Glowing Eye Portraits




This was a silly simple project I did with what was on hand to try to add a bit of creep factor to an escape room fundraiser, but it was cheap and effective so thought I’d share.

Step 1: Materials

-toilet paper rolls



-thumbtack or embroidery needle

-electric tea light candle

-color printer (preferably)

-tape (preferably double sided)

Step 2: Find Some Photos!

I googled for images of daguerreotypes in their cases.

Confession- I was slightly weirded out by the punching out eyes bit, so opted for public figures (besides, library, might as well stick to authors) and ones I thought wouldn’t be over bothered by it. I figured Dickinson wouldn't be too bothered and Poe would probably have gotten a kick out of it.

(If you want to traumatize people you can look for post mortem photographs. I found some by mistake and back pedaled quickly.)

If you have an image you like, you can also sometimes find good quality clip art of the frames and shoe horn them together with basic photo editing software. Or even publisher. I liked a picture of Jules Verne, but he was a bit late for that style, so I shoehorned him in.

Step 3: Printing and Punching

Print out the images on cardstock. I opted for images that were about 4x5, taller than a toilet paper roll, small enough to fit four to a page.

Take a thumbtack or embroidery needle and carefully punch out the eyes. I found doing this on a slightly soft surface like a corkboard or mouse pad made the holes cleaner.

Step 4: Measuring Your Stand

Hold your toilet paper roll up to the back of the portrait. Make a mark at the level of the eyes.

Step 5: Cutting Your Stand

Cut a slice down the roll about a half inch past the eye line mark. Cut another slice ½”- ¾” away from that one so you have two parallel cuts.

Fold the flap back into the roll, you now have a little shelf! (You can tape it to the far side if you like.)

Step 6: Height Check!

Prop your picture against your stand with the tea light on to make sure the shelf is low enough for the light to come though the eyes. If you don't see the light, gently unfold the shelf and slice the roll a little further down to lower it.

Step 7: It's Watching You!

Tape the portrait to the front, eyes centered over the little gap and shelf you made.

Turn on an electric tea light candle and drop it onto the little shelf behind the portrait’s eyes.

Turn out the room lights to make sure your eyes are glowing properly. (Mad cackling optional.)

If they're not, check to make sure the tack holes go all the way through.

(This was done with what was on hand at the library, if you're doing this for a party or something spray painting the outside of the rolls black would probably make them more discreet, but leave the insides white or natural to better reflect light back out of the portrait's eyes. Likewise you could use glue or foam tape for attaching the portraits-but in that case measure twice and cut once!)



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    7 Discussions


    9 months ago

    You can also wrap the photo all the way around the roll, using glue to add the parts (leaving the frame aside, in this case), leaving it opened on the top (to insert the tea candle), turning it into a cylindrical image with glowing eyes - which can be placed over any straight surface.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 months ago

    Absolutely, I wanted to keep the daguerreotype look (despite the fact that it takes me several tries to get the word spelled right!) You could also decoupage 4 different ones over a square glass candle holder and rotate sides.


    9 months ago

    This gave me the idea of making the eye holes bigger and inserting 3mm LEDs.

    2 replies

    Reply 9 months ago

    Go for it! You could also size it up and put it in a proper frame at that point.


    Reply 9 months ago

    UV LEDs might be the way to go to get that 'not quite right' look.


    10 months ago

    wow that is creepy! and cool...