Eye-Popping Op Art

Eye-Popping Op Art lesson plan

Create the illusion of 3-dimensional space in the Op Art style of Victor Vasarely.

  • 1.

    Artist Victor Vasarely, born on April 9, 1908 in Pecs, Hungary, is best known as creator of Op Art, a style that uses geometric forms and color contrast to create the illusion of 3-D space. Another European artist, Josef Albers, experimented with the visual effects of placing one color next to another. Vasarely further uses color and shape to make his paintings seem to leap from the canvas.

  • 2.

    Compare Raphael's School of Athens to Vasarely's Tokyo. Raphael's work, creates a sense of deep space by using linear perspective, an artistic device that creates the illusion of depth on a flat surface by using a vanishing point as a point of reference. Objects seem smaller in the distance, and one object placed in front of another seems larger. Compare this work to Vasarely's work. There is still an illusion of space, but different visual clues are given, and the subject matter is primarily non-objective, containing only geometric shapes.

  • 3.

    Look at Vasarely's Oetvoes or Rivotril. These are 2-D paintings, but the impression is of a 3-D form. Vasarely uses contrast and curved lines to fool the eye. Human beings are used to the effects of light and shadow to inform them of an object's shape. By carefully placing colors, Vasarely creates the optical illusion of 3-D.

  • 4.

    To create a painting in the manner of Vasarely, cover a table with recycled newspaper. Begin by sketching a geometric pattern on a small sheet of paper with Crayola® Colored Pencils. Transfer your sketch in a larger size to poster board. You could use a ruler or straight edge to make clean, straight lines.

  • 5.

    To create an optical illusion, use contrasting colors of Crayola Tempera Paints. Choose only three or four colors, and place very bright colors next to very dark colors. Use lighter values (mix white paint with the color to create a tint) to make parts of


  • Students study the work of Hungarian artist Victor Vasarely and recognize the visual components of Op Art.
  • Children compare traditional Renaissance perspective with Op Art's illusion of three-dimensional space.
  • Students create an original painting that creates the illusion of three dimensions.


  • Identify the shapes that Vasarely used in his paintings. Explore the possibilities of using your own mosaic pieces of these shapes to create similar illusions of depth.
  • Experiment with color. Draw a square surrounded by a larger square. Repeat this exact drawing on a second sheet of paper. Mix a small amount of a single color of paint. Paint both inner squares with this color. Paint the first outer square with a warm col
  • Do further research on how the human eye perceives color and dimension. Check out the visual illusions and other optical wonders of vision in Hoffman's Visual Intelligence.
  • Younger children and special needs students may benefit from short practice sessions using markers to experiment with color choices and geometric patterns before participating in this activity.