IR Goggles

by Vlad Dolezal on March 23, 2009


Just… wow!

I just got back home after taking the first walk outside with my new IR goggles. I feel like… I’ve just been time travelling and visited some crazy post-apocalyptic future!

The almost black sky, the whole world in shades of red, the frosty pink grass that looks like it’s dead, fried dry by weeks of intense sunshine… yet when you touch it, you realize it’s healthy wet green grass.

Wait, let me backtrack a little bit.

IR stands for infra-red. So IR goggles are for infra-red viewing, with the bare human eye!

The idea comes from Bill Beaty. You can read his ideas about IR goggles for all the details of how he first thought of them, how he then built them, and how you can build your own for about $10! (The parts for mine cost me about 20 pounds, including shipping.). It’s a great read, so definitely check it out, either right now, or after you finish reading this blog post.

Basically, you buy cheap welding goggles with unscrewable lenses, and replace the dark lenses with several layers of congo blue and primary red color filters. And voila, you have IR goggles!

The color filters together filter out all the visible light. But they let through all the IR (infra-red) light! Now, we humans normally don’t notice IR light, because it’s drowned out by all the visible light. But if you remove all the visible light, your eyes can see the infra-red light, provided it’s bright enough! (Which is why the IR goggles need bright sunlight.)

So I built my goggles, and since it’s a bright sunny day, I went out to try them!

Going down the stairs in my house was quite fun, because I could see NOTHING. No, wait, actually, I could faintly see the railing, which is painted white. But that was it. Fun πŸ˜€

Then, when I opened the outside door, my first thought was “Wow, I’ve just entered some crazy post-apocalyptic world!”

The sky near the sun was a bright red, while on the opposite it was deep dark blue-black. I went to the park, which is just two minutes’ walk away from my house. Crossing the road was fun, because in IR, the traffic lights have three colors… red, red and red. Of course, I could tell which red it was by the position of the light that was shining, but still πŸ™‚

In the park, I walked around, looking at how everything changes in IR light. The pavements were very dark, while the grass was extremely bright. In fact, I first thought it was dried grass, with occasional patches of dark fresh grass in between.

Then, when I kneeled down and touched the grass, I realized the frosty pink that I thought was dried grass was in fact healthy live grass. And the dark patches were simply mud without grass. Also, as I was kneeling, I noticed my T-shirt sticking out under my hoodie. For a few moments, I was confused, because I couldn’t remember having a crimson red T-shirt. Then I remembered – I put on a BLACK T-shirt that morning! Bill Beaty wrote about how some T-shirts look very different under IR light, but I didn’t realize how strongly surreal the effect feels until you see it with your own eyes.

I also noticed people turning around looking at me like I was some madman. I probably LOOKED like one, with my welding goggles on, and a hood over my head and scarf over my face to block out the light trying to seep in around the edges of my goggles, walking around very slowly and turning around in wonder to look at all the amazing sights of the post-apocalyptic IR world.

Mr. Amundsen, I believe we have spotted signs of life!

Mr. Amundsen, I believe we have spotted signs of life!

Well, that’s all I have to say for now! I’m going to try removing the primary red filters from my goggles, to see what the infra-red world looks like if you add some shades of deep blue. Make sure you read Bill Beaty’s full article about the IR goggles. Who knows, you might also get tempted to build your own πŸ™‚

And one last note. For those of you who know me personally – I have plenty of the color filters left. So if you want to build your own IR goggles, just get some cheap welding goggles off e-bay, give me a shout and I can help you build your own pair!


Addendum: Holy damn!

I just got back after going outside with only congo blue filters in my goggles. That means my goggles let through infra-red light, and also some deep blue light. You wouldn’t believe how INTENSE the colors are!

Adding the shades of deep blue creates such an amazing contrast!

The grass is a deep vibrant red! Think a communist flag. That kind of red. Now imagine every blade of grass, every leaf on bushes, every bit of green growth is that kind of deep red. And most of the rest of the world is a mild light blue. Except for the bits that are the intense vibrant red! Oh and trees… trees are just plain insane! The bark of trees combines the light blue with the deep red in such an amazing way… I really wish I could take a picture to show you!

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack March 23, 2009 at 17:26

Hey, this is a really cool post, I’m gonna give it a go myself, do you think you could tell me where you got you colour filters from, I can’t seem to find any under Β£10. πŸ™‚ thanks


Vlad Dolezal March 23, 2009 at 18:49

I got them from LEE Filters. It cost me Β£10 total for both colour filters, including shipping.


Emperor of China March 23, 2009 at 21:36

Sounds great! Today I wnet to buy a sheet of congo blue, price about 3 pounds. But they didn’t have it in stock, so I have to wait till friday. I have yet to find some goggles. I’m sure looking forward to it


Vlad Dolezal March 23, 2009 at 23:05

Sweet! Let me know how it goes πŸ˜€


Bill March 24, 2009 at 03:20

IR goggles …. are not thermal goggles? still cool but its a bit of a let down considering i got my hopes up, damn reality


Sheila Crosby March 24, 2009 at 10:21

This is great! It’s far cheaper than an IR camera, and you must be far more immersed in the experience.

On a side note, even without goggles, about 1 person in 24 is red-green colour-blind, so that red and green traffic lights are the same colour. As you say, they’re in different positions, but still.


Vlad Dolezal March 26, 2009 at 11:33

Ya, damn reality is hard, let’s go shopping! :p

You’re right, IR goggles are a COMPLETELY different experience from using a camera!

Too bad for the poor color-blind people. If their world looks anything like the IR world… they’re living in such an awesome reality, but they even realize it, because they have nothing to compare it with!


mongoose April 6, 2009 at 00:29

heh, I’m considering catching a quick train over to Leeds now, so that I can daub hidden messages around town for you πŸ˜€


Vlad Dolezal April 7, 2009 at 09:20

Ooooh, evil :p

Careful though; if the aliens see you painting messages invisible to normal humans, they might assume you’re on to them and abduct you!

(Yikes, I just managed to use a semicolon! πŸ˜€ )


John June 9, 2009 at 21:27

Thanks for this wonderful post. I will also try to make this goggles. I heard some news that there are IR filters (Low pass filter) using with Camera night vision you can actually see through cloths.

Does this IR goggles do the same?


Vlad Dolezal June 10, 2009 at 08:46


Heh :). I’ve never managed to see through clothes with my goggles.

Some clothes do CHANGE colour though. (I had quite a shock when I looked at my previously-black t-shirt while wearing my goggles and saw that it was a deep red.)


Mark March 9, 2010 at 20:06

Thanks for the post, but i have a few questions:

I put 4 blue strips and 1 red strip in each eyepiece, is that how many im supposed to put in?

Also i can’t see much under ordinary light bulbs is that normal?


Vlad Dolezal March 9, 2010 at 21:25


Yeah, that’s fine. (I actually personally dropped the red filter, because the world looks even more awesome that way. Somehow, mixing in some deep blue with the infrared highlights the contrast :).)

Yes, that’s absolutely normal. You need a VERY bright source of Infra-red light. For most people (who don’t have access to high-tech lighting equipment), that pretty much means only bright sunny days.


Mark March 10, 2010 at 21:07

Wow, thanks for the quick reply. But i have one more question: I

s there any artificial light source i can use that will ahve the same effect as the sun?

Thanks for any replies πŸ™‚


Vlad Dolezal March 10, 2010 at 23:17


None that I know of. (Well, you could use a LOT of incadescent light bulbs… say a 100 of them. (They’d work since they’re very inefficient – producing a lot of heat and non-visible light.)

But I’d say sunshine is your best bet. Plus nature looks totally awesome under IR πŸ˜€


bill beaty October 24, 2010 at 10:51

No goggles needed: Make some 3-layer congoblue floodlights to light up your livingroom at night! Filter the light source, not your eyes. I only tried this with a single 100watt reflector bulb. It worked, but it’s so dim that the bulb must be close to any objects. Also, the bulb gets extremely hot inside the metal cover I’d added. More bulbs needed! With little fans! has superbright LEDs at 710 – 735nM, but they’re like $7 each, too expensive for an array. Try: look in the mirror and a smooth pink alien with huge black eyes looks back.


Vlad Dolezal October 24, 2010 at 11:47

You’re absolutely right, you don’t need to make goggles if you can just cover up a strong enough light source.

However, that involves either getting a really expensive powerful light source, or building a giant tent out of the colour filters and putting it outside on a sunny day. Neither of which are particularly cheap πŸ™‚

That’s why I’m sticking with goggles for now.


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