Thaumatrope, the illusion of movement – SCOPES-DF

Lesson Details

Age Ranges
Fab-Fabrication.1, Fab-Design.1
Additional Contributors

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Delia Millan
Delia Millan
Fablab manager
Delia is the founder and director of FabLab Cuenca. Her work has always been targeting both STEAM education and community empowerment specializing in inclusion and gender equality programmes. Delia has worked with digital fabrication and in FabLabs since 2012, being… Read More


This practical workshop introduces the student to digital fabrication, traditional animation and optical illusions.

We will present the basic notions of object´s personalization and how optical illusions work by creating a thaumatrope.

A thaumatrope is a scientific toy devised in the 19th century, consisting of a disc with a different picture on each of its two sides, these appearing to combine into one image when the disc is rapidly rotated. The two pictures appear to blend into one due to the persistence of vision.

Thaumatropes are often seen as important antecedents of motion pictures and in particular of animation.

The Pupils will be guide to create a digital design step by step, following really simple steps using 2D design open Source software.

The workshop is been design as introduction to traditional animation. We will emphasize on creating movement and expression utilizing traditional techniques by an electronically generated image.

At the end of the session each one will have a unique thaumatrope create and design by themselves.

They will feel empower to create their own toys or gadgets and how to understand and use the combining of science, digital fabrication and imagination.


What You'll Need


version 1: painting the design engraved


-Acrylic (opaque) or plywood or MDF

-Permanent marker (Sharpie)

-organic solvent in painting or Alcohol

-(Gloves if needed)

-Elastic bands


version 2: transfer sticker the design



-Transfer tape

-Elastic bands



Computers, internet access, projector

version 1: painting the engraving design

-Paper or cloth to remove paint


version 2: transfer sticker the design


-Blade cutters





-Laser Cutter-Acrylic/plywood

-Vinyl cutter (only if you decide to transfer the design as a sticker)

The Instructions

Intro to traditional animation and optical illusions

- A scientific toy Why “Wonderturner” - How persistence of vision works. -Intro to digital fabrication

Introduce the lesson talking about traditional animation and how the inventions evolve until the creation of cinema from the 19th century to the present.

You can adapt the length depending on the timeframe available, age and the field you would like to focus the activity.


“The Origins” of motion picture affect many sections we work on the present with digital technology, from animation to videogames….


It’s good to have a few facts ready to share as “The invention of the thaumatrope is usually credited to British physician John Ayrton Paris. Paris was said to have used one to demonstrate persistence of vision to the Royal College of Physicians in London in 1824.”


According with the exercise we will create and the space you are in it’s a good moment to introduce new kids/adults to the digital fabrication world, show them different examples they can touch and pass around and tell them how we will create our thaumatrope in a few simple steps all together.

Hands on digital design- Intro to Inkscape

We will guide them thought the use of a basic 2D design open source software call inskcape, Free to download for everyone at home on the website: We will provide all the necessary tuition to create step by step the basic shapes.

First steps

-User interface presentation

-Page, zoom and Movements around the document

-Creating a circle


-Creating the two holes for the elastic bands

-Inkscape Tips & tricks


Getting the right size.

Take some measurements with a ruler to understand the meaning of size and the correlation of digital/ real world.

Give them a ruler each one and a pre-cut thaumatrope to use as reference.

Explain how the 3 circles need to be resizeed to have the right dimensions for their creation.

The exterior circle=100mm

two small side holes circle right and left= 10mm


Show them how to change dimensions and units in our document and how to perfectly align them within Inkscape

Release your imagination to create a combined image or a gif animation.

We will provide all the necessary tuition to create step by step the inclusion of text or images. Get pupils ready to share things they like and encourage them to be creative! It’s the moment to represent your hobbies/ likes/favourite videogame/ dreams….

Create or Import an image from internet to be modified


Show them how to vectorise an image or how to brake it apart to have the selection of shapes for both sides of our disk.

Materialize and Process the design

Machine time- engrave & cut your digital design. The pupils will gain a basic understanding of the first step to jump from a digital design to a physical object.

It’s time to explain how the laser cutter works, tell them the basic actions we will use (cut and engraving) and show them how to identify what the machine is doing and how to control the behaviour from your design.



Painting Time

Everybody colour in the mark engraving design on the thaumatrope.

-Choose a permanent marker

-Tell them not to worry to go outside the drawing, they can go mad and colour inn! the ink excess will be removed after with a tissue or damp cloth with cleaning alcohol or white spirits.


Sharing and exchange your optical illusion with your peers. Enjoy and encourage them to repeat at home with recycled materials : )


  • (Fab-Fabrication.1): I can follow instructor guided steps that link a software to a machine to produce a simple physical artifact.
  • (Fab-Design.1): I can be responsible for various activities throughout a design process within a group under instructor guidance.