Mirrored Dodecahedron Optical Light Art




About: 18, Student from India. Design Fanatic.

Optical Light Art is a transfusion of OP art and Light Art. Something that uses Light as a medium to manipulate perception or sensory vision. The "Mirrored Dodecahedron", as I call it uses reflective surfaces to create the illusion of a whole shape which can change both colour and form when it is observed from different angles. It's viewer impact and uniqueness draws a lot of attention and I guess it's just a really good conversation starter.

As you can see from the video, there's an optical illusion that takes place when you switch viewing angles. Some people may figure it out but this is due to mirrors placed on each side of a particular face. A very simple trick but I think it's still really fascinating and something really cool to make by yourself.

The building part is fairly straightforward if you have access to 3D printing and Laser cutting. Every component of the piece should be completely precise therefore, my reason for relying so much on technology here is because it is simply much more dependable.


For this Instructable you will need,

  • (3D Printer) with FDM - Required for printing PLA base structures.
  • Laser Cutting Machine - Required for Acrylic precision cutting.
  • UV Blacklight and Mount- At least 4 as the model must be targeted from all angles
  • Acrylic Mirror Sheet(2mm with protective masking or an opaque side)
  • Card stock paper (1mm, A4 sized) - 6 in quantity
  • UV Blacklight Neon paints(Choice of colour)
  • Multi-purpose superglue
  • Paper cutting machine/Inkjet printer
  • Cutting mat, Craft knife and a Paper scorer
  • Glue stick

Step 1: Planning and Composition

The Dodecahedron shape is the only shape that can achieve such an effect, which makes it quite unique. For such a geometrical figure, as you may have thought, there are also many mathematical calculations that must be considered while creating it. I intend to make this procedure as easy to follow as possible so I will only outline them in brief as to make you fully understand, but feel free to enquire more about this in the comments section below.

The images above are CAD renders of the actual model

  • The Inner dodecahedron is depicted through the white faces in the centre
  • The Outer dodecahedron is created by the extension of the mirrors, which are depicted in red. These are all reflective surfaces
  • The scale of the model is such that one side of the inner dodecahedron is 50mm in length.
  • The Inner and Outer dodecahedron are spaced at a ratio of 6:7. This prevents the mirror from catching any reflections on the outside that may interfere with the actual reflections of the faces.
  • To avoid confusion, the blueish reflections are imposed by the sky, which was included in the CAD render.

Step 2: Laser Cut the Acrylic Mirrors

The triangular faces used as mirrors measure 10cm in width and 13cm in height. The thickness of the Acrylic mirrors is 2mm.

The .dtd file attached has a total area of 40cm x 26cm and consists of 14 triangular faces

Adjust the settings on the Laser cutting machine according to the thickness of the acrylic sheet and place the acrylic sheet in the machine with the reflective side facing downwards and the masked/opaque layer on the top

Repeat the cutting job 4 times and then one more time with just 4 triangular faces to create a required total of 60 mirrored faces for the dodecahedron.

There is a possibility of cutting them manually as well, but given the chance of inaccuracy and sheer numbers, I thought it may be more convenient to use the Laser machine. However, I still believe it is an option for those who may not have access to a Laser cutting machine.

Step 3: 3D Printing Pentagonal Pyramids

Pentagonal pyramids will serve as the base of the structure, which I have constantly used to refer to the Inner dodecahedron. 12 Pentagonal pyramids joined together form a Dodecahedron. Therefore we require 12 of them.

3d printing allows us to create accurate shapes because it is challenging to create multiple structures like this accurately with other techniques

The stl. file attached has a Pentagonal pyramid with the base sides measuring 5cm and the sides leading to the vertex measuring 7cm. The walls have minimum thickness as we do not require it to be very strong and needlessly use excess material.

Since this will suffice, use a common filament such as PLA, and make 12 copies of the Pentagonal pyramids with minimum wall thickness and low print resolution. It shouldn't take much time given that the settings are very moderate.

Step 4: Constructing the Model

The assembly is fairly easy. Superglue should be fairly effective in this case. As demonstrated in the figure above, attach the mirrored surfaces onto the sides of the pentagonal pyramids. The red surface indicates a reflective side whereas the white faces are a part of the PLA pentagonal pyramids.

This would create groups of flower like structures that would resemble a whole Dodecahedron when placed all together. After this, allow the model some amount of time to dry and solidify. Ensure that all the pieces are perfectly arranged and that the model is as sound and secure as possible. You would also notice that the Dodecahedron is quite light, and hopefully, its resounding shape would lead to instant gratification for the maker.

Step 5: Designing Origami Face Constructions

By this time one should have noticed that the reflections on each mirror correspond to the face in the centre of a particular side on the Dodecahedron. Therefore, changes in this area would be reflected on all the mirrors.

There are many many possibilities with what can be made on these faces. However, using Origami paper structures seemed right to me because I was looking to make simple geometric forms that could complement the minimalist form of the Dodecahedron. Apart from that they would also keep the model lightweight and be easier to work with.

I created some CAD constructions of possible shapes and figures that could be used for this to determine how they would look. The possibilities are endless, so you can also choose to approach this in a more creative way and make your own designs.

Step 6: Creating Origami Face Constructions

You can choose to use any of the templates or nets I created for my own model and print them on A4-sized Card stock paper. This process is fairly straightforward and easy to understand. Use the appropriate scoring and cutting tools to extract the desired shape and then fold and restrain it with Glue stick.

You should end up with neat looking paper constructions. Try fitting them on the faces of the dodecahedron and see how they interact with the mirrors.

Step 7: Coating the Faces With UV Reactive Paint

Apply a preferably thick layer of UV paint on the front side of the origami faces. Paint one layer, allow it to dry and then paint another layer over it. This should create a thick and even coating of paint on the paper so that the glow is more apparent. Try to have some colour variation from side to side to make it more interesting.

Step 8: Lighting and Space

Choose a small space as a setup area for the model. You should try to have multiple sources of Blacklight within this area so that it can cover all sides of the Dodecahedron, giving it a whole and impactful look.

I'm not going to outline the process of installing the lighting and it's technicalities but rather suggest to you how you should apply it in this project.

The other component is the absence of light. This will conceal the mirrored structure of the Dodecahedron, leaving visible only the parts that are reactive to the Blacklight. The anonymity of the mechanics of this structure and its optical effects is bound to fascinate the observer.

Another effect this brought about was making it seem as if the structure was levitating as the mirrored sides are not visible. I thought this really accentuated the whole idea of mystery in this thing and was quite pleased with it.

Finally, leave space from the sides of the Dodecahedron so that it can be viewed from multiple angles. Or place it on a revolving pedestal that would do this perpetually.

Step 9: Placement and Finishing

Finally, insert the painted origami faces into the sides of the Dodecahedron. I didn't like the idea of permanently sticking them with adhesive as leaving them this way would allow me to change them and experiment with different ideas or add different origami structures in the future. Nevertheless, they should fit quite perfectly and sturdily without the need to use any adhesive. For the under sides, you may use some Blu tack© to secure it.

Try placing it within your setup and test it in different settings in terms of the mood or it's influence, areas like your bedroom or the lounge, where it may find the purpose of initiating social interactions or instilling a mood of harmony and simplicity.

Finally, I thank you for being a part of my work and if you choose to make this I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. :)

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    2 Discussions


    14 days ago

    Excellent! The effect you achieved is really great. Thanks for sharing!

    1 reply