Can you eye-spy the shark in this Magic Eye image? Experts reveal how the fun puzzles work – and why not all people can spot the hidden 3D images

IF you’re a true 90s kid, you’ll remember Magic Eye puzzles were all the rage, along with the treasured Tamagotchi.

There was always someone who claimed to see the hidden picture immediately, while everyone else was driven crossed-eyed until they just gave up and pretended they could spot it all along.


If you have good eyesight, you should be able to see the shark in this magic eye puzzleCredit: Wikimedia Commons

The ‘Magic Eye’ books were a hugely popular series and contained pages and pages of various patterns that would reveal a hidden image or message if you focused your eyes correctly. 

They played a particularly formative part of 90s kids’ childhood, because seeing a hidden message that your parents couldn’t was “da bomb!” – bear in mind there was no Snapchat back then.

What is a Magic Eye puzzle?

Magic Eye puzzles are stereograms, which are two dimensional pictures that can create three-dimensional images depending on how you look at them.

Some stereograms are designed to be viewed cross-eyed, but the ones published in the famous Magic Eye books were designed for divergent viewing.

This basically means holding the image right up to your nose so it gets blurry, then focusing as though you are looking through the image into the distance before pulling away.


If you’re successful, a three-dimensional image should appear in the patterned stereogram.

Although Magic Eye puzzles were all the rage in the 90s, the idea had been around for decades before then.

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They were developed as part of an investigation into human perception – specifically the mechanisms involved in taking the two separate images created by your two eyes, and combining them into one.


How to see a Magic Eye picture according to the makers of Magic Eye:

  • Hold the centre of the printed image right up to your nose. It should be blurry.
  • Focus as though you are looking through the image into the distance.
  • Very slowly move the image away from your face until the two squares above the image turn into three squares. If you see four squares, move the image further away from your face until you see three squares. If you see one or two squares, start again!
  • When you clearly see three squares, hold the page still, and the hidden image will magically appear.
  • Once you perceive the hidden image and depth, you can look around the entire 3D image. The longer you look, the clearer the illusion becomes. The further away you hold the page, the deeper it becomes.
  • How magic eye puzzles work

    Buckle up, because here comes the science bit.

    When you glance at a Magic Eye, it may look like a fuzzy picture, but when you view it with focused eyes, a three-dimensional image forms.

    That’s because your subconscious decodes difference in the repeating pattern of the fuzzy lines.

    When your eyes focus normally, the line of vision from each eye meets in the same place on the page.

    Your brain then works out how far away the picture is by comparing the different views from each eye.

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    Why can’t some people see them?

    Most Magic Eye problems are to do with the way the eyes work with each other and the brain.

    To view 3D stereo images, your peepers have to work together as a coordinated team – if they aren’t ‘pulling together’, you’re going to have some glitches in your vision.

    If you have sight problems, that is the most likely reason you can’t see the image.

    If not, it’s probably just a matter of technique.

    Categories: Optical Illusion
    Source: HIS Education

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