How to Make a Hologram

It's easier to make a 3D hologram than you think. In fact, each year thousands of hobbyists, students, and teachers make holograms at home and school. To make a hologram, you'll need some basic holography supplies and household items (budget about $100), a quiet and dark room, and about 30 minutes.

This article teaches you how to make holograms, as technically defined and explained by the majority of holography books, experts, scientists, Wikipedia, and Merriam-Webster dictionary. This method is taught in schools and universities in physics and optics courses today.


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    Gather your holography supplies and household materials listed in the "Things You'll Need" section below.
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    Define your laboratory space. Choose a sturdy table or counter in a dark room that is free of noise, vibration, air currents, and small movements (creaky floors, etc.). If you don't have a sturdy table, a concrete basement floor works well.
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    Prepare the subject of your hologram. Place the subject securely on the sturdy table. If you have a computer mouse pad or tray of sand, place the subject on top of that. This helps minimize any vibrations.
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    Prepare your diode laser (or laser pointer). Place it about 30 centimeter (11.8 in) away the subject by bracing it with a clothespin (UK clothes peg) and then sticking the clothespin into a cup of salt or sugar.
    • If your diode laser has an adjustable lens, take off that lens and position the laser so that its beam spreads out horizontally in an elliptical shape (it looks similar to that of a loaf of bread).
    • If your laser doesn't have an adjustable lens, secure an optical diverging lens to another clothespin and cup of salt so that the laser beam shines through it to spread the light.
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    Position the laser until the subject is fully illuminated.
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    Turn off all lights. You can use a nightlight placed under the table or even slightly crack open the door to see in the darkened room. Block any direct light from reaching the holography system. The room should be dark enough that one cannot read.
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    Block the laser light from reaching the subject with a book. The book will serve like a shutter of a camera.
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    Remove one holographic film plate from its box in the darkest part of the room. Carefully lean it against the object. Wait 10-20 seconds to let the plate settle against the object.
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    Slowly lift the “shutter” slightly off the table a half inch (1cm) while still blocking the laser light from reaching any part of the plate, and wait a few seconds for any vibration to subside.
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    Lift the shutter all the way up to expose the holographic plate and object for about 10 seconds.
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    Block the laser light again by placing the book back on the table.
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    Process the plate according to instructions that accompany the holography processing kit. This process takes about 3-5 minutes total. For making basic holograms, the process of developing is actually quite simple:

    1. Mix the dried powder photochemicals with distilled bottle water to form two solutions: the developer and the bleach
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    2. Dip and wiggle plate in developer for 20 seconds
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    3. Rinse in water for 30 seconds
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    4. Dip and wiggle plate in bleach for 20 seconds
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    5. Rinse in water for 30 seconds
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    6. Dry with hair dryer
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    The dried chemical powder photochemicals can be individually put together by going to a photochemist, but is more expensive since only 1 gram of several chemicals is needed, and few photochemists sell in such small amounts. The JD-4 kit recommended in this article puts all the chemicals into a kit and is happens to be the only such kit available. It is preferred by beginners.
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    Dry the holographic plate vertically. A simple way to do this is by placing the plate on a paper towel and lean it against a wall. If time is limited, you can carefully blow warm air across the holographic plate using a hair dryer from at least foot (30cm) away. Avoid high heat.
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    View your hologram after it is completely dried with a point source such as that from a projector, flashlight, spotlight, LED white light, or the sun. Shine the spotlight from the same angle your laser beam shone on the plate during exposure. You can't use diffused light sources such as frosted bulbs and fluorescent lamps.


  • Realize that vibrations and microscopic movement of even 1 millionth of a meter can ruin a hologram. So, during exposure, try to be still and maintain absolute silence. Also, turn off your venting system and avoid cross drafts.
  • Don't be impatient and don't try to rush the drying process.
  • If you are unsure if your surface is free of vibrations or not place a clear plastic bottle of water on your surface, and shine a form of light through the bottle so that the top 'layer ' of water is reflected onto a near-by surface. Let the reflection 'settle'. You can now see what level of movement is vibrating the surface as this will be indicated in the reflection of the water. This method is incredibly precise as it can measure even the smallest changes in the air around the bottle.
  • Note that not all lasers or laser pointers can be used to make holograms. It's best to choose a laser that has been pre-tested for meeting the required specifications (coherence length, stability, polarization, and power). For the instructions above and recommended materials below, the red Integraf holography diode laser with an adjustable lens was assumed.


  • Carefully read and follow all instructions for using your laser. Never look directly into any laser beam.
  • Make sure to read thoroughly and follow all instructions and warnings that come with the processing kit. In their diluted solution form the chemicals are generally more inert than most household cleaners. But, in their dry concentrated form, they can be toxic. Adult supervision is highly recommended.

Things You'll Need

  • Holography Supplies

    • Note: Budget is around $100 to about $500
    • PFG-03M professional holographic film plates
    • Red holography laser. The instructions above assume the use of the Integraf Holography Laser (4mW, 650nm), because it has an adjustable lens. If your laser does not have adjustable lens, you'll need to get an external lens (beam spreader).
    • JD-4 Holography Processing Kit
    • PhotoFlo wetting agent (optional)
  • Household Materials

    • A bright hard object, preferably sturdy metal, i.e. coins, metal toy car (to be the subject of your hologram)
    • One flat hardcover book 6”x8” (150x200mm) or larger (to serve as a shutter).
    • Six 1-liter bottles (1.5 gallons) of distilled water (to prepare the processing chemicals)
    • Three small trays with flat bottoms 3”x3” or larger (to serve as developer trays)
    • Three large trays (or bowls) with flat bottoms 4in.x5in. or preferably larger (to serve as rinse trays)
    • One rubber kitchen glove or tongs (to handle the holographic plate while developing)
  • Optional

    • A basic nightlight available at your supermarket or green safelight (to conveniently see in the dark room)
    • A computer mouse pad or a tray of sand (or salt or sugar) with width, length, and height of very roughly 6”x8”x2” (15x20x5cm) or larger (to serve as a vibration isolation system)
    • A small cup filled with sand (to hold the laser)—salt or sugar also works

Sources and Citations

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