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Benham's Disk

Source Institutions

    University of Washington

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Benham's Disk

In this activity, learners make a Benham Top to explore visual illusions and optics. This activity guide includes three different instructions for making the spinner using various recycled materials (old CD, margarine container top, cardboard). The site includes disk graphics (large and small) as well as a blank disk for learners to make their own patterns. The site also explains theories about how the Benham's Disk, with a pattern of black and white marks, can cause people to see colors. Note: supply requirements will depend on the type of Benham's disk you want to build; not all supplies listed are required.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • Compact Disk (CD)
  • Penny
  • Pliers
  • Bunsen burner
  • Plastic round container top (margarine containers work well)
  • Toothpick
  • Metal nail
  • Cardboard
  • Marker or pen
  • Scissors or exacto knife
  • Benham disk graphics


  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • The Brain and Nervous System
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Vision
      • Perception
  • Physical Sciences
    • Light and Optics
      • Sunlight and Color
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Light and Optics
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Toys


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Chudler, Ph.D., Eric H.


  • All Rights Reserved, Eric H. Chudler, ©2009


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