Arts & Culture

Anamorphosis: Expected To Unconventional

Art can sometimes feel rather straightforward, especially when depicting something within reality; creativity can feel limited.  Anamorphosis takes the mundane or expected and turns it into an engrossing piece of art.  Derived from the Greek word that means “to transform,” anamorphosis uses shifts in perspective or angles to form unconventional conversation starters. 

The Collins Dictionary defines anamorphosis as, “a technique of perspective to produce a distorted image that will look normal when viewed from a particular angle or with a special mirror.”  Below is an example of an anamorphic drawing: 

The original image is designed specifically to be viewed in a cylindrical mirror.  The artist had this architectural structure in his mind from the start as shown on the cylinder.  But rather than printing it normally onto paper, the artist chose to draw it ever so carefully as to show properly when reflected in the mirror.  However, this form of art isn’t limited to a flat piece of paper; It extends to sculptures made of glass, clay, or even ceramic dishes.  

And it doesn’t stop there!  Anamorphic art is also a form of optical illusions.  While many optical illusions involve still images that seem as though they are moving, or straight lines appearing crooked, it really refers to anything having to do with the eyes and perspectives.  The Ames Room is a perfect example of this: on one end of the room it appears the people are very small, but on the opposite end everyone looks gigantic.  Some paintings found on a series of walls, in a hallway, or on stairs look like a jumbled mess until seen standing from a certain point.  

One of the most famous instances of anamorphic art is within the well-known painting, “The Ambassadors.”

Towards the base of the painting, in-between the two ambassadors, is a strangely distorted object that almost looks like a piece of driftwood.  However, when viewing it from the bottom right of the painting at a very specific angle, it suddenly becomes clear that it is a skull.  

So how is this technique accomplished?  It takes a lot of work and patience, especially for a larger scale project.  There are multiple kinds of anamorphic art, but the two discussed in this article are mirror and perspective.  Those who create mirror art usually use a grid system that helps them draw a perfectly distorted image while projectors are sometimes used for perspective anamorphosis.  Similarly to different forms of art, each artist has a slightly variating process to achieve their end goals.  However, anamorphosis is a more technical and even slightly mathematical art configuration, which can be helpful for beginners–instead of trying to figure it out they can follow preset “guidelines” or use a grid that has already been created by someone else.  

Anamorphic artistry takes a lot of patience and careful calculations.  However, it’s a great boredom buster, a way to change up the expected, and a challenge to the artistic mind.  Anything can become the canvas—buildings, stairs, plates, or even rocks.  Anamorphosis really has no limits! 


Works cited: 

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Anamorphosis.” Britannica, 6 Jun. 2016,  

“Anamorphosis.” Collins Dictionary.

Franchi, Thibaud Genevois. “Optical Illusions (or Anamorphosis): The Latest Trend in Graphic Design.” Pixar Printing, 9 Oct. 2019,

Buchanan, Heather. “The Illusion of Anamorphic Art.” Up & Coming Art, 11 Jun. 2020,

Hurst, Ashley.  “Anamorophic Art, Then and Now.” The Virtual Instructor, 14 May 2019,

Fox, Serena. “The Art of Anamorphic Illusion.” Creative Cloud Adobe,  





  1. Wow this is fascinating Emma! Reminds me of a couple of those street artists we read about for class.

  2. Whoa…. how does someone have the patience to create art like that?!?!??!

  3. Fascinating!