A Magic Mirror is basically a computer screen behind a two-way mirror. When white text is displayed on a black background on the monitor, the text shines through the mirror and appears to be imbedded in the glass. There are several Magic Mirror programs that display time & date, outside temperature, your schedule, and a multitude of other options. In this article, we will cover how to create a simple Magic Mirror using an Android Tablet and a Picture Frame.
Last year I made a very large magic mirror using a big LED screen and a Raspberry Pi, and it came out amazing. This year, I wanted to create a smaller version out of a picture frame, finally got around to doing it, and I am pretty pleased with the results.
You Will Need
For this project, you will need the following parts:
- A large picture frame – I used an 11” x 14” one
- Two-Way Mirror (sometimes called one-way glass)
- Android Tablet – I used a 10” Polaroid Tablet running Marshmallow
- Wall Mirror App from the Google Play Store
- Cardboard backing & tape (preferably black)
- Mounting hardware of your choice
That is all you will need. Overall, I spent about $140 in parts, the most expensive parts being the Android tablet and the mirror glass. This is honestly one of the easiest project builds that I have ever made – so let’s get started.
First, I will list see some quick step-by-step instructions, followed by a more in-depth install notes section.
- Go to the Google Play store and install the Wall Mirror App
- Run the App and select what you want to display on the screen
- Size and cut your spacer backing (I just used cardboard)
- Flip the frame upside down and insert the Two-Way glass
- Lay your Android in the position on the mirror that you want
- Put in your spacer material
- Use black tape to cover any see-through gaps around the Android & frame edges
- Secure The backing to the frame
- Enjoy your Magic Mirror!
The “Wall Mirror” App
I tried out a couple apps to create the Magic Mirror effect and settled on “Wall Mirror” by Nick Hall. It offers a clean looking display that shows Date & time, temperature, current day Google calendar events, and a random quote that changes frequently. There are a couple other features including stock quotes, bus & train travel time.
Overall it is easy to configure – just run the app, check what you want displayed, configure item options, and you are all set.
In the future, I would like to try something with more features, or custom create something, but for a simple Magic Mirror project it works very well.
Pick out the right Frame
Pick out a thick picture frame, one that is very deep. On the one I chose; the tablet fits almost flush with the natural back when the glass and tablet are installed. This also gives you some room to cut space out for the power cord if you decide to do so.
How to select a Two-Way Mirror
There are many companies out there that sell two-way mirrors for these projects. As the popularity has increased, some of them are even specifically calling it “Magic Mirror glass”. I personally found that Tap Plastics makes nice custom sized 2-Way mirrored Acrylic sheets that have worked perfectly for my needs. It comes in two thicknesses; the thinner thickness was perfect for this project. I used the thicker one when I made the large screen monitor one, and again it seemed to work out pretty well in both cases.
Select a mirror size that is the exact same dimensions as the picture glass that you are replacing. Measure it multiple times and be sure you order the correct one. When you receive the glass, be careful with it. I usually keep the plastic wrap on it until the very last second before I go to install it, to prevent it from becoming scratched.
Take some time, search around the different manufacturers, compare prices and pick the two-way glass that best fits your needs.
What Sized Android Tablet Should I use?
I used a new Polaroid 10” tablet that I found on sale for $99. For a small mirror, I didn’t want a tablet that took up the entire area, just the upper left side of the mirror. That way you get the information that you want, but it doesn’t take over the entire viewing area. So, for my project the 10” tablet worked great in a 11″ x 14″ frame (actual glass size).
Sizing the Back Space Filler
For my frame, I wanted the filler material to be as thick as my tablet. I ended up cutting a triple layer of cardboard the same size as the mirror back piece and then just cut the tablet shape out of it.
Something Like this:
You could also use black foam board or put black construction paper over your cardboard to prevent the light color of the cardboard from bleeding through the mirror.
It was kind of a snug fit, but I left some space at the top so it wouldn’t put any pressure on the Android buttons on the top of the unit. I was not worried about powering the device, I just figured I would fully charge it, and then just take it out when needed to be charged again. If you want, you can leave space so that you can plug the power into it without having to take it apart each time.
Next, fill in any gaps with black tape to keep light from shinning through. I just used electrical tape:
Mine was such a snug fit, this is actually all I had to do. But you will want to at least go over it again with thicker tape, or use some other securing option that best fits your frame. This is to ensure that your Android tablet & mirror don’t fall out – ye have been warned!
Next, use whatever mounting hardware you require to safely secure the device to the wall. I simply just sat mine on top of one of my bookcases:
And there you have it. If you are looking for a quick and simple Magic Mirror solution, an Android based mirror is worth checking into. If you need something larger, and with a lot more options, I highly recommend checking out the Raspberry Pi MagicMirror2 project.