Kaleidoscope Mirror Systems

The kaleidoscope creates reflections of reflections of a direct view of objects.  This results in what is often referred to as a kaleidoscopic image.  It is the mirror system within the kaleidoscope that produces this effect.

Most Kaleidoscopes use either a 2-mirror or a 3-mirror system. 

The 2-mirror system is made up of two mirrors joined together to form an angle. A non-reflecting third side is added to form a triangle.  When viewing the scope, people look though this triangle at the object chamber.  The configuration they see is a single circular image called a mandala. 

The 3-mirror system is made up of three mirrors joined together to form a triangle. When this configuration is viewed, a continuously reflecting pattern is seen.

In this article all the basic mirror systems will be described.  They are:

  • Spiral (1-Mirror) Systems
  • 2-Mirror Systems
  • 3-Mirror Systems
  • 4-Mirror Systems
  • Polyangular Mirror Systems
  • Tapered Mirror Systems
  • Multiple Mirror Systems

Some artists have discovered ways to make amazing 3-D images by using odd mirror configurations.  Many of them are explained on these sites by Wayne Schmidt:

Below is a picture of a modern scope and the 3-D image it creates.


Here are some photos and videos of 3-D kaleidoscopes and there images from Janet & Frank Higgins (personal favorites are "St Basil 2010", "Super Carousel" and "Cube").