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25 Optical Illusions That Will Make Your Brain Hurt

From spinning circles to disappearing dots, these insane optical illusions aren't what they appear to be. Are you ready to have your mind blown?

1Barsukov Vladimir/shutterstock

Parallel lines

These lines appear to be angled up or down, but the horizontal lines are actually all parallel. Need proof? Try covering the top and bottom of one line of squares with a piece of paper. No slants to be found! Learn more about how this optical illusion works.


Spinning seeds

Your eyes will keep jumping to the spinning sunbursts of seeds—even though they’re all staying still. Optical illusions may get the best of you, but these games will boost your brainpower.


Hidden message

Lose your focus a bit (seriously—try to go a little cross-eyed) and you’ll spot a secret message hiding in the black dots. Take a closer look, though, and the words will disappear from sight. We bet you didn’t know that these famous paintings also had hidden messages.

4Iva Villi/shutterstock

All about perspective

Can you figure out which of these windows is bigger? Not only are they the exact same size, but their tops and bottoms are also directly in line with each other. Talk about a new perspective. Speaking of a new perspective, boggle your mind with these photos of everyday objects—taken from a side you rarely see.

5De V/shutterstock

Innie or outie?

Is the smallest point of this black and white illusion pointing in or sticking out? It’s anyone’s guess. Check out this other optical illusion that makes squiggles look straight.


Disappearing dots

An oldie but goodie. Your brain thinks there’s a black circle inside each white one—until you focus on that white circle. Then you realize it was never there at all.


Rotating circles

When your eyes dart to one seemingly spinning circle, the others around them appear to start rotating. Your eyes don’t know where to look! For more pictures that bend your mind, see if you can guess what these everyday objects are based on close-up photos of them.

8Peter Hermes Furian/shutterstock

Large and small

Which blue dot is bigger: the one on the left or the one on the right? Good for you if you guessed the same size! The left just looks smaller compared to the big circles and empty space around it.


New squares

At first glance, the four diamonds in this picture pop right out. But look closer—there’s not a single line creating those shapes. The contrast between the black and white makes your brain assume they exist. In addition to optical illusions, find out which other everyday things secretly mess with your brain.

10Andrey Korshenkov/Shutterstock

Spinning colors

Optical illusions like this will leave you dazed and confused. The colors seem to be swirling around, even though it’s a still image.

11Peter Hermes Furian/shutterstock

Long and short

Which horizontal line is shorter: the top or the bottom? Trick question—they’re the same size, even though your mind perceives the one with outward wings to be longer. If you love optical illusions, see if you can figure out how many triangles are in this tricky image.

12Mark Grenier/shutterstock


Looks like the background is spinning around a circle, but both are staying completely still.

Polka dot ball rolling along the polka dot surface. Abstract vector optical illusion illustration. Extravagant background and tile of seamless wallpaper.Guten Tag Vector/Shutterstock

Moving right along

It looks like the background underneath the sphere is moving downward, like a conveyer belt or a slow treadmill. But it’s a completely still image!

The optical illusion of movement executed in the form of fluctuating pink and lilac polygonsSkripnichenko Tatiana/Shutterstock

Ripple effect

Are you sure the circles in this image aren’t moving? Are you sure they’re not rippling in a wavelike motion? But really—are you positive? This wild illusion might smoke your head as much as these 25 trickiest riddles ever.

Poggendorff geometrical optical illusion. The red line appears to be continuing behind the gray rectangle but it is the blue line. Misperception of a position. Illustration on white background. VectorPeter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock

Connected lines

Which of the two lines on the right side of the gray rectangle connects to the one on the left side? As you can see from the image on the right, it’s the one on the bottom (labeled in blue)—not the one on the top! When you can’t see the whole picture (literally), these optical illusions can seriously throw you for a loop.

Optical illusion - red squares look distorted - with explanation on the rightIva Villi/Shutterstock

Wacky squares

Some of these optical illusions make your head spin! In the optical illusion on the left, the red squares look warped and crooked, like something out of a funhouse. But on the right, when the crazy arrangement of black and white lines is faded to almost nothing, you can see that the red squares are actually as straight and square as can be.

optical illusionpicoStudio/Shutterstock

Squiggly squares

The lines that make up these squares are completely straight—yes, all of them, even the ones in the middle! The placement of the miniature squares-within-the-squares warps the lines and makes them look curved. Continue to test out your brain power with these 19 brain teasers that will leave you stumped.

bending lines illusionCourtesy Lenstore

Bending lines

These red lines might look curved outward—but they’re completely straight! This and the next seven before-and-after images are courtesy of Lenstore, inspired by their mind-boggling “In Perspective” project showcasing optical illusions like these.

how many colorsCourtesy Lenstore

How many colors?

Can you figure out how many colors are in this image in total? Did you guess four? Turns out it’s only three! The square in the upper right of this image looks like it contains blue and pink stripes; the one in the lower left seems to have green and orange ones. But, believe it or not, the “blue” and “green” are actually the exact same color! (Click the “reveal” button in the link!) If you got this right, you’re ready to attempt this color test that only 1 percent of people can ace.

gray area illusionCourtesy Lenstore

Gray area

Which of the labeled squares is lighter in color: A or B? This one’s quite the trick: They’re actually the same color! It’s just the shadow of the green cylinder that makes them look like different colors.

hidden arch illusionCourtesy Lenstore

Hidden arch

Under the post, are the lines of this archway meeting in the middle? They sure are! The post makes the lines look mismatched, but sure enough, they connect! Click “reveal” in this link to see the illusion in action. Speaking of archways, find out which famous American monument is actually a giant optical illusion.

standing tall illusionCourtesy Lenstore

Standing tall

Which of these monsters charging through the catacombs is taller? More optical illusions that use the background to trick you! Without the backdrop, you can see that these two freaky fellows are exactly the same—including their height.

stitched lines illusionCourtesy Lenstore

Stitched lines

Are these long diagonal lines parallel? They sure don’t look it, but they are! Removing the smaller “stitch”-like lines shows the truth about this optical illusion.

tilted towers illusionCourtesy Lenstore

Tilted towers

Is one of these leaning towers leaning more than the other? It certainly looks like it, but no! The two images are identical; the way they’re positioned next to each other makes the one on the right look steeper. There are plenty of differences in these mind-boggling “spot the difference” photos, though.

green pairs illusion 1Courtesy Lenstore

Pair of pears

Which of these pears is lighter in color: the one on the left or the one on the right? You’ll see the answer in the next slide!

green pears answerCourtesy Lenstore


That’s right; these two pears are exactly the same color! For more before-and-after optical illusions that use motion to trick you, check out Lenstore’s impressive “Moving Perspectives” project. And if you love optical illusions, you’ll love trying out these brain games that’ll test your inner genius.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.