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SUNY Suffolk County Community College



Course Level

2D Design, Beginning Painting


Conversation points for instructors

Often done at the end of my 2D Design course, we explore the power of 2D imagery and how it can extend beyond a flat surface. Stereoscopes are the original virtual reality (VR). For example, stereoscopic 2D visuals (nearly identical images created with ever so slightly different perspectives) are used to build 3D gaming environments including Virtual Reality. 

This project connects 2D Design with extended reality and builds a connection to digital media, new media and game design. It emphasizes comparisons between analog and digital making, and embraces "work from home" technology. If teaching online, images can be shared and successfully viewed in 3D on a digital screen and via videoconferencing while using a stereoscope.


Stereoscope history as a precursor to VR.  I developed the project while researching and learning VR.



Project Prompt / Challenge

Create your own stereoscopic image!

  • Manipulate skillfully the attributes of color and form, while effectively employing various design principles, to create a two-dimensional compositions that will produce a three- dimensional visual.

  • To learn to master acrylic painting, including application of paint and color mixing.

  • Use design principles to communicate an emotion or idea in a work of art.

  • Use design techniques to create a new composition inspired by found source material to correctly render a stereoscopic image




Watch Prof. Starr demonstrate the entire stereoscopic painting process in this YouTube video.


1.  Print the stereoscopic image template. Alternatively, you may draw the template in your sketchbook three (3) times. The template is below.


2.  Find and cut three (3) images from Whalebone or other magazines that will translate well to 3D.


THE IMAGES YOU CUT OUT MUST BE THESE DIMENSIONS: 2 1/4” wide by 2 7/16” high. 

Consider WHY you’re choosing these particular images:

  • What new meaning could be added with the third dimension?

  • Will it make the image more playful?

  • Connect the viewer to an important issue?


You may choose images from a credible news source such as National Geographic about a socially engaged topic you find important. If so, download and print the image in color.

3.  How to transfer the image to create a stereoscopic companion: 


Lightboard/Window Method:

  • Place your image under your first template square and trace it.

  • Move your image to the second square. Adjust it ¼” to the right, so it is in a slightly different position than the image in the first square. Trace your image into the second square.


Tracing Paper Method:

  • Trace the image onto tracing paper

  • Then flip the paper over and trace it in pencil again on the opposite side.

  • Make sure your drawing appears in the right orientation on your paper.

  • THEN: Flip the tracing paper again.

  • Align it ¼” to the right in the stereoscope template frame (see template below) and trace it again to transfer it.


4.  YOU will invent and finish the missing ¼” that has been created.


It is this slight variation in the design that makes your images stereoscopic. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Your images should not be exact copies of each other.


Please watch the how-to video again if you aren’t sure how to do this.


5.  Repeat the process above for three different ideas for your stereoscopic project.


6.  Test each set of images in your stereoscopic viewer.


TIP:  Work in colored pencil or crayon or marker.

This will help you get a sense for how effective your companion image in generating the visual depth and three-dimensionality when viewed through your stereoscope.



7.  Tape in place the magazine or printed image in the left frame.

  • Take a photo of the template to share

  • Get feedback AND have fun testing them with your stereoscope!


REMEMBER: Part of the creative process is generating lots of ideas. The more choices you have the better. Test a bunch! You’ll be surprised to see which images work the best! I know I was!





  • Get feedback from professor and peers.

  • Update your design in the template to make it work correctly:

    • Reprint the template

    • Remove your image from your first sketch

    • Place it on the left side of the template again

    • Redraw the right side panel correctly.


  • MAKE SURE YOUR DESIGN WORKS before you begin the next part. Phew!

1.  Create the Stereoscopic Template on the Bristol:

  • Great news (maybe?) For this project you do not have to center your stereoscope on the Bristol!!

  • Use either the template and a lightboard (window) to transfer ONE template from the handout to your paper

  • OR use tracing paper to transfer your template (remember you only need to trace the image once, then flip it onto your Bristol, then trace it again.

  • You may use pencil.

2.  Trace and transfer the left panel to the Bristol.

  • I recommend using the tracing paper method to transfer your two panels to create the stereoscopic image because the Bristol will be too thick for capturing details if you use the lightboard/window technique.

  • If you are satisfied with your sketch, trace it completely use the tracing paper transfer method.


  • When you use the tracing paper transfer method in THIS step, you must trace the design once, flip the tracing paper and put scrap plain paper beneath it, trace it again, and then flip it AGAIN so that it is back to the orientation of the original image when you align it with the left panel.

3.  Trace and transfer your image for the right panel to the Bristol. Use the same technique as above.



Here the video demonstrating the entire process.

1.  Get set up. You will need the following supplies:

  • Assorted paints

  • Brushes (very small brushes- I recommend rounds, flats and filberts in 2 and 0 sizes. Sometimes a 3 or 5 flat can be used for larger areas

  • Palette

  • Paper towel

  • Water cup

2.  How to begin:

  • Lightly erase all the pencil marks until you only see faint lines.

  • You don't want the pencil to blend into the paint.

  • Begin painting with the lightest color.

3.  Mixing Colors:

  • Some of your colors you may be able to use right out of the tube. Others you will have to mix.


IMPORTANT TIP: Mix enough paint to paint the same section in the LEFT and RIGHT panels so they are the same.


  • You may need to mix:

    • Tints (colors with white)

    • Shades (colors with black)

    • Tones (colors with grey)

    • You may even need to mix colors with other colors to make the correct hue.


  • Load a little of your mixed paint onto your brush.

  • Hold your brush over the color on your template image to see if you’ve achieved the color you need.

4. Painting:

In some ways, this project is like a paint by number. You paint in specific shapes with certain colors according to your template.

  • Start with the lightest colors and build to the darkest colors. This allows you to make changes, as necessary (you can paint over acrylic).

  • Begin by painting a section in the left image and then paint the corresponding section in the right image.


  • Acrylic paint dries quickly!

    • Plan to paint the left and corresponding right sections with a mixed color.

    • If you need to remix or make more, make sure what you remix matches.


  • Change your water often

  • Change your brush size to match the shape you need- tiny sections need tiny brushes!

  • Crop down the project smaller (but not quite to the  edges yet) so that you can rotate it as you work.

  • Paint even smooth strokes.


5.  Finishing!

  • Check your right and left sides often.

  • Make sure the shapes and colors match (even though the right-side image will be ¼” over, the shapes and colors should still be the same).

  • Make any small detail changes.

  • Let your project dry completely.

  • Then cut around the edges of the outer border and….


6.  Enjoy viewing your 2D design in 3D in your stereoscope viewer!


Share with the class and discuss. YOU DID IT!


  • Stereoscope viewer

  • Magazines

  • Pencil

  • Lightbox or window

  • Tracing paper

  • Acrylic paints

  • Various (small and tiny) paint brushes

  • Palette

  • Bristol paper


Two weeks total:

  • One week for gather and testing ideas


  • One week for painting your chosen image in both frames


Student Examples:

Support Information:

Stereoscope History and Tutorial

Online / Video Resources:

Why Does Stereoscopic Video Matter in VR? by James McArthur,, 27 March 2019.


The Art of Stereography: Rediscovering Vintage Three-Dimensional Images Illustrated Edition

by Douglas Heil

Stereographs Were the Original Virtual Reality: The shocking power of immersing oneself in another world was all the buzz once before—about 150 years ago by Clive Thompson, Smithsonian Magazine, October 2017.

The Long History of 3D Photography produced by Boaz Frankel, Smithsonian Magazine

(video: 3:31 minutes)

TREE VR by Steve Bambury



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