A Swiftly-Tilting Planchette
September 8, 2012 6:15 PM   Subscribe

Help me identify an optical illusion where abstract blotches of color on a page turn into words/an image when viewed from the side/edge of the page.

I remember seeing this visual effect somewhere when I was younger - when your point of view is perpendicular to the page, all you see is abstract art, but as your viewpoint comes down parallel to the page, letters and words appear out of nowhere.

The effect is similar to this image, but I remember (and am looking for) something that I could duplicate by hand - I thought this would be a neat technique to use on a costume sword, so words appear when you're looking down the point.

Other avenues of research have lead me to things like forced perspective techniques and Anamorphosis.

Identification of the kind of effect this is would be swell - most of my searching has come up with illusions dealing with relative size of perceived angles. References would be useful, especially if they provide details of 'how it's made' for me to reference.
posted by mikurski to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You're almost definitely talking about artificial perspective or "anamorphosis."
posted by R. Schlock at 6:33 PM on September 8, 2012

You can do this by hand:

If you write letters that are extremely tall, extremely narrow, and close together they will be unreadable and look just like a jumble of lines.

View them from the bottom edge of the paper (tilt the paper away from you and bring the bottom edge up toward eye level), and the words will be easily readable.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:23 PM on September 8, 2012

This maybe?
posted by null14 at 12:23 AM on September 9, 2012

I think I've seen the trick you're talking about - it was used to hide the most spoilery clue in Graeme Base's The Eleventh Hour. That may have been a likely place to have spotted it when you were young.

Basically, the way I remember it: you draw the words in angular block letters, and you make the vertical lines long and thin, and the horizontal lines maybe a quarter to half an inch thick from top to bottom.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 2:49 AM on September 9, 2012

And each letter maybe only an eighth of an inch wide, I forgot to mention.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 2:53 AM on September 9, 2012

Thanks for the confirmation (and the nostalgia - I'd completely forgot about the Eleventh Hour). The video gives me a good idea about how this sort of thing is constructed.

I'll probably play with the Perspective tool in an image editing program to see what kind of results I can get.
posted by mikurski at 5:09 PM on September 17, 2012

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