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.

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Step 1: 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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 7: Fold the Entire Room

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

The finished room is trapezoidal in shape.

Step 9: Test the Illusion

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.

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46 Discussions


2 months ago

lo edite con mayor resolucion

ames room plantilla.jpg

Question 1 year ago

How to divide the picture into 12 equal pieces?


Question 1 year ago on Step 2

how are you supposed to print this?


4 years ago on Introduction

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.

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

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.

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!

2 replies

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!


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

1 reply

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.



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.


8 years ago on Introduction

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 :)

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!!!)

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.