Budget Illusions that Look Great on Stage

Budget Illusions that Look Great on Stage


In this post, I will explore resources for budget illusions that look great on stage.

In my article “Choosing Your First Illusion”, I recommend a number of specific illusions for new illusionists. I still stand by my recommendations for the reasons I discussed.

However, as you develop your show, it is natural to add illusions to your repertoire.

As any illusionist knows, building an illusion show requires a lot of resources – time, money and effort. Most have the time and are willing to spare no effort but money is not always available to invest in new props.

Necessity is the mother of invention. And, necessity was the main reason I got into designing and building my own illusions in 1999. I was building my illusion show but could only invest a certain amount of money a year on professionally-built illusion props. Building simple but effective illusions allowed me to build and grow my show at a faster rate.

For professional shows with professional props, adding a budget illusion can add texture and a visual variety to the show without compromising the quality of the show. Best of all, you can add an additional illusion at a nominal cost.

Note: Budget illusions do not mean cheap-looking illusions. You can still dress up a budget illusion to look good on stage. Adding a solid presentation, good lighting and choreography can make a budget illusion look even better than a bad performance with a $10,000 prop.

Here are some suggestions for budget illusions that you can build and add to your show without draining your financial resources.

Complete Course in Magic

Mark Wilson’s “Complete Course in Magic” has a chapter devoted to illusions and offers many inexpensive classic illusions that are very effective. The basic suspension, door appearance and Tip-Over Trunk are illusions that can be staged in any theatre environment.

The “Arabian Tent” illusion in particular, is a complete act in itself. It can be put together for under $100 and is seldom performed. It also lends itself to many different themes and presentations so that you can make it your own.

Here is an example of the “Arabian Tent”.

However, if I were to do it, I would have the magician reappear first (without the robes) and then reveal the girl who also should openly disrobe. Both performers should never be seen in the robes at the same time.

Black Art

One of the strongest and cleanest effects you can perform is an illusion using the Black Art technique.

I’m not talking about a full Black Art act but using the technique as a basic method for the illusion.

An example of a full Black Art act is the legendary Omar Pasha’s act. In this act, Black Art is used directly to create various effects. However, besides a mastery of the Black Art techniques, this acts requires you to have complete control and mastery of lighting design.

I worked with Omar Pasha on a TV show in 2009 and his lighting took a long time to get perfect. This may not be practical for most performers.

I feel that Black Art is best used as an utility, in particular a Black Art Table. Using a Black Art Table, you can create multiple effects and illusion acts. While you do need control of lighting, it is not extensive and once you figure out a lighting arrangement that works, you can replicate it for each venue you perform at.

Check out the late-Joanie Spina present an illusion act that uses this very utility.

I highly recommend that you check out Gary Darwin’s “Inexpensive Illusions” for loads of ideas that use the basic Black Art Table design.

Tim Ellis shares his method in his DVD “Ellis in Wonderland” that I recommend as well.

I have designed several different Black Art Tables, each with a unique set-up. One is described in “Illusionary Departures” but my latest design is detailed in “Simple Showstoppers”. This Black Art Table design that allows you to show the back and through the table BEFORE & AFTER the illusion. To my knowledge, such a design has been performed or published before.

Black Art Table

Cardboard Illusions and PVC Compressed Foam Boards

There are several illusions that can be built with cardboard cartons although I recommend substituting to high density corrugated plastic or PVC compressed foam boards. The plastic or PVC material comes in different colours, is lightweight and is more more durable than cardboard. It is easy to cut with an industrial box cutter and can be held together with duct tape.

corrugated plasticCorrugated Plastic

PVC boardPVC Board

You can also use 1″ aluminum angle (2mm thick) as bracing on the outside vertical corners of the boxes. The aluminum angle can be attached to the boards with pop rivets or nuts and bolts.

You can also have two opposite corners each braced with aluminum angles and the other two braced with piano hinges so that you can fold the boxes flat for easy transport by removing only the aluminum angle.

Angle and piano hinge

The bracing/ piano hinges holds the shape of the boxes you build and makes it much sturdier. But, the final prop is still very lightweight.

Using this material, you can build simple illusions such as Grant’s “Victory Cartons” Illusion, a giant Square Circle or the above mentioned “Arabian Tent” illusion.

Andrew Mayne has designed quite a few budget illusions that are unique. Many can be built from cardboard, corrugated plastic or PVC board. They are available as individual downloads or DVDs at his website HERE.



Budget Illusion Plans

Free Webinar on How to Create Budget Illusions

Be sure to check out a free webinar where I discuss budget illusions and give three specific ideas for budget illusions in it. Watch it here.

Ep2 blog

Free Illusion Plans

You can get your hands on free illusion plans from this website alone:

  • Subscribe to illusionbooks.com for a free illusion plan here.
  • Make a nominal donation to illusionbooks.com to gain a lifetime membership to the Backstage Section of the website. The backstage section includes more free illusion plans, videos and ideas. Click here.

$75 Appearing Girl

New illusion just added to the Backstage Section

Other Products

I also offer three instant download products that detail specific detail budget illusions that look great on stage.

One is the “Illusionist Starter Kit”. It includes a 25-minute audio show and two original digital illusion plans. You can order it for only US$9.90 HERE.

The other is the ‘Inexpensive Illusions” digital illusion plan package describes a number of budget illusions culled from his various books. Click here.


Finally, “Simple Showstoppers” features appearances, disappearances, transformations and a unique “Sword Box” as well as my original Black Art Flap Table.

Each illusion can be built for between $200 – $500. You can order it for US$35.00 HERE.

I also offer both products as a bundle package along with my book “How to Be an Illusionist” HERE.


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If you enjoyed this article, check out my original books/ plans/ DVDs HERE and use this Promo Code “5OFF2014″ upon Checkout to receive a 5% discount off all books, sets, DVDs, plans & downloads.