Web Culture

Old-Time Fun: How To Make 3D Images For Viewing With No Glasses

James Bruce 12-08-2012

make 3d imagesBelieve it or not, you don’t actually need 3D glasses to experience convincingly realistic 3D images (or movies). You just need to make yourself go “crosseyed”. Essentially, you look at two images, and by intentionally crossing your eyes to defocus your normal vision, the two images will converge into one central image that the brain will interpret as a 3-dimensional scene.


Note though that this is different yet similar to autostereograms, or “magic eye 5 Sources for Best Optical Illusions on the Web Read More ” pictures, whereby a computer combines two depth maps into a repeating pattern that varies slightly. It takes a lot less skill to view the cross-eyed types of images we will create today though.

Viewing Cross-Eyed 3D

Take a look at the image below. If you’ve never tried this before, the white dots help you to center the image correctly. Simply move both your eyes toward your nose until the dots converge on each other in the middle. The image should now “click into place” as your brain recognises that actually, these two pictures match up perfectly for 3D.

make 3d images

You don’t actually need the dots at all though – just blur your vision until the images magically slot into place. You can even extend the technique to videos; check out the following footage in YouTube cross-eyed format (if you’re not seeing it cross-eyed, click the 3D control button, and select “side by side” from the Change Viewing Method option).

A Note About Picture Formats & Terms

.MPO is a native 3D format, though some 3D camera manufacturers use their own standards to create incompatible files.
.JPS is a stereo-jpeg. It’s actually just two jpegs – side by side – like we will be creating today – but the special file extension allows 3D viewer applications to recognise it immediately as 3D content.
.JPG is the regular picture format we all know and love. You can rename a .JPS to .JPG and it will be viewable just the same; to use your .JPG as stereo jpgs, just too do the opposite and change to .JPS.
Anaglyph, or red-cyan, is an old 3D format that looks horrendous and messes up colors. It gained popularity in comic books of the 60’s and 70’s, but there’s no reason to touch this format today.


I won’t be touching upon 3D output and displays other than cross-eye today though. If you’d like to know if your PC is capable of viewing active or passive 3D, then please read my FAQ Can My Laptop, Monitor, Or TV Do 3D? We're often asked "Can I watch 3D movies on my computer?" The short answer is: sadly, no. Read on to find out why you can't, and how you can make it reality. Read More (TL;DR – it probably isn’t, and you’ll need to spend at least $500 on a new TV or monitor if you want it to be).

4 Ways To Make Your Cross-Eyed Stereo Pictures

Fake It (Photoshop)

This is one technique you could if you already have an image you’d like to “3D-erize”. We’re going to extract the various parts of the image and place them on their own layer so that we can manipulate them. I’ll be showing you with one object; you can use more if you like.

    • Open the image in Photoshop and note the dimensions.
    • Create a new image that’s the same height, but twice the width.
    • Paste in the original image and align it to the right. Create a ruler in the center of the new double-size image to aid you in cropping and aligning things later.
    • Working from the layer on the right side, select the object you’d like in the foreground (closest to the the viewer). In CS6, use a rough mask and then use the Refine Edge command to select the object in more detail.

make 3d images without glasses

    • Output to a Selection, then copy and paste this selection to a new layer.
    • Still with the selection active, click on the original image layer and remove the object.

make 3d images without glasses

    • Fill in the background using the context-aware tool. Hide the object while you’re doing this. Obviously, this is going to work better on a scene with a repetitive background, like grass. Use Edit->Fill->Content Aware if the delete command has left you with a big white space.

how to make 3d images

    • Now, you should have a background and a foreground layer. Duplicate them both, and align them on the left side of the screen. Set the foreground objects visible again if you haven’t already.
    • The final step is to shift the foreground objects. Move the left hand object a little to the right, and move the right hand object a little to the left. If things start overlapping (beyond the mid point), delete that area.

how to make 3d images

That’s it! Stand back and try the technique. Admittedly, the end result is pretty poor compared to other methods outlined below, and you end up with an image that’s far smaller than the original you started with (relative to how much you’ve shifted the object toward the center). If you’re having trouble bringing the 3d image into focus at all, it means you’ve pushed them too close together. You’ll see I’m also floating because we’re only able to place the entire object onto the same 3D plane.

To get a larger final image, try to widen the original using Content Aware fills (again, this is only going to work with a consistent background). After widening the original and doing the above method again, I ended up with this:


how to make 3d images

I’ve used a real photograph of myself to demonstrate, but if you’re going to create imaginary scenes, the 3D effect will be more pronounced and effective due to the lack of external signals conflicting with the brain (we know a person should be a certain size, so our brain uses that to create a rough estimate of the distance away from us when creating the depth perception)

With a 3D camera

There are a few consumer-level 3D digital cameras out there, none of which is more popular than the Fujifilm Real3D W3, which I happen to own. It’s basically just two cameras in one, eye width apart; but the no-glasses needed viewfinder and fine controls over parallax are useful though.

The image files you get off the camera are .MPO format. There are native apps for OSX, Windows, and an even easier though somewhat slow website for doing that – 3Dporch.com.


Old-Time Fun: How To Make 3D Images For Viewing With No Glasses 3d porch homepage

Simply upload the image, and it’ll convert it for you. Don’t use this method for photos you want kept private though.

Old-Time Fun: How To Make 3D Images For Viewing With No Glasses 3d porch web converter

Here’s the full version of that image, if you’d like to see it.

With a single camera

Instead of buying an expensive 3D camera, just use your existing camera or phone to take two picture: focus them at the same subject, but for the second image physically shift the camera about 3 inches to the right. Again, just combine them in your favourite image editor by pasting them onto a new image that’s twice the width of the original. The first image should go on the left, and the second on the right (if you followed my instructions above, otherwise your mind will unable to combine them).

Here’s one I made earlier with my iPhone – the results are pretty good considering how easy it is to do this.

make 3d images without glasses

There’s An App For That

If you don’t want to mess around with image editors, 3D camera is a great little $1.99 iPhone app that outputs your results to a number of different formats. The intro screen explains the same basic principle – take the first photo, then shift the phone right. You can also align the images before output, which is nice.

Old-Time Fun: How To Make 3D Images For Viewing With No Glasses 3d camera app screenshot

Here’s the image I made in the screenshots above – that’s a ferret, by the way.

make 3d images

Making a 3D image is actually not as hard as you might think. Are you able to view the images correctly, or do your eyes just not “do 3D”? Apparently, around 10% of us can’t actually view 3D imagery correctly, so don’t be surprised if you can’t. If you can though: did you know you can actually play PC games like this? Just purchase some third party drivers from TriDef.com and select “side by side” as the output method.

Comments, suggestions? We’re listening!

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  1. Harry
    November 19, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    You my friend are really stupid for showing people such thing. Have no one told you when you were young don't ever but ever cross your eyes?
    That lousy ''technique'' of yours strains the eyes. You should never have made this post on this website
    You can cause serious problems to people that are ignorant to the fact it's not healthy to cross your eyes in a way like that.

    • James Bruce
      November 19, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      I was told a lot things when I was young that turned out to be nonsense. Perhaps you should try looking up the actual medical advice before you regurgitate that kind of silly advice. http://www.flei.com/blog/10-vision-myths/

  2. Lana
    October 21, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Hihi. Thanks for posting this. Very cool. I was googling about those old 3d posters where you focus on 2 dots until the picture comes through from a bitmap type field. But this is very cool! Your 3D ferret was esp cute. Took me a while to see it. You have to practice the 3D effect. I didn't see you with the airplane properly, nor the gal. First focused clearly on the speaker. Then the ferret looked cute in 3D! So I think it takes a while for people to catch on to how you should focus and what you should see.

    I focus until I see a left image that is flat 2D, and I will see an image in the center of my vision that is 3D. I don't see an image on the right. But I will be able to focus on the center image and rove my eye all over it to note the details that are crystal clear and unwavering. Pretty cool.

  3. oscar wright
    August 14, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Hi, could you please give me some suggestions on how to improve my videos...here is my latest...the people speaking in Italian are saying how tango changed and improved their lives...we teach tango through ZEN concepts


    • muotechguy
      August 14, 2012 at 9:42 pm

      this has absolutely nothing to do with 3D, does it?

  4. ShedoSurashu
    August 14, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    This is really nice. I didn't know I could do this before. xD

  5. Sue
    August 14, 2012 at 3:30 am

    If you have one eye that is much weaker than the other, your brain may have learned to ignore that weaker eye. To see these, you have to have two pretty equally functioning eyes. Also, you're not really crossing your eyes. Instead, you're keeping them apart when they want to come together. For more information see this website: http://www.magiceye.com/faq.htm

    • James Bruce
      August 14, 2012 at 7:37 am

      Hmm, hadn't thought about having a weaker eye.

      Actually though Sue, these pictures do require literally crossing your eyes. They are different to Magic Eye in that they shift the plane of focus. With magic eye, you need to focus "through" the picture - behind it. Cross eye moves the images to the left and right. It's s a similar concept but very different viewing technique. That said, I find going cross eye first actually helps when viewing magic eye.

      Still, sounds like a lot of people aren't able to grasp this...

  6. Shanterra Bland
    August 13, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    my eyes are sore trying to get those pictures to focus...just give me glasses

  7. Victor Ong
    August 13, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    I think something's broken....

  8. Phill Johnson
    August 13, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    this is awosome

  9. Tracie Bowe
    August 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    I can't do it! I cannot cross my eyes and see 3D. Tried and tried. Never works!

  10. Gautam
    August 13, 2012 at 11:57 am

    The easiest way is to close one eye and watch. After sometimes a 3D image can be perceived. The eye replicates the single-eyed view through the Camera view-finder (of the real world 3D view).

    • Shakirah Faleh Lai
      August 13, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Sounds like an illusion game.

    • James Bruce
      August 14, 2012 at 7:38 am

      Yeh. Closing one eye is not going to allow you to see 3D. Ever.

      • Gautam
        August 14, 2012 at 2:41 pm

        Myabe something is wrong with me. I can perceive a scene in 3D when I try seeing a photo through a small aperture that emulates a camera's view-finder. The photo must completely cover my field of vision through the view-finder (so that there are no other visual cues). I see the same effect when I watch TV with the entire TV screen occupying my field of vision. I guess it is an optical illusion. But then all 3D effects are.

        • Alexia
          August 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm

          There's nothing wrong with you - that's just not 3D you're seeing. That would be impossible. More likely you have good depth perception, so you can interpolate the distance of objects by their relative size.

  11. Ashwin Ramesh
    August 13, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Couldn't cross my eyes! Glasses are better :P

    • James Bruce
      August 14, 2012 at 7:38 am

      I totally agree. Gaming like this takes a lot of practice and patience.

  12. Krishnapriya
    August 13, 2012 at 6:55 am

    I just couldn't cross my eyes. I think I'll stay with the glasses.

  13. James Lewis
    August 13, 2012 at 1:38 am

    damn the technique hurt my eyes. guess i shud buy a 3d glasses though

    • Victor Ong
      August 13, 2012 at 7:17 pm

      Yep.... lotsa eye strain

  14. App Crush
    August 12, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    great article!

  15. Fayz
    August 12, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    I'm gonna stay away from the cross-eye technique. That thing caused me severe eye and vision problems after trying it once.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      October 25, 2012 at 4:58 am

      I did it out of curiosity. Should've remembered my eye problems. Caused me eye strain and two days of headache. I could see some optical illusions just fine, though, so maybe it's related to the color scheme.

  16. achyut reddy
    August 12, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    sick, i never knew i could do this, this is amazing and the pictures have good focus too.

  17. Timothy Liem
    August 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    never been able to do crossed eye technique. Is it just me or what?

    • Stephan Huebner
      August 13, 2012 at 10:22 am

      No Timothy, it's not only you. I've never seen anything in any kind of these supposed 3D-images.

      • James Bruce
        August 14, 2012 at 7:39 am

        You're probably one of the many people incapable of seeing 3D, it's quite common.

    • Tracie Bowe
      August 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      I can't do it either, sounds like there are a lot of us out there.