You create the image of an object, a creature, or some other visible phenomenon that is no larger than a 15-foot cube. The image appears at a spot within range and lasts for the duration. The image is purely visual; it isn’t accompanied by sound, smell, or other sensory effects.

You can use your action to cause the image to move to any spot within range. As the image changes location, you can alter its appearance so that its movements appear natural for the image. For example, if you create an image of a creature and move it, you can alter the image so that it appears to be walking.

Physical interaction with the image reveals it to be an illusion, because things can pass through it. A creature that uses its action to examine the image can determine that it is an illusion with a successful Intelligence (Investigation) check against your spell save DC. If a creature discerns the illusion for what it is, the creature can see through the image.

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, S, M (a bit of fleece)
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes
School: 1st-level illusion

Who can cast Silent Image? Bards, Sorcerers, and Wizards have Silent Image on their class spell lists. Warlocks with the Misty Visions Eldritch Invocation can cast Silent Image at will, without expending a spell slot or material components.

Player’s Handbook, pg. 276

Silent Image 5e

Silent Image is a fun and dynamic illusion spell in DnD 5e. It’s not the most powerful, but as a 1st-level spell, you can pull off a lot of tricks with Silent Image.

I’ll cover some of those possible uses, how the spell works, and give DMs some tips for stuff that the rules don’t explicitly cover.

How Does Silent Image Work in 5e?

Silent Image creates the image one of the following:

  • One object

  • One creature

  • One visible phenomenon

The total size of the illusion can be no larger than a 15-foot cube.

The illusion is not accompanied by:

  • Sound

  • Smell

  • Sensory effects (heat, cold, etc.)

Basically, the image is a hologram.

The image does not move until you use your action on a later turn to cause it to move. As the image moves, it can appear natural (e.g., a creature walking, water flowing, etc.).

The illusion can be broken for a specific creature if that creature:

  • Physically interacts with it

  • Sees things pass through it (it has no substance)

  • Succeeds on an Investigation check against your spell save DC

If any of these things happen, the creature can see through the illusion.

I’ll get into more specifics on the spell’s rules later, but for now, let’s look at a few ways to use the spell effectively.

tasha spellcasting dnd 5e

How to Use Silent Image in 5e

Here are a few ways to use Silent Image in DnD 5e:

  1. Create a hiding space for your party. When you’re hoping to spy on some bad guys, avoid a passing patrol, or hide from predators, Silent Image can come in handy. If you’re able to use the entire 15-foot cube, that’s up to 9 medium creatures you can hide. Of course, the bigger the illusion, the more likely that someone will investigate it, especially in tight spaces.

    On the more daring side, you can actually make an illusory huge creature with Silent Image, big enough to hide your comrades while moving. However, you’ll need the repeated use of your action to move the creature as you and your party move with it. And if the huge creature is out of place in whatever environment you’re in, it might draw more attention than the stealth mission calls for.

  2. Set up an ambush. On the more offensive side of things, Silent Image can be used to give you and your ranged allies attack advantage for the opening attack of a fight (at the very least). If you shoot a shot from behind a hiding spot created with Silent Image, you’re an unseen attacker (attack advantage) for that attack (PHB 194-5).

    Now, at that point, any creature who “witnessed” the odd physical interaction of an arrow or spell flying through your illusion can see through the false image. I’ll get into that more in the rules section, but that is the harsh RAW of the situation.

    One semi-cheesy workaround for this downside is to simply add arrow slits to any illusory wall you create and fire through those. I’d rule that a creature firing back would maybe have disadvantage, until they saw their projectile fly through the wall (so the spell would last a bit longer but still fail early on in combat).

  3. Show things or people you’ve seen before to NPCs. This is the thing you’ll end up using Silent Image for all the time. When you’re looking for a creature that you’ve seen before, simply making a Silent Image version of it is the best way to get that detective work done.

    Likewise, you can make 3D maps of spaces you’ve seen before. You could even move your Find Familiar around to get a look at a dungeon or outdoor space before your party approaches, and then draw them a perfect map of what you’ve seen with Silent Image.

    Lastly, you can make an illusory version of any MacGuffin, relic, or other object of interest to show the thing you’re talking about to sources who might know more about it.

  4. Conjure a distraction. For example, creating an illusory ne’er-do-well-looking-guy to walk near guards in a suspicious manner. Then, when the guards go to investigate the guy, you sneak past. Or creating a pulsing light that draws attention or something.

    The idea is to make an image of something that makes creatures in the area investigate it, allowing you and your party the chance to sneak past more easily.

  5. Conjure an intimidating creature. False dragons, ogres, beholders, liches, mummy lords — there are a lot of huge or smaller creatures that would be a scary sight to behold for most creatures.

    Not having sound to go along with your monsters can be a dead giveaway, but using Minor Illusion or some other auditory trick, you might be able to sell the whole thing (possibly with a Performance check involved). If you’re looking to quickly drive things away rather than lure them in, this can be the trick to use.

  6. Escape and hide from pursuit. As you run away from pursuers, when you’re out of their line of sight, create an image of a false wall or some other plausible hiding spot that blends in with your environment, then hide behind it with your party. Or go down a corridor, then “block it off” with an image of a wall that blends in.

    You can also make false dead-ends and the like to encourage pursuers to look elsewhere.

  7. Make convincing traps. A 15-foot gap can fit an illusory bridge that might trick a few foes into falling to their deaths (or maimings). Or a false floor that hides a pit trap. You could even make the top stair look like it’s in a slightly different location, causing someone to fall.

    On the out-of-combat side, this could just be a harmless bar prank, where you trick someone into “sitting” on an illusory stool.

  8. Steal stuff. Whenever you pilfer something that might be noticed, you can create an illusory version of it, so that nobody who sees the area will notice it’s missing (unless they have a reason to touch it). This buys you a 10-minute headstart for any theft-based missions.

  9. Hide bodies. Sometimes, stealth missions go awry, and you wind up killing some creatures you’d rather have snuck past. When you need a mulligan on your stealth tactics, Silent Image can create a hiding spot for the slain, so that their bodies don’t alert other denizens of the area (at least for 10 minutes).

  10. Trigger an ambush. If you fear an ambush, you can create a Silent Image of one of your party members walking into the area you fear. Hopefully, enemies will attack the image and give away their location. If this trick works especially well, you might even get the jump on THEM with a surprise round.

  11. Long distance communication. Make the image of words that your party or friendly NPCs can read from far away. If the sentence is short, you can fit a huge-sized font on a 15-foot-wide billboard. RAW, you can’t change what the text says after the initial casting — you can only move it around — so make your message count.

  12. Combine it with Minor Illusion for sound. If you need help “selling” an illusion, it’s pretty simple to just create an accompanying sound effect with Minor Illusion (the cantrip). It doesn’t require concentration to maintain a sound for up to 1 minute with Minor Illusion, so you can pull this trick off alone.

  13. Aid Performance checks. If you or an ally (cough cough, Bard) is putting on a performance, Silent Image can certainly add to the show.

  14. Create a “wall”. Throwing up an illusory wall in front of squishy party members might make ranged enemies less inclined to focus on or pursue them. If your ranged allies are extra clever, they can only pop around the wall to shoot their arrows/spells, so that they don’t break the illusion early through physical interaction with it.

  15. Be an Illusion Wizard. This is a real long-game move, but Illusion Wizards’ 14th-level feature, Illusory Reality, lets you turn an illusory object into a real object for 1 minute. Now you can do things like create an illusory bridge, make it real for a minute to walk across it, and then any pursuers who saw you do that will follow and fall to their deaths (for the extra 9 minutes Silent Image lasts, at least).

    You can also make real stone walls for a minute – not bad for a 1st-level spell slot, even if the wall is much smaller than a 5th-level Wall of Stone.

dnd character sheet and dice

What Are the Rules for Silent Image in 5e?

The rules for Silent Image in DnD 5e are as follows:

  • You cannot copy the effects of Fog Cloud, Darkness, Disguise Self, Invisibility, Blindness/Deafness, or any other spell with Silent Image. I’ll go into the details of why a bit, but just as a general rule of thumb, if your question boils down to “can I use Silent Image to [do something that another spell does]?” the answer is “no” or “not exactly”.

    Silent Image can create fog in a 15-foot cube, but once a creature sees physical interaction with the fog and realizes that it’s not moving naturally, the jig is up. So, at best, you can get one attack advantage (from being an unseen attacker) or one attack disadvantage (from being an unseen target) before the “fog” ceases to act like fog anymore.

    Same goes for any “Darkness”-like effects.

    Disguise Self doesn’t work because the illusion only moves when you give an action for it to move, AND it doesn’t hold up to physical interaction (which you’ll be doing if you’re basically standing inside a hologram) — it’ll just look weird. That’s also why faux-invisibility effects don’t work with Silent Image.

  • Physical interaction with the illusion causes any creature who “witnesses” that interaction to see the illusion revealed. So, if you shoot an arrow through your illusory wall (or an enemy shoots an arrow through your illusory wall), anyone who sees that happen will see through the illusion. This was confirmed by Jeremy Crawford as the rules as intended way to run Minor Illusion and, by extension, Silent Image.

    However, this one if very DM-dependent. If your DM feels that the illusion breaking automatically for all witnesses is too harsh, a happy middle ground is allowing creatures who witness it to make the Investigation check as a reaction. That way, not all creatures will immediately see through the illusion.

  • You cannot make illusions of multiple creatures and/or objects. The spell’s phrasing is very specific: “an object, a creature, or some other visible phenomenon.” That means you can’t conjure a whole illusory party or a row of suits of armor. Some players try to argue that “some other visible phenomenon” can include, well, anything, including multiple creatures or multiple objects.

    In my opinion, that’s not a good-faith argument for the spell’s intended effect. However, I’d let making a Silent Image of a swarm of creatures slide, since they have stat blocks like single-entity creatures.

  • Silent Image only moves when you use an action; it doesn’t continuously move over the spell’s duration. This means that you can’t create a false set of armor or something that moves along with a specific creature; it would just look wonky, and the real body/armor beneath the illusion would clip out of the illusion all the time as you breathe and make micro movements, revealing the thing as illusory.

    However, this might be an incredibly pedantic point, and many DMs allow for the image to be continuously in movement, especially if you’re casting Silent Image out of combat and can continuously use your action on maintaining the illusion.

Is Silent Image 5e a Good Spell?

Yes, Silent Image is a good spell. While it certainly has its limits and relies on some level of DM fiat, there are many useful illusions you can create in a 15-foot cube. Silent Image rewards creative thinking. As long as you don’t try to squeeze out an unrealistic amount of power with it, you’ll be satisfied.

For someone with the Misty Visions invocation, being able to cast it at will means you have subterfuge as an option at all times. It might not always be the right tool for the job, but it’s a tool you’ll be glad to always have on your belt.

If you’re worried about how powerful Silent Image will be in your particular game, ask your DM how they plan to rule on some of the edge cases and general weirdness of illusion spells.

Silent Image 5e DM Tips

My DM tips for Silent Image are the same as my DM tips for most illusion spells — reward creativity, consider the power level of equally leveled spells, and be as consistent as possible.

Players can easily become disillusioned (get it?) by their illusion spells frequently failing to work. Err on the side of allowing Silent Image to create impactful advantages for the party, as long as they plan the thing well, and it’s believable that the creatures you’re controlling would be fooled by the illusion (at least for a time).

As for the little tricks like being an unseen attacker/unseen target using illusory walls and such, I say it’s definitely fine for at least one attack. I think most creatures who are paying attention to the fight should see through the illusion the first time it happens. However, creatures’ intelligence and perception scores should come into play here.

For example, creatures with a sub-10 Intelligence should make the Investigation check as a reaction to seeing an arrow fly through the illusion, seeing through it on a success. More intelligent/perceptive creatures might automatically see through the illusion the first time something physically interacts with it, though.

Otherwise, I often ignore the rule that the illusion doesn’t move unless/until you use your action to move it. If a moving image is important for the caster and it’s not happening in combat, you can just assume that they’re constantly using their action to keep the illusion in a perpetual state of movement. It opens up more uses and better illusions — that’s a good thing to me.

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