Skip to main content

Mind-bending optical illusion perplexes the internet

A seemingly coloured photo of a group of teenagers.
(Image credit: Manuel Schmalsteig / Øyvind Kolås)

Optical illusions have been blowing the minds of the internet for a while now and the latest illusion to surface is no different. At first glance this photo of a group of teens looks to be in full colour, right? Wrong. 

This black and white image is using a 'colour assimilation grid illusion' which has tricked our brains into thinking that it's in full colour. This effect has been made by laying a grid of coloured lines over the original black-and-white image. You can have a go at making your own 3D illusions using our helpful step-by-step guide.

A seemingly colour photo of a group of teenagers.

If you look at this photo from a distance, you wouldn't even know it was black and white.  (Image credit: Chuwa Francis)

Optical scientist Bart Anderson told ScienceAlert "The colour system is what vision scientists refer to as 'low pass', i.e., many of the receptive fields that code colour are quite large. The grids get 'averaged' with the achromatic background, which then gets attributed to that part of the image." And as one Twitter user calculated, 36% of this photo is actually coloured, so technically our brains are just filling in the gaps, making the photo look coloured.

Digital media artist and software developer Øyvind Kolås is the man behind the illusion. Kolås has experimented with a number of different overlay textures to see what would work best. The artist was able to create a similar but less effective illusion with dots, stripes and also words. 

Image 1 of 3

A seemingly coloured photo of people in a classroom

Kolås' optical illusion using different coloured words. (Image credit: Manuel Schmalsteig / Øyvind Kolås)
Image 2 of 3

A seemingly coloured photo of people in a classroom

Kolås' optical illusion using different coloured stripes. (Image credit: Manuel Schmalsteig / Øyvind Kolås)
Image 3 of 3

A seemingly coloured photo of people in a classroom

Kolås' optical illusion using different coloured dots. (Image credit: Manuel Schmalsteig / Øyvind Kolås)

We aren't the only ones feeling completely mesmerised by these illusions — the internet is also totally baffled, with users taking to Twitter to express their confusion. One user even had a go at making their own colour grid assimilation illusion. 

See more
See more
See more

We love a great illusion here at Creative Bloq and this magically coloured photo is no exception. After knowing all the science behind this trick of the eye, we feel inspired to have a go at making our own. If you enjoyed this illusion, you may like our list of 12 mind-bending optical illusions.

Read More:

Amelia Bamsey

Amelia Bamsey is the Staff Writer for Creative Bloq. Cornish born-and-bred, Amelia has a passion for all things art, design, photography and music.