This Is How We Do It: Turn Your Smartphone Into a Hologram Projector

Welcome to This Is How We Do It, a new series wherein we’ll be discussing projects both inside the home and out and explaining, you know, how we do it.

Nobody ever lets me write posts like this, because I’m not crafty and I don’t know how to do anything. Today we’re going to change all that! Today I’m going to teach you to make tiny glowing jellyfish swim around in midair, using the powers of your mind.

All the tools you'll need.

Janelle looks nervous.

To build the projector, you will need:

  • one smartphone (I used an iPhone 5)
  • a couple of discarded CD jewel cases
  • an X-acto knife or sharp boxcutter
  • a metric ruler
  • one Sharpie
  • tape or glue
  • a sheet of paper
  • scissors
  • some cardboard or something
  • a dream

On your sheet of paper, draw a symmetrical trapezoid. The bottom line should be 6cm long, the height is 3.5cm, and the top line is 1cm. Once you’ve drawn your trapezoid, cut it out.

Look! I mathed!

Look! I mathed!

Do you own a CD? I heard you millennials have never bought a CD, or have only ever used streaming services, or sometimes buy ironic cassettes. Buy a CD. Support an independent artist. I got rid of most of my old jewel cases, but I was able to track down an old Bouncing Souls record and a Janelle Monáe CD case that turned out to have a disc of Depeche Mode’s “Some Great Reward” inside. Whatever. Take the liner notes out and hold the empty plastic flat against your work surface. Place your trapezoid against the plastic and trace it with your Sharpie.

Ugh, this looks like work.

Be a lot more careful than I clearly was.

Time to cut — you’re going to want to do this on some sort of surface, so you don’t cut yourself or scratch up your desk. I used a piece of cardboard.

Deep concentration.

Deep concentration.

Using your X-acto knife or boxcutter, score along the outline of your trapezoid until you can pop the shape out. This will take longer than you thought it would. Maybe put that Depeche Mode record on and mope a little bit while you work. The plastic is a bit thicker than you may have anticipated, and you may wonder why you’re even doing this in the first place, but then you think about Princess Leia and you press on.


After you’ve cut out your trapezoid, guess what?! You have to cut out three more identical shapes. When you’ve got your four pieces, glue or tape them together into a pyramid shape, so the smaller opening on the bottom is flat (basically, so the pyramid can stand upside down on its own). If you tape the pieces together, use small pieces of tape at the top and bottom of the pyramid.

It's supposed to look more or less like this.

It’s supposed to look more or less like this.

Pull up YouTube or Instagram on your phone and search for “holho.” People have made some deeply creepy videos with singing and dancing anime characters, but this one seems like a neutral, pleasant start. The videos will instruct you to place your little pyramid (smaller side down) in the center of the screen, and then you can turn off your lights, get down to eye level with the projector and watch the magic happen.



Are your friends impressed? They’d better be. Tell them you thought of this idea all on your own. I won’t be offended.

Your hologram projector probably can't do this... YET.

Your hologram projector probably can’t do this… YET.

Heads up, nerds: you can actually do a Princess Leia hologram if you download this guy’s video.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Stef Schwartz is a founding member and the self-appointed Vapid Fluff Editor at She currently resides in New York City, where she spends her days writing songs nobody will ever hear and her nights telling much more successful musicians what to do. Follow her on twitter and/or instagram.

Stef has written 464 articles for us.


  1. I had a suggestion but then I realised how much teaching and not average household tools it would take for normal people who aren’t modern day metalsmiths to do the thing I was gunna suggest.

    Drill,jeweller’s saw, bench pin and acrylic sheet are not that hard to acquire, but the knowledge to use them together effectively must be earned in cussing, sweat, frustration and blood.
    Yes, actual blood.

    So um yeah X-actor and CD case much simpler, stick with that.

    • The effect is widely known as Pepper’s Ghost (, it works cause glass is both transparent and reflective at the same time so if you hold it at the correct angle as light passes through the glass it reflects some of the image back at you. That Tupac hologram is basically the same thing just with a better projector and a better surface.

  2. So cool! Will have to try this when I’m back at campus and have access to a laser cutter…

Comments are closed.