Dragon Optical Illusion

This little dragon appears to be looking at you. But if you rotate the base this way or that the dragon's head appears to turn the other way...

Or if you stand the dragon on a shelf and walk about, the dragon's head follows you around the room. And yet it is simply a sheet of paper, cut and folded in a certain way. How does it work?

When we see a solid object rotating, there are all sorts of clues that tell us what is going on, which way it is rotating, etc. The dragon gives us the wrong clues, because we mis-interpret what its shape is. The nose of the dragon appears to be pointing out towards the viewer, but in fact the dragon's head is concave. Have a look at the dragon from the back...

Can you see the strange way the dragon's head is folded? The dragon was designed by Jerry Andrus, and he calls it 'Eye-Foolery'.

To see the wonderful effect created by this illusion, you can -

Watch the video.

Download the Dragon itself

You can download a copy of the actual dragon by using the right button of your mouse on this link and try this illusion for yourself if you wish. Please note that this is a 219 K download, and that you need to load the JPG image into a paint package (e.g. Adobe PhotoShop or Paint Shop Pro) and then print it out. The resolution of the image is 200 dpi, and it will be around 19cm x 25cm, and will more or less fill an A4 sheet in portrait layout. Do not load it into your web browser, since these display at 72 dpi and you will end up with an enormous (and low resolution) image filling several sheets of paper.

Alternatively you can download the dragon as a PDF file. If you have the Adobe Acrobat reader on your computer, this may be a better option. Again, right click to download the file.

Once you have printed the dragon out (a colour printer is best since this is a colour image) then you can cut out the dragon, fold and stick it, and you will be able to see this fantastic illusion yourself. When you print the page out, you will see that the instructions for folding the dragon are included. Please follow these instructions exactly.

The dragon is reproduced here with the permission of the American company Binary Arts, who sell a wide range of optical illusions and fun toys. One of their new products on the market is a set of animals that show the same behavious as this dragon. You can buy the Eye Foolery pack from the Grand Illusions Toy Shop.

Visit the Binary Arts web site to see the wide range of wonderful things they have on offer.

Here is what one of our viewers has to say...

I printed the 3D dragon illusion, and found that although it works well enough by itself, placing it inside of a clear glass vase makes the illusion absolutely uncanny, apparently since the slight distortion caused by the glass makes it even more difficult for the brain to detect the true nature of the assemblage.

I placed the dragon, in its vase, upon a shelf in the kitchenette in my office this afternoon, and my coworkers and I cannot help but stare at it in amazement. We consciously know the true nature of the contrivance, and still the veracity of the illusion is unsettling.

I suspect that placement of the dragon inside of a glass fishbowl or other such thing would produce similar results.

Thank you for making the dragon available on your site! You have turned a dull weekend at the office into an exploration of the wonders of the visual centers of the brain.


Jim Snider
Buffalo, New York

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