When I was a kid we called these delightful little Cracker Jack prizes flip-flop toys or wiggle pictures. A one-inch plastic square embossed with two different images. Tilt the square up then down and a secret message is revealed!  Enchanting stuff to an eight year old. Still enchanting this kid-at-heart today. And it seems I’m not alone.

Lenticular Graffiti has recently taken the concept to a grander scale. It uses slices of images applied to successive surfaces. Location is key to its success. Like other anamorphic art, the viewer must now occupy a specific vantage point to reconstitute the image.

“Think different.” Honoring Steve Jobs’ brilliant innovations, a lenticular graffiti artist has immortalized the CEO as a mature man when viewed from the left side and as a young entrepreneur when viewed from the right side.


Fore-Edge Painting does the same thing, on a much smaller scale – but you have to know where to look. Some old books contain this wonderful surprise! Because fore-edge paintings are hidden, anyone who does not know what they are looking for may miss them completely. You must take the pages and fan them out slightly, and if there is a fore-edge painting, it will appear.

To create a fore-edge painting, the pages of the book are fanned out minimally and the book is then clamped firmly in a vice. A water color painting is then applied. Once the painting is dry, the book may be released from the vice. It is also possible to create two quite separate fore-edge paintings within a single book by first fanning the pages one way and creating the first painting; then when that has dried, pages are fanned the other way, and a second, completely different, painting is applied.

Traces of the painting(s) would be visible on the edge of the book even if the book were flat, so to completely conceal the painting, the edge of the book can be gilded or marbled. Now the fore-edge painting is invisible until one fans out the pages. Books with secret gilded fore-edge painting were quite popular from the 17th century and into the 19th and 20th centuries.

Traditionally the fore-edge painting would be applied and then the gilt. But it is also possible to take a book that already has a gilt edge, and apply a fore-edge painting to it.

I’m seeing this as a very fun family project for holiday and vacation times. A great opportunity to treasure hunt for old volumes and for quiet, unplugged, fine motor play together. Want to try it?

I am getting my crowd funding pitch together (more about that later) or I’d be right on this fun project!