Not a stupid question.

Short answer is "no, you're not limited to the size of a single A4 sheet" (for those in the U.S. -- this is roughly the size of a sheet of "letter" paper.  A little shorter, and a little fatter). Even if you wanted to do everything in-house with your printer (and without tiling), your max size would be (roughly) a triangle made of three tiled sheets of A4 (all meeting at one corner, as in the picture in Step 4). I'd not limit yourself in this way, though. Your options are several, but here are the two cheapest and least resource-intensive:

1.) Send this job out. Kinkos (a discount print shop here in the states, or your country's equivalent) will print in larger format for you for fairly cheap. If it's black and white, you can print up to, like, 24"x26" for a couple bucks here.

2.) If you absolutely MUST print this off at home, and you want to go bigger, you're looking at doing what's called "tiled printing". A popular (free, simple) web resource for doing this is called "Rasterbator". I'm sure there are many more out there. I haven't done tiled printing very often, but perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I could give some options.
big-jamie jjijj4 years ago
thank you so much for your reply, i havent had any time to myself recently to attempt this, but ive been keeping an eye out for overhead projectors to watch films on, on a blank wall in my house, so if i get that i reckon i'd just do it that way.
You can have it be printed on multiple sheets, and tape them together, or you could go to the library and have it on a flashdrive and print each sheet for like 10 cents on big sheets. or your could always downscale it.
solo.card4 years ago
Any joy with Part 2 of this project yet?
jjijj (author)  solo.card4 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
blanchae jjijj4 years ago
You don't have to go all foreign man if you put some pepper and latka in with the projector box when you ship it, the dog may sneeze and he cough man!
solo.card jjijj4 years ago
I feel for you and your fellow citizens. I am truly blessed to live in a country where projectors can be traded at will, without consequence.
blanchae4 years ago
Nice instructable and most excellent inside joke, Andy would be proud! I have a spare projector or two, where in Caspiar can I send the projectors to?
jjijj (author)  blanchae4 years ago
It'd never get past customs. They've trained dogs to detect projectors by scent. Some call it dictatorial or cruel -- but those of us in the rank-and-file just shrug our shoulders and say "what can we do?"

Many thanks for the offer, though... I just don't want to get either of us in any trouble.
-bdk-4 years ago
Very nice. For more, check out Felice Varini's works: Some of them are just Huge (those made in urban spaces, I think those were made using lasers: )
jjijj (author)  -bdk-4 years ago
Definitely cool. Looks awesome. I'd love to do something at that scale. I like the minimalist look with this technique, as well.
headphoned5 years ago
This is a cool way to attack this project, but simply attaching a cut-out to a bright light (think shadow puppets) and putting the lamp at the focal point pointed toward the corner would do the trick as well, I think.
jjijj (author)  headphoned5 years ago
That is the most brilliant idea I have ever heard and I can not believe that nobody has ever made a million similar comments in the discussion of this instructable and you are a genius and thank you for pointing this out!

I will not suffer this abomination in my house for even one more day. TOMORROW I am going to tear this off of my wall and re-do it according to your specifications. One question, though: how does the "cut-out and bright light" method get the eps files to my vinyl plotter? Should I, like, project it, then paint it, and then photograph it, and then orthorectify it, and then convert it to eps, and then cut the vinyl, and then paint over it with white, and then lay the vinyl over where I painted over where I originally painted it? That seems like the easiest way.

It'd be kind of like a fusion of my original idea and your helpful suggestion. Basically, I'd just use the cut-out and the bright light like you suggest... paint it, paint over it to "start fresh", and then I could just follow the steps of the instructable above, starting at the beginning? Yes?

I feel so, so good about this!
Bad Maxx jjijj4 years ago
Wow, seriously not cool.... headphoned was simply suggesting an alternative method he or she thought might work. And you, instead of following the BE NICE POLICY that makes this such a great website, APPARENTLY felt the need to ridicule and attempt to embarrass him or her? There is simply no need for sarcasm, a simple explanation of why it would not work would have been sufficient.
jjijj (author)  Bad Maxx4 years ago
Wasn't my intent to embarrass. Playfully chide, cajole, admonish, sure... but not to embarrass or berate. My apologies that I came off this way.

And for the record: Headphoned's method absolutely would work.  The question is not one of working or not working; but instead one of "why would anyone suggest using a projector in an instructable entitled 'DO X WITHOUT USING A PROJECTOR.' "?

Lest the blame for this fall on Headphoned's shoulders, I'll cop to the fact that I must've communicated something poorly, because there've been a dozen or so folks in the comments suggesting that I use a projector.  It started out as "Huh? Why would they suggest this?" but by the sixth or seventh one, I thought it was pretty hilarious and just went with it.  It was supposed to be playfully chiding; if it sounded at all mean or nasty or community-negating, then I apologize.
Thanks for helping the rest of us continue to feel comfortable posting here, instead of thinking that we have to be experts to write a comment.
 I thought i was sarcastic but, wow, i recognize a master at work. :-)
pollano jjijj5 years ago
I think that this is a great idea, but i think that the projection wont be that good as if you do it with a real projector. If you don't have a projector, another thing you could do is printing your image and make some little holes in each corner of your image, and then project that spots with the help of a laser in to the wall.
now I need to find a logo worthy to do this with! given ya 4.0 vote
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