draw your own 3D image

DIY 3D Hand-drawn Pictures – FUNctional STEAM

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Functional STEAM header

A picture of a hamburger is great. But a picture where a hamburger flies out towards your face is ultimately better and way more fun. 3D movies and graphics are getting more and more sophisticated but the basic science principles are the same as how we use our eyes every day.


Some people use complicated technology to create 3D pictures but let’s draw them by hand! Just think of all the crazy stuff you can design.

Time: 5 min prep, 20 min activity

What you need

3D image supplies

Special Materials

□ 3D glasses with red and blue lens (the simple paper ones)


□ 2 pieces of blank white paper

□ Several colored pencils or markers, different shades of blue and red
□ 1 black pen or thin-tipped marker
□ Plain graphite pencil
□ Masking or drafting tape


□ Ruler

Before you start

First you need to match the shade of colored pencils or markers with the shade of red and blue in your glasses. If either color is not just right, the 3D picture won’t work as well.

finding the perfect fit for the blue lens

❶ Draw short lines with each of your pencils/markers on a scratch paper. Now hold your glasses up to the lines on the paper.

❷ The red color must disappear when viewed with the red lens and be dark or black when viewed in the blue side of the glasses. The one that disappears best looking through the red lens is the color you should use for your 3D picture.

❸ The blue color needs to disappear when viewed with the blue lens and be dark or black when viewed in the red side of the glasses. The one that disappears best looking through the blue lens is the color you should use for your 3D picture.

Science Zone

3D pictures and movies use a process that our brains are very familiar with: stereoscopic vision!

Each of our eyes sees the world from a slightly different angle but they see these two slightly different images at the same time. Our brain then puts the two images together and uses the differences between the images to calculate distance. Viola! 3D!

The Challenge

Make a 3D picture that actually works.  At the end your picture will look something like this but it will really POP with the glasses!

3D image finished

❶ On a blank sheet of paper, take a ruler and measure 0.75 in (1.9 cm) from the right side of the paper and draw a vertical line that is parallel to the right side of the paper.

❷ Using a plain graphite pencil, draw a picture making sure that no part of the picture crosses over the line you just drew on the right edge of the paper. Make the picture simple like basic shapes that don’t overlap. Once you get the hang of it, you can make more complicated pictures.

❸ Trace over the pencil drawing with the black pen or thin-tipped marker then erase any pencil that may still be visible.

Science Zone

The red and blue lenses in 3D glasses mimic stereoscopic vision. The red picture and the blue picture are slightly different – just like how our eyes see things. The red lens only lets you see the blue lines. The blue lens only lets you see the red lines. This means the filters make sure each eye only sees one picture at a time. Your brain takes the two slightly different images coming from each eye and makes a 3D picture!!

❹ For this first picture, we will be doing 4 layers. You can try it out will more layers later. One layer will be a regular layer that appears to be flat on the paper when viewed with 3D glasses. Other layers will look like they are sticking out in front of the paper or buried within the background of the picture. The more layers you have the more depth your picture will have.

❺ With a black pen or marker, write a number 1 in or next to every object that will be in the first layer (the layer that will appear to be closest to you). Repeat this process writing a number 2 next to each object you want in layer 2. Continue labeling objects until every object is assigned a layer.

❻ Place a blank piece of paper on top of your picture, and line it up with the pencil line at the right edge of the paper. Tape both pieces of paper to the window with a piece of tape at the top and another piece of tape at the bottom of the paper.

window drawing

❼ Trace ALL objects with the red marker or pencil. Trace as carefully as possible. The better the tracing, the better the 3D effect.

Project Tip #1

Parts of the picture that are drawn or traced in both red and blue must be the same size and shape. In other words, the drawings must be as exact as possible. If not, the picture may be blurry.

❽ Now trace all objects assigned to layer 1 with a blue marker or pencil.

❾ Slide the bottom piece of paper about 0.25 in (0.64 cm) to the left. Make sure both pieces of paper still line up at the top and bottom. Trace all layer 2 objects with the blue marker or pencil (See Project Tip #2 and #3).

Project Tip #2

When tracing with a blue marker or pencil, you may overlap red lines. This is never a problem. Blue can overlap red. However, blue can never overlap another blue line. When you get to a blue line, stop tracing.

Project Tip #3

Sometimes you may need to extend a blue line further than the picture you are tracing. When two objects overlap each other on the original drawing, and they will be on different layers, when traced they will become further apart (yeah, it’s confusing…).

So, you will need to continue the lines until the objects are still touching. See the example image.

3D drawing tip

❿ Move the paper about 0.25 in (0.64 cm) to the left again and trace all layer 3 objects.

⓫ Repeat this process until all objects have been traced. Make sure that you move the paper left for every new layer. Your last layer will be when both pieces of paper are lined up on the top and bottom as well as the sides.

⓬ Now put your 3D glasses on and look at your picture. Viewing a 3D picture is best from a distance. Start close to the picture and move backwards until the image really pops!

3D glasses

Think about it

  • Is this method of drawing create real 3D pictures? Why or why not?

Real 3D pictures have objects that have length, width AND depth. The pictures we are drawing are really just flat objects that appear closer or further away than other flat objects. These objects have no depth and are not true 3D pictures.

Mission Possible?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to draw a true 3D picture with at least one object that has depth. You will need to draw a reference object and a 3D object.

You will need to brainstorm ideas on what to draw and how to draw it and then experiment. Good luck. This message will never self-destruct, unless you dunk it in the toilet or something….

STEAM careers – Cartography

3D map

3D technology is becoming very important, especially in the world of map-making. Those maps are made by a cartographer who designs paper or digital maps.

When do you ever need a 3D map? A company might use them for planning a wind farm or they can help you navigate Haleakala National Park in Hawaii. Topographical 2D maps have information about hills and heights but it is harder to imagine than looking at a 3D image.

Wondering what makes this is STEAM? Click the tabs below.

Science – learn about stereoscopic vision!
Tech – explore the low tech way to create 3D images
Engineering – build your own rockets
Art – get creative to make them even faster
Math –

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