Byopia Press Advent Calendar 2020: Day Twelve and Some Thaumatropes

This is a new version of my thaumatrope post from September 17, 2017. I have updated the printable files, and included more instructions on how to make a thaumatrope with your own drawing.


While doing research for a post on animation I came across a number of thaumatropes. There’s an engraving of an early thaumatrope (found here) from Popular Scientific Recreations by Gaston Tissandier (ca. 1890).

Here’s a short video of a traditional bird in cage thaumatrope in action.

I thought it might be fun to design some thaumatropes myself.


Of course I had to include a traditional bird in cage.


Download and print (on cardstock) advent 2020 thaumatrope. The thaumatropes on the page are all designed to be mounted on a stick. A barbecue skewer is ideal, so long as it is straight. (You can check for straightness by rolling the skewer on a flat surface.) There is a small red dot at the top and bottom of each thaumatrope to help you make sure that the stick is centred.

Cut out your preferred thaumatrope, completely removing the black outline. Be careful not to cut through the middle where the two circles are joined. Apply glue to your stick and to the blank side of the cutout. Glue the circles back to back, making sure that your stick is centred. Don’t forget to align your stick with the red dots.

Operate your thaumatrope by holding the stick between your palms and rolling it by rubbing your palms together. You can watch a video of a particularly clever stick thaumatrope here.

I found that my thaumatropes work best when viewed in relatively low light against a dark background.

If you would like to make a thaumatrope with your own image, you can download and print advent 2020 blank thaumatrope. The blanks can be used to make either a stick thaumatrope or the more traditional string version.

Cut out one of the thaumatropes and trace a circle to match one side of the cutout. Draw or trace a picture inside the circle. I picked a clipart image of a snowman to use in my examples below.

If you are making a stick thaumatrope, fold your circle in half to mark the vertical centre of the image, then trim off just enough of the circle at the top and bottom so that you can match the vertical fold with the red dots on your cutout. If you are making the string version, the fold should be horizontal.

Transfer part of your image to one side of the cutout, and the rest of your image to the other side.*

If you are making a stick thaumatrope, do it this way.

If you are making the more traditional string version, do it this way.

You can punch the holes for the string through the red dots.

*You can create your own carbon paper to make transferring your design easier. After you have drawn your design and folded it to mark the centre, unfold it and lay it face down on a flat surface. Take a soft pencil and rub heavily over the back of your design. An HB pencil will work, but a 2B or softer would be better.

Take a small scrap of paper and rub in a circular motion, polishing the pencil mark.

Turn your circle image side up and lay it over the surface you wish to copy onto. Trace over your design.

You can see my not very neatly traced circle at the upper left in the image below.

For your possible inspiration, here’s an unusual set of thaumatropes by Stefan Giger.

If you don’t wish to make your own thaumatrope but would like to watch a digital version, here’s a 2020-appropriate one from Anastasia Ladan.

About Byopia Press

I have been working in the book arts field for more than twenty years, and operating Byopia Press with my husband David since the late 1990s. I began producing artist's books and altered books in 2004.
This entry was posted in DIY, free printable, instructions, paper toy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Byopia Press Advent Calendar 2020: Day Twelve and Some Thaumatropes

  1. Pingback: Byopia Press Advent Calendar 2020: Day Twenty-one and Paper Rockets | Byopia Press

  2. Pingback: Last Post for the Year and an Index for the Byopia Press Advent Calendar 2020 | Byopia Press

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