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By on January 5, 2010, with 40 Comments

Ink Covered Optical Illusion

What can you see in this picture?

When you run a website like this, it’s on your mind even when you’re not at work. So I had this great thought I wanted to share with you in the second paragraph reserved for my personal bablings, but unfortunately I can’t remember it. This started to happen more often lately, so it’s either me being distracted, or I am aging. Either way, I’ll have to think about carrying some kind of diary with me, and begin writing things down.

I found this illusion last week, and since it wasn’t easy for me to solve it immediately, here’s a test for you… I think it has more to do with Rorschach test, and less with optical illusions in their true nature.

But if I was strictly selecting 100% optical illusions, we wouldn’t have much material to cover. Would we? Anyway, if you look at the top-right picture, it won’t make much sense. All you see is bunch of broken pieces, and some randomly scattered debris. But look what happens if we fill the broken parts with spilled ink… You can see the example in lower-left corner.

Ink Covered Optical Illusion

Add some ink, and you can see these were letters!

All of a sudden, we have no problem seeing scattered letters where once broken pieces stood. This effect presumably is related to the fact that the borders of letters vs. background are indistinguishable from the borders of letters vs. ink blot.

Ink Covered Optical Illusion


40 Responses
  1. any mouse says:

    Today’s illusion brought to you by the letter “B”

  2. Alex says:

    I wonder if it is possible to design an illusion whereby the scattered pieces appear to form different letters or symbols if the ink is in a different place. I’ll get to work on it!

  3. jennifer says:


  4. Ciaran says:

    Presumably adding ink to more white areas would make the letters harder to distinguish.

  5. JR says:

    Pretty neat, but not as neat as the first comment.HAHAHA.

  6. ms.wow says:

    oh thats wierd i never saw that i thought it was a face until the ink was added!

  7. tbonicus says:

    Dear Vurdlak: Thank you for the 3+ years your site has been a daily delight for me — I haven’t missed a single entry. But I’m writing you today because, for the first time ever and no matter how hard I try … I just don’t get this one!

    Thank you again and, by the way, watching your English approach perfection, especially your courageous use of idiom, has been lots of fun. You’re doing great!

  8. Detective Kitty says:

    This is obviously do to the fact that with the ink you are filling in places and making our brains see connect the debris rather then see it as individual pieces. The ink connects everything and since B is a common scene thing our brains immediately recognize the patterns. Definately a good illusion….

  9. Rick Haviland says:

    Very good, took me two days to figure it out!

  10. Fred Schlonz says:

    A funny, smiling, dancing person ;)

    Probably named Bert Bee…..

  11. Okay, so I thought they were D’s even after the illusion was revealed.

  12. Tad says:

    I see Spongebob Squarepants taking a bow. How odd.

  13. Facebook User says:

    It’s aging, distraction is just an often used excuse, next to multi-taking too much.

    Good site.

  14. nick says:

    This is the stupidest illusion I’ve ever seen. It’s not at all interesting. There is no spectacular finish. I am stupider for having witnessed this.

  15. nick says:

    Yes I said “stupider”. Stick it.

  16. nick says:

    love the site though. really.

  17. Samuel Norbury says:

    First comment is genius.
    Illusion isn’t bad either, but I’m pretty sure it is an illusion, not a psycho-test…
    Rorshacks usually have multiple possible answers, and this has only one answer, disguised

  18. Brooks says:

    The strength of effect of this illusion ( the mind serching for completion and recognizing the letter “B” when the ink it provided) is so strong for me I wonder if some one who was not familiar with the Latin Alphabet ( one who reads arabic or other character languages such as Japanese or Chinese) might have the same experiece or strength of effect?

  19. Josip says:

    Hello tbonicus,

    do you use the greek alphabet, and maybe this is why you “dont get it” and latin aplabet users do as there brains try to find something they expect….

  20. Maria says:

    What is happening in this illusion is that lines are too scattered and your mind can’t fill in the empty space. In some illusions, when part of the lines that form a shape are missing, your mind makes up the empty space to form a complete picture. It’s all psychological.

  21. Leon Haidvogl says:

    just because it is so easy i’m surprised

  22. Michael Bach says:

    It would have been nice had you acknowledged that these images were copied from my site.

  23. Jerome Johnson says:

    Love the ‘optical illusion of the day’. I have it as a gadget on my igoogle page. It does not update itself on the page, which seems strange for something entitled ‘….of the day.’ Why is this, or more to the point, how can I get it to update automatically? Thanks for the site.

  24. Blaitus says:

    wtf i cant see anything this is stupif or maybe too many buls for me faaaar out this suxxxx first time i cant see it

  25. Blaitus says:

    oh wait nvm they wore off there it is

  26. mennoillusion says:


    The reason why you can see the D’s is because there is a black edge around it, and that disappears in the inkt when the inkt comes!
    If there would be no black edge on the places where the rest of the letter is, you could see that it are all D’s!!!!!!!!!


  27. mennoillusion says:

    IT ARE B’s, btw…..

  28. joey says:

    sweet illusion but seriously could u try a LITTLE bit less with the babbling and random sidenotes? if you want to babble, get a blog. all other websites that are supposed to be about a single idea, STICK to that idea. if you could just write about the illusion, i think myself and many other viewers would actually enjoy reading what can be said about the illusion, rather than just sifting through your bullshit for some actual information. it seems like you do like to talk about your boring life though, as i believe many would if they had a popular site like this. so GET A BLOG AND TAKE YOUR BS NONSENSICAL FLUFF SOMEWHERE ELSE

  29. marco says:

    shut your eyes a little bit

    and you see a clown :)

  30. Care Bear says:

    There you go, clowning around again.

  31. georgia says:

    b b b who you want to b

  32. georgia says:

    i saw lots of faces when i first looked

  33. Miranda Perrin says:

    This is do weird wow ….

  34. Dan Jones says:

    Adding the ink adds more information to the picture. The ink is a different color than the background and does not completely cover the background, therefore it adds a lot of information. I would like to see an experiment that shows the minimum amount of information needed to make a recognizable picture. I have seen some stuff with altering resolution, but obviously that is not all that is necessary! Keep up the good work.

  35. Adawada says:

    Strange…. Not really that cool…. Neat, but not totally awesome.

  36. Dibakar Soy says:

    i got the answer. that is .:B:.

  37. troy sircelj says:

    there all d’s

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