Ninja’s Colorful Shuriken Illusion


A shuriken, our word of the day, is a traditional Japanese concealed weapon that was generally used for throwing, and sometimes stabbing or slashing. They are sharpened hand-held blades made from a variety of everyday items such as nails, knives, washers, and other flat plates of metal. When translated from Japanese, it literally means “sword hidden in the hand”. Here in the west it’s most commonly known as “throwing star”, “ninja star” or inaccurately as “Chinese stars”, though they took many different shapes and designs during the time they were used.

So what does all of this have to do with our latest optical illusion, you ask? Not much except visual similarity, I guess. I just thought it would be cool to mention ninjas and shurikens in the paragraph above. Ok, now let me explain how the illusion works – If you concentrate on the central dot in the animation below, after seeing the first frame consisting of two overlapped colored objects, you get the impression next two frames are showcasing isolated objects filled with appropriate fluorescent color! In reality, all frames except first lack color, and what you perceive as color afterwards is just an afterimage burnt in your retina! Don’t worry though, it only lasts couple of seconds…

Concentrate on the black central dot, and see the colors magically appear!
  • EngrDude

    Interesting, I am actually seeing the colors reversed from the initial image in the following frames.

  • Chris

    Another interesting feature is as the star turns on it’s side, it appears to shrink, with the “larger” start moving from one side to the other.

  • Care Bear

    I’ve seen enough to know that I’ve seen too much.

  • Hi, just a passing comment – I have the site as part of my google desktop – and whenever you put up an animated gif it drives me nuts – maybe you could consider putting up an “unanimated” image of the illusion and use a caption to let people know it is animated on the MOI site?
    I love the effort you put into the website and appreciate your work!

    • Ann

      I agree!

  • Matjl

    neat, not too colorful, but cool to look at, i really like this sight, and sometimes get lost in all the illusions i want to see

    • spelling corrector

      site not sight

  • me123987645


  • Jenny

    I really like your random spiel on shurikens at the beginning, but like always I wish you would cite your sources. I am happy with just Wikipedia too, you know. But the main focus of this post is the illusion so let me re-focus.

    I am very amused that our brains are so silly. Seeing the burned afterimages of the shurikens is a given and understandable since that is purely a biological mechanism of our eyes. But to go as far as to filling the gray area with color too? Haha, our brains really do overwork themselves.

  • eric

    simple but awesome
    – you got the monster hallway perspective Chris mentions
    and the negative after image
    – not sure exactly how but the cones if your eye (colour detecting cells) are also affected by visual field perceptions (i.e. linear directions or movement) diagonal (to the right )being associated with red, diagonal (to the left) associated with green and vertical with blue, horizontal with yellow… something like that

  • Brian

    I’m just not seeing anything at all. I don’t get it.

    • abby baff

      i don’t get it i don’t see anything just stars
      but can you send some to me so i can try some more and get it

    • Plot

      if youstare at this youseethree of them with the center one in 3-D

  • Steve

    I see the two blank start appear with colour in them left one is pink while the right is blue and then they alternate colours.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry, but I don’t really get it.
    Like the story about ninjas though.

    • Vurdlak

      just look at the star without blinking and moving your eyes. do you see the faint color?

  • Menno Manheim

    That is interesting. You would expect the reversed colors, but not that they are selected by the shape. Very interesting.

  • Ribber

    The color afterimage is no new thing, but the fact that the afterimage colors shift as the outline shifts is really quite amazing.

  • sm1234

    What is interesting here is that although the centeral overlap of the two seperate shapes share the same colour, your brain (well,mine at least)tells you that it has the same colour as the corresponding outer part. And it knows to switch them!

  • mycaricature

    It’s subtle, but nice one!

  • Devam


  • Ice

    It is really cool, but doesn’t this only happen when there are REALLY bright colors? Like maybe staring down the sun? (Don’t stare down the sun…i don’t want to be responsble for your blindness!!) lol

  • nikhil twar

    There is second interesting illusion in above picture without animation (in 1st frame/pic of animation).
    If u stare the dot ninja plates starts to disappear..

  • Illusion man

    It took me awhile because my eyes dont stay still. .

    *Hee-hee* colors. :)

  • Ktee

    Sweeeeet!!!! i just wanna stair @ it for hours

  • micheal

    its like blue in right side and pink in left side and then they spin and get reversed wow interesting

  • boring show me other stuff anyone agree?

  • Berenise

    Nice colours for a ninja!

  • stretch

    don’t get it… colors magically appear?
    if this is magical i’m harry houdini…..

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