Benham’s Disk Optical Illusion


This is one of my childhood’s favorite visual illusions, one you could literally have spent hours playing with! Unfortunately, back then I wasn’t aware it was invented by C.E. Benham, and that it already had a name – Benham’s Disk.

It was pretty popular back in the “old days”, as you could easily make your own unique spinner using nothing but piece of cardboard, a pencil and a toothpick! So what is so special about it? In 1894, toymaker Mr. C.E. Benham discovered that a spinning disk with a particular pattern of black and white marks could cause people to see colors! Mr. Benham called his disk an Artificial Spectrum Top and sold it through “Messrs, Newton and Co.”

Benham’s Top (or Benham’s Disk) has puzzled scientists for over 100 years. Let’s see if the spinning black and white disk can fool you into seeing some colors?! Do you think you can understand why is this happening? At some point, you should also be able to see a radiation warning sign inside the spinner!

  • mark

    Does everyone see the same color? I see two concentric circles of read lines.

    • mark

      *red lines

    • I see concentric circles alternating navy blue and olive green. And the radiation sign. And dead people.

    • Abi

      i see 2 green lines, so no i guess we dont all see the same colours

    • Ash

      I see a pale yellow

  • Chris Smith

    I see blue circular stripes as well as the radiation warning sign. Excellent illusion.

  • I don’t get it

    OK, I stared at it for a long time, but I don’t see colors or anything of interest :(

    • julia

      I didn’t see anything either…

  • happy

    only bleu

  • EngrDude

    I see the “radiation warning” shape but no colors, just black and white.

  • phuntastic

    I see green. Light green.

  • Care Bear

    Maybe it’s the astigmatism or the bifocals but sorry, no colors. I can’t see the images hidden in those wiggly paintings either. Waaa!

  • Apoc Hedgie

    I saw blue and yellow in a sort of lightning-esque shape. Neat.

    • Stephanie Troyer

      I saw yellow, light green and dark blue! Does that make me opticly deluded?

  • Bob

    I still remember this from “Ask Mr. Wizard”,
    the original version of the TV show from about
    50 years ago. The show was in black-and-white,
    proving that the colors originated in your brain,
    rather than on the disk itself.

  • Vince

    I see yellow and radiation logo

    • Vince

      …and now, red and yellow !

  • Jesper

    I see yellow circular lines

  • NervusTwitch

    I see blue,yellow and light green(faintly) and of course the rad symbol

  • whynaut

    The outer circle is red
    the middle circle is blue
    and the inner circle is green.
    However they are all earth tones and hence really muted.

  • Kimon

    I see the radiation sign. It also appears to be spinning slowly clockwise but it is actually static. So there, an illusion within an illusion!

    And I seed two bands of pale brown lines. If I look hard enough they are black, with a pale after-image that for some reason is interpreted as brown.

  • A Person

    I saw blue, green, purple, and the radiation sign. And it looked kinda like there was smoke coming from the edges! So cool :3

  • All I see are red, blue, and green in the spinner. But I’m pretty sure this effect would cause you to see only the primary colors: Red, green, blue; for probably the fact of how close the lines are and the constant “flashing” of the “pieces of pie” from white to black. It just seems logical even if I don’t know the true reason… ^^;

  • Natalie

    I see purple.

  • MajorWebUser

    I see dead people — aaaaaaaaah!

    • me123987645

      lol! i see my laptop!

  • Pam

    Radiation sign, but no colours tho, but i’ve started at it so long I think my eyes are spinning now lol

  • Ms No Name

    i see gold…

  • Whao turns blue!

  • Camille

    Purple and yellow…that’s epic!

  • Bob the wezel

    sometimes i lie on the floor and pretend to be a corrot

  • magpiez

    Cant see any colours no matter how long I look at it, squint at it or anything else.

  • La-la-lina

    i see green! i read the comments and apparently, we’re not seeing the same colour, that’s amazing!

  • Cooper

    I didn’t see anything?

  • Cherry Blossom

    I can only see yellow. I can see the radiation warning sign as well. Very interesting.

  • egdirbr

    Nice illusion, but please man, your widget is on my homepage and it’s driving me buggy.

  • Ryan

    It seems like everyone is seeing multiple colours but all I can see is yellow.

    I wonder why I can only see yellow. It also makes me wonder about colours in general, how does my brain know to see yellow, whereas someone else may see blue. I always though colours had to do with certain wavelengths, but I guess I am wrong.

    Here’s another question: will I always see yellow only for my entire life, or does it change based on something in my mind? Maybe if I am mad it will go red or something lol

    This is my fav illusion on the site thus far – so many mysteries surrounding it!!!

  • toodamlazy

    i see yellow

  • Pintosong

    i see orange, blue, yellow and green i also see the sign awesome !

  • Bluepool

    yep radiation sign. Also blue and yellow colors!

  • PromiseMe


  • Dee

    Yes I see earthly yellow/brown lines in the middle, and perhaps a hint of deep dark blue in outer circles…that’s it.

    But the radiation sign was the first thing I saw, it’s clear as day.

  • dan

    all i could c was a snail rolling over and over but no colours or symbol

  • Josh

    I see the radiation sign very clearly. I see no colours yet.

  • Mana Clash

    i see yellow!

  • Leroy

    I see orange! And orange only.

  • Alex

    I see two bands of yellow, I wonder if small variations in screen refresh rates have an effect on the colour/effect people see?

  • Kimon is the only one who got this illusion right. Even the MO Illusions guy Vurdlak thinks this circle is spinning, but it isn’t! The several sections are flashing on and off, that is all. The “radiation sign” is stable and so are all the small linear elements. Okay, the colour effect is nice too, bit nicer is that even MO Illusions can be deluded.

  • Edgar

    I see it in black & white, then it stops, and then it speeds up and that is when I see the color pink in a circle with an outline of green. After looking at it for over ten minutes, I saw naked girls with large breasts!! LOL!!

  • Anmol

    I am not able to see any colours enstand of
    Black and white

  • illusion lover

    i see a dark blue and purple radiation signal

  • kennt—

    lol we’ve got different colors, mine is red, it tried to cover my right eye by my left hand, and looked at the center, there’s actualy a reddish color on It’s side wyl it’s spinning,

    I think some person who saw colors like blue, I guess It’s the words colored with blue by it’s side,

  • aki

    at what part of the disc am i supposed to concentrate to see the colors?

  • I saw red lines when I first saw the disk, after reading the post I don’t see the red anymore, interesting. I saw red for sure.

  • hello.

    STUPID LAG!!!!!

  • OvExX

    got the radiation thing.. but no colors u.u

  • debbie

    I just got a headache!

  • Eddie

    Sorry no colours but see it spinning clockwise then anti clockwise.

  • flwrchld74

    I see the radiation sign, and yellow and blue lines. Pretty neat, from a black and white sketch.

  • Raveyn

    I see absolutely nothing, yet i assume the small lines within the white parts of it will ultimately form a triangle or some other form.

  • Colleen

    I see no color. Just drove me nuts.

  • Kathleen

    I’m an artist and you would think I would at least see a color but no. Not even the warning sign. I only got a headache from watching it.

  • Eric

    If you dont see the colours, youre looking to hard. Just relax your eyes.

    As far as how it works – im sure the flashing of the RGB pixels has something to do with it (mainly the red)
    But as this works analog it seems obvious the colours are a result of the slower action of the cones in your eyes (colour sensitive cells) versus the rods (light and dark sensitive)-dont get confused into thinking black and white are light and dark-

    that said its just like staring at something bright; you get that after residue of washed out colour where the shape was
    but with this spinning motion before that slight fade can ebb, it’s replaced with a new design to be absorbed and interpreted
    the ebb and flow of sensory inputs on your cells arriving faster than they can be processed leads to first blurryness – but push that further and you start “blurrying” colour

    wave your finger back and forth, you see a trace – its not there, your eye just needs time to tell your brain that

  • Eric

    baffled scientist for over 100 years? COMMON!!!

  • I see

    I see blue and green lines in two separate groups

  • Seeing Double!

    Green yellow blue red

  • TLM

    I see brown and blue in alternating rows. I also see the radiation symbol. Weird!

  • guy

    i dont see anything

  • mia

    i saw red

  • Debi

    I only saw the original B&W drawing…no colors and no warning…and I watched it for about 10 min trying to see. Is this normal? or am I brain dead? LOL

  • Jeffrey

    I see yellow and blue.

  • me123987645

    i saw some color difference but not much i right now am having trouble focusing my eyes because i am dizzy from staring at that.

  • blightersan

    Nope I must be brain as well never saw any colors. Someone suggested you just need to relax your eyes. I relaxed so much I started to drool which promtly landed on my laptop keyboard and shorted it out.

    I am now on a different computer. I recommend if you try relaxing not to do so without protecting your computer first.

  • whootie

    I got nothing, and I’m usually pretty good
    at this kind of thing.
    Quit looking at it before it gave me a
    migraine. I have enough of those without
    triggering one. lol

  • jennyqw8

    Offf this just hurt my eyes, i only saw a bit of blue lines (maybe?) i stared at this for too long it just ended up glowing! :(

  • guest

    just saw green and radi sign.

  • Code Monkey

    For those not seeing anything, it may be that your browser is rendering the animated gif too slowly. I found in IE that the gif was very slow, but in firefox it ran at full speed and provided the desired effect.

  • jo

    Maybe the disk gif is spinnig to slow to get the effect…coudnt see a thing…but try this vid..

    ..could see yellow and red…;)

    • diane

      Thanks for the youtube link .
      ” I can see clearly now …”

  • Rick

    I see colors and the sign. Unfortunately, I can’t leave my home page up with this on it. Very annoying, and yes, it gives me a headache very quickly.

  • De Wilde Amsterdammer

    It’s very simple to explain.

    White light holds all the colours, black blocks them. When turning the wheel fast enough,the colours will be revealed.

    The same with a White/Yellow/Bleu/Red disk, ordened like pizza slieces. Spin that hard enough and you’ll see just White while all the colours are hidden behind the White.

  • teekay

    If you cant see the color or radiation sign you need to have a faster connection. I looked yesterday at a hotel and did not see anything now today on my faster home connection the disc is spinning faster and I see the symbol and purple color

  • anthony

    crazy shit

  • none of your buissness

    just stare at da dot

  • whootie

    I saw it faster on the email link and I saw blue and yellow. After going to the youtube link I finally saw the red, too. Thanks

  • EricaMiracle

    I can only see yellow… lol

  • Art Lady

    Oh wow that Is amazing! Fantastic!

  • grueeee

    i see dark green and brown with a hint of orange

  • Anonymous#66

    all i c is yellow in the white.

  • Bonus illusion: the “radiation symbol” pattern of the disk appears to slowly rotate to the right, while in fact it does not.

    • NoName

      When you look at the spinning and then look away, the rotating is faster

  • sumone iz here

    I saw yellow then green and then yellow again

  • sumone iz here

    wow, I tried to relax my eyes and think it was all bright colors. I saw yellow glow and the black seemed like lighting! It keeps blinking, I mean the black part, though.

  • Anonymous

    No colors here boss.

  • xP

    It took a while! But then I saw a red cicle rotating in the middle! :S

  • V0rt3x

    the only colors i see are blue and yellow

  • ME

    i think it is because of the frequencies of the light are moving so fast that they blend and make color

    • your mom

      the frequencies didn’t blend, they separated into the different frequencies (colors) of visible light.

      you see yellow and green more because they are in the center of the visible light spectrum.

  • RibShark

    I see a lime green, nothing else. I wonder what causes what colours you see?

  • Camelseal

    Yellowish green and purple…

    Am i the only one who saw purple!?

    • Wanton

      Saw purple!

  • PenguinLover

    I see nothing… Apart from a blinding white glow

  • Karlos

    I saw violet and green .. I didn’t see no yellow and I am not color blind

  • Optical illusions

    I see nothing What so ever..

    Besides a Spinning disk.. XP

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  • Mevin1

    I saw a grey, for some reason i see a dark yellow-green when it’s actually grey(not black).

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