Introduction: Zoetrope Using Cardboard Gears

About: Paper Crane Lab is a STEM education space in Bangalore, India that runs workshops and classes around the city. We are a group of enthusiastic teachers who love to experiment and combine STEM and the arts. Our …

Cartoons and animated movies bring so much joy to our world. They have almost defined our childhood, in some cases. However, did you know that before the animations we see on TV existed, there used to be clever physical mechanisms called zoetropes to animate stories and scenes to entertain people of all ages!

Paper Crane Lab shows you how to make your very own zoetrope to entertain and impress all your friends and family using simple basic materials present in your homes. Shall we begin?

If you would like a video tutorial of this, you can find it here.


  • Our template (
  • Cardboard
  • Toothpicks
  • Thin ribbon/sash
  • Scissors
  • Paper cutter/ blade
  • Glue
  • Stapler

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Step 2: Cut Out the Elements From the First Page of the Template

With a pair of scissors or paper cutter (and the help of an adult), cut out the basic shapes in the first template sheet as shown here. You will see circles of different diameters, and two small squares. Poke holes into the center of each circle as shown. You can use a sharp pen or compass tip, with the help of an adult.

Step 3: Form the Two Wheels

Take two of the 4 cm diameter circles and glue them together. Do the same for the other pair of 4 cm diameter circles. Once that is done, glue one 5 cm circle on each side of the 4 cm thick disc as shown in the gif. Now do the same with the 9 cm diameter circles on the other 4 cm thick disc. Make sure all of the circles have aligned their holes in the middle.

Step 4: Place the Wheels on the Base

Once your wheels are created, pass a toothpick through the center of each of them, and align them onto the cardboard base as shown in the gif.

Step 5: Fix the Wheels on the Base

Now place the small squares on the carboard base, and place the wheels on top of them such that the toothpicks go through the small squares all the way through the cardboard base.

Step 6: Connecting the Wheels

Connect the two wheels using a ribbon/sash wound tautly around the two wheels. Make sure there is no loose gap between the two wheels. Once it is taut, use staplers to staple the ribbon in place.

Step 7: Attach the Handle to the Turn Wheel

On the smaller wheel, poke a hole on a corner such that it only passes through the wheel and not the cardboard base, and affix it to help rotate both the wheels together, which is held together by the ribbon as shown.

Step 8: Make the Zoetrope Strips

From the second template sheet, cut out the first two structures in black or dark coloured paper, and the other structures on the template paper itself as shown.

Step 9: Animate the Zoetrope Strips

Place the white zeotrope panel onto the black base as shown in the figure. Now paste it onto the black base.

Do the same with the other piece, and create a moving animation, frame by frame onto the entire zeotrope structure as shown. Here, we have created a simple animation of a dot moving up and down. Paste the two pieces together as shown.

Step 10: Attach the Zeotrope to the Gears

Once the zeotrope is ready, join the ends to form a circle as shown.

Paste the base of the 12 cm diameter circle onto the larger 9 cm wheel as shown.

Stick the zeotrope structure onto this 12 cm diameter base. Now you have a rotating zeotrope that works by turning the turning wheel as shown in the image.

Step 11: Customize

Use this design to create interesting and creative animations, and make your own template with more frames to make it interesting! Be sure to tag us in your creations.

For more such cool stuff, and to learn more about us, find us on instagram at :

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