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Moiré Patterns

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    The Exploratorium

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Moiré Patterns

In this activity about light and perception, learners create and observe moire patterns. These special patterns, which appear when two repetitive patterns overlap, can also be used to help learners understand wave interference. Learners will use various objects including pocket combs, window screens, and transparencies to investigate moire patterns in different ways.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • 2 identical pocket combs, or a pocket comb and a mirror
  • 2 pieces of window screen, or a window screen, a sheet of white cardboard, and a bright light
  • Access to a copy machine
  • 2 transparencies made from the pattern provided in this Snack
  • (optional) Moire patterns are commercially available from the Exploratorium Store in the form of plastic bags decorated with repetitive patterns, in the book Seeing the Light (a shimmer pattern is on page 259), in The Moving Pattern Book, and in the Kaleidograph set


  • Life Sciences
    • Human Body
      • The Brain and Nervous System
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Vision
      • Perception
  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Patterns
  • Physical Sciences
    • Light and Optics
      • Lenses and Mirrors
      • Reflection and Refraction
      • Sunlight and Color
      • Vibration and Waves
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Wave Properties
      • Wave Motion
      • Light and Optics
      • Diffraction and Interference


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All Rights Reserved, The Exploratorium,

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation
  • California Department of Education
  • NEC Foundation of America