Make Your Own Claude Glass or Black Mirror




About: I am a British Graphic Designer and Photographer, when I am not working, I spend my time making an array of projects. I used to make a lot of props, but now I spend most my time building crazy cameras and sh...
So earlier today I saw this post from PetaPixel. I am a long time reader of PetaPixel and both myself and Kiteman have been featured on there (no doubt many more).

I liked the idea of the Claude Glass, having a large collection of film cameras myself, I thought it would be the ultimate hipster way to take a picture. 

This is a very simple instructable, and as you can see I got some nice results.
  • If you read to the end, there is a bonus 'Quick & Easy' method too.
Wikipedia explains a little more about Claude Glass -

Claude glass (or black mirror) is a small mirror, slightly convex in shape, with its surface tinted a dark colour. Bound up like a pocket-book or in a carrying case, black mirrors were used by artists, travellers and connoisseurs of landscape and landscape painting. Black Mirrors have the effect of abstracting the subject reflected in it from its surroundings, reducing and simplifying the colour and tonal range of scenes and scenery to give them a painterly quality. 

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

  1. An old overhead projector lens 
  2. Black Spray Paint
  3. Masking Tape
  4. Methylated spirits 
  5. Portion of felt (optional)
  1. Stanley Knife (boxcutter)
  2. Lint free cloth
  3. Camera equipment (I was using a DLSR, I found a 50mm prime lens worked best, so recommend any long prime lenses)
  4. Spraybooth / Scrap of cardboard

Step 2: Clean and Mask

Next you want to mask off the front of the lens. This is the side that you will look into aka the convex side (the side that bulges towards you).

I also wrapped around the very edge of the lens also.

The reason we do this is that the spray paint will sneak underneath when painting (There was lots of specks on my masking tape after painting)

I then used a lint free cloth and a little Methylated spirits to clean the side of the lens we will be applying paint to. Try not to touch this side before you paint it.

Step 3: Paint the Rear.

Now we are going to paint the concave side of the lens.

Put down some scrap card outside, or use a spray booth.

As always with spray painting you want to do many light coats. The first coat will not full cover the lens.

If the paint starts to drip, you have put too much on. Feel free to have  go on a scrap piece of plastic.
For the most part its very hard to do a bad paint job as the final finish on this side is not important. The smooth side is right against the glass.

Whatever you do, do not touch the paint to test if its dry a finger mark could easily ruin this project. Wait a good 10-15 minutes before handling (note you can put new coats on after only 5 minutes or so).

Step 4: Take Some Photos

Going to right a few pointers on how you can use this to take some nice pictures. Obviously you can use it as per the original for drawing pictures.

Firstly I found using a long prime lens helped best, it allows you to take a close up picture of the lens without getting too much of your own reflection in it.

You can see the angle I was holding the glass at in order to not get my camera and myself in it. 

A less convex lens would allow you to take a picture more squarely, but in turn would have less of a viewing angle.
I think my tip would be less convex for photography, more convex for drawing.

Finally, I used a spare bit of felt to protect this while out in the field. However they were originally in little cases or little notebooks, so I may make something along those lines for it.

Step 5: Quick & Easy Bonus Method

If you want to have a go at using a Claude Mirror, but do not really want to make one, or are struggling to find a suitable lens then this bonus method is for you.

It is very likely you can have something that will do the job right next to you.

Your touchscreen phone! 

While not quite as reflective as the hand made option, it makes for a good alternative as you are likely to have it with you.
The downside to the smart phone is because its flat, it has a much smaller field of view.

Either way, here are some examples taken using the smartphone, as well as a one of the Claude glass so you can compare easily.

I hope you enjoy the instructable. Please post pictures of your own in the comments.



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    20 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    If you can find an old Projection TV they have some great convex lenses on them too. Three of them in fact, one from each gun. I have one somewhere and will give this a try.

    1 reply
    Blue HawaiiOC72

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Also the Fresnel lens on the front of the screen is great for making a solar cooker (or can be used for burning really, really, really, ridiculously large ants).


    Do post a picture if you do make one! I think a rectangular lens will make for a better Claude Glass. Some of the originals were rectangular.


    Well, I guess I spoke too soon. I got home and looked for that lens and found it. Except it's not the lens I thought it was. That means the Rectangular lens is somewhere else and I will have to find it. I went thru all my BBCC (Big Boxes of Camera Cr@p) and didn't turn it up. Oh well when I run across it, Pictures will follow. In the meantime I am interested in seeing what kind of a case you come up with. I did find these tho. Covers I made for two Large Format Lenses I purchased off of Ebay.

    They are made from Black felt, Thin cardboard, and Wet leather stretched over and tied until dry. I formed them directly on the lenses themselves wrapped it plastic. It's a risky move and not for the faint of heart but, Aside from a small bit of water damage on one of the lens rims, they came out very well. They are just a snug pressure fit.

    LF Lens covers.jpg

    Very interesting. You can see I have an interest in film photography as well, not yet gotten into large format.

    I am sure I will make one some day. How much did you pay for your lenses?


    One of them came with a LF Camera I bought (a Calumet Cambo) I think I paid around 300 for it. And probably about 150 for the other one. I have only been able to shoot a couple of sheets with it so far but it really gets people's attention when you take it out. There was a lab here that still developed sheet film when I got the camera but they have since closed down.


    7 years ago on Step 4

    Hey, great Instructable, and a very nice mirror finish - thankyou for sharing :) I have one question - what type of paint would you recommend for the best mirror effect? Would you use enamel, acrylic or some lacquer paint?

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 4

    I used some 'Direct to Metal' spray paint. Which is what I use for most things. I think pretty much any paint would work.

    Because you are applying it to the back of the lens, the reflective side is created no matter what.


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 5

    You'd have to remove the silver on the back of any mirror, which, I don't think is easy. Unless there's a trick or a chemical that peels it off without scratching the glass. But after you did that, it should work fine, having that "larger than they appear" effect might be neat.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    modern mirrors can be scraped clean of the silver with a window razor scraper
    from a project im working on now


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Can I suggest you try putting the lens on top of some sort of pipe (eg an empty toilet roll tube) when spraying - that way you won't get back-splatter off the hard surface and you wont need to mask the lens...

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I am afraid that would not work. Its not paint bouncing up off the surface that causes this issue. Its more due to the 'cloud-like' nature of the spray, it naturally spreads further than you might want and settle on the underside.

    It would only work if the tube was wide enough to cover up the entire bottom.


    Heh, Honestly, I figured I was not the only one to see the post. Then it was a race for me to get it put up first.

    Thankfully this is where working at home, for myself is helpful!

    Hence I cranked this out in less than an hour, including a 30 minute walk to take some pictures.


    Ah same thought until I realised that I hadn't anything to make it with to hand...

    Swinging between working at home, building in the studio, shooting events and stupid pointless meetings is killing my project time...

    Nice on the speed, I built my last thing and had to wait a whole day to use it because work got in the way...


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice - have you thought of mounting it directly to your camera? Possibly some sort of wire frame to clip it to the lens?

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Perhaps, but when using the 50mm prime the camera is about half a metre away from the lens!

    I think I will make it a nice leather case. Rub some steampunk on it.