VIDEO Real-life Checkers Illusion


Checkers optical illusion, one of the very first illusions to appear on this site, an old time goodie and my personal favorite is blessed with the regular habit to reappear out of nowhere. In whichever form it gets recycled, the effect stands strong and it always gets best reviews. Just check out today’s real-life video of the original checkers illusion, shot in a professional studio.

Youtuber who goes under the name of brusspup noticed how this illusion has been around for a long time but always in the form of an image. His goal was to take it away from a flat piece of paper and turn it into a real, life-sized illusion that people could interact with. Obviously, brusspup has succeeded. He even included a scaled-down template for us to download and play with (file courtesy – brusspup).

Here’s how the author explained the effect and what he has done to achieve it:

The illusion works because of the “shadow” that falls on the checkerboard. Lets think of the square that the shadow falls on. Now picture that the shadow doesn’t exist: you would see a light colored square surrounded by the dark colored squares. But when the shadow falls on top of that light colored square, the shadow causes the shade to become darker but it also causes the surrounding darker squares to become darker. So within the shadow region the brightness and darkness of the squares are still relative to one another. But they are no longer relative to the squares that lie outside of the shadow.

So if you were able to pick up the middle square and move it to one of the outside dark squares, they would be 2 different shades, But the trick is ..that when you move the square you are moving it WITH the shadow still printed on the square. So now you’ve moved it out of its relative area, outside of the shadow region (but with the shadow still printed on the square) the area where it’s the same shade as the “dark” square.

  • Wow, very nice. Nice music in the background too.

  • Peter

    My first reaction was “No, this shouldn’t work!”. But then I realized that there are two illusions going on in the video.

    Very well done. I almost would not have been able to sleep tonight!

    Also, brilliant idea to include the template.

  • Slammer

    That is awesome!!!!!! Not much else I can say about it.

  • Steve

    Absolutely very cool!

  • Mike Affronte

    it is like mood ring as you move the paper into stronger light it darkens and away from strong light it lightens , simlar to light sensing lenses you your glasses that become sun glasses in sunlight and regular lenses in indoor light. solar senative

    • Jeffrey

      …no it’s not. It’s a normal piece of paper…

  • Dro

    thats so cool i fell stupid

  • Very cool, and well shot as well :)

  • Glosom


  • brad

    yeah, i love brusspup, all his videos are awe-inspiring :D

  • kevin

    Holy shit!

  • jcm

    very nice. in slow motion you can really appreciate how it the effect kicks in, specially when crossing the shadow line

  • eee efff geee


  • Woody

    that’s just stupid!

    • AmberC

      Just like all braid dead liberals. Anything that mystifies, confuses or baffles you is stupid. You really need to get into a liberal recovery group. Those that have gone through the 12 Step program will react to this with the phrase, “WHATEVER”. Then you know your in recovery and there’s still hope for you.

  • alter

    awesome illusion, but i think the better illusion is the fact that the girl is a guy, had me fooled.

    • eee efff geee

      same here ♦.♦

  • Blah

    It’s a really cool illusion, though I already saw it on youtube.

    First comment? :D

  • michiimikki


  • U Kyaw Linj

    what would happen if you take the cylinder away. Will it still work? Can you create the effect by removing the cylinder that creates the shadow?

  • If the column produces such a strong shadow at its right side, the rim of the board should produce shadow on its richt side also. It doesn’t do so, so we can conclude that much of the colums shadow is fake. The high light takes most of it away. A bit of this shadow is left, as we can see when the girl/guy passes his/her hand through the shadow.

  • Valerie

    The girls a guy…what!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • GENIUS!!! The artist explained the “Light Color Shadow Effect” PERFGENIUSECT!!! I would have NEVER even thought of that aspect of the illusion on my own!!!! ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!!!!!!!


  • sazml

    my friend has a hard time understanding this illusion to be just that … an illusion. he has come up with all sorts of arguments trying to prove its “fake”. even with the still image edditions of this illusion he still finds space to argue that its somehow a “fake” image with “encoded cells” he thinks its “fake” and thinks the cell actually dos change colour!
    he is so taken by the illusion he cant belive the truth.
    the brain makes it apear difrent in colour/shade relitive to its surrounding colour when moved.

  • GENIUS!!! The artist explained the “Light Color Shadow Effect” in this Illusion PERFECTLY!!! I would have NEVER even thought of that aspect of the Illusion on my own!!!! ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT!!!!!!!

    Thanks for including the artist’s explanation!

  • Dave

    If you hit pause at the right time, you can have the moving square touching both of its target squares at the same time. It’s easy to see, then, that all three squares are the same shade. Especially if you block out the rest of the checkerboard/surroundings with your hands.

    When I printed this illusion some years ago, I also took a cover sheet, and cut holes over the two target squares. When the cover sheet is in place – you can tell they’re the same color. But lift it? No way!

  • Peter

    So tell me this. How is it that when the light square with the shadow on it gets moved out of the shadow into the light, it keeps the shadow? Easy to understand when you look at the template and everything is printed. Much harder to do when you are dealing with video in real life and everything is done with lighting.

    As I said before, this should not work the way it does in the video. Sp how did he do it???

    • Congrats Peter, I think you are the only one who grasped the real problem. As I pointed out above (August 18, 2011 at 11:39 am), the shadow is fake. The tiles in the “shadow zone” are painted darker, so if you would remove the column, the “shadow” would still be there.

  • Josh

    Nope… don’t understand

  • Stan

    Nice to see this – got into a big argument on-line about this a few months ago. I insisted the shadow had to be painted on for this to work, and got nothing but flak for being a conspiracy theorist!!

  • Bruce Henderson

    The video is actually an illusion of the original illusion. The original image just made a shadowed light square dark enough to match a dark square outside of the shadow. The video has the same appearance when viewed statically; the movement of the square which proves it is *really* the same color as the darker appearing square reveals the new illusion–created by a fake painted-on shadow on the board. The lighting washes out the real shadow sufficiently to make one think the fake shadow is there due to lighting rather than pigment.

  • Bruce Henderson

    So stan is right, as I was (also caught a lot of flak). I finally spoke w/ the originator of the illusion by email, who confirmed the ‘fake’ shadow.

  • Lol

    This is obviously a fake!!!
    You see,both the squares are suppose to be of the same color.The whit square is in the shadow while the grey one is in the lighted part.So if you move the shadowed box to the lighted part,it
    suppose to be a lighter shade.
    Well at last thats what i think.

  • Great idea but terrible execution.

  • alex

    mind blown 0.o

  • Jacob

    I just found out how this is actually impossible. I used to think that it was true especially when i saw they moved the peace BUT if those 2 peaces are the same than the rest of the white peaces in the shaded area would be the same as all the gray peaces in each of the light areas. I JUST CAME UP WIT DAT LOL!!! :-) Peace.

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