The Art of Dominoes


A domino is a rectangular tile with a number of dots or pips on one side and blank or blank-patterned on the other. The numbers on the pips correspond to the spots on a die, with each face bearing a different value. Most dominoes have a line down the center to divide them visually into two squares. Each of these sides, called ends, has a unique number of dots, from six down to none or a blank, which determines the value of each piece in a set. The most common domino set contains 28 unique pieces—one for each possible combination of two ends with zero to six spots. Larger sets with greater maximum number of pips on an end can exist; however, such sets are rarely used in play and are known as extended dominoes.

Often, dominoes are used for scoring games in which players try to empty their hands of all tiles before their opponents do. Other games involve blocking or preventing opponents from making certain moves. Most domino games also help children develop number recognition and math skills.

Many people have a fascination with the idea of a domino effect, in which one small change can trigger a chain reaction of related changes that lead to larger consequences. In politics, for example, a domino effect may occur when a country’s government is overthrown or the military regime of a foreign state collapses due to pressure from internal or external forces. The phrase is also often used to describe events in a family or group, such as when a sibling’s bad behavior affects other siblings.

Lily Hevesh started collecting and playing with dominoes at age 9. She’s now a professional domino artist, creating intricate setups for movies, TV shows, and even music artists. She’s also created a YouTube channel to share her creations. Her mind-blowing domino installations can take several nail-biting minutes to fall, as the energy travels from one domino to the next, until the whole arrangement crashes down.

When Hevesh creates a new arrangement, she starts by considering the theme or purpose of the display. Then she brainstorms images and words that might fit with the theme. She also considers how the display will be built, such as if it will be in a circular formation.

Once she has a plan, she begins to work on the details of the dominoes. She creates a layout, identifying any open ends—those without an attached tile—that can be played to. She also decides how high or low the pieces will be stacked on each other and whether they will be in a vertical or horizontal position.

Dominoes can be made from a variety of materials, including natural stones (such as marble, granite, or soapstone); other types of wood; metals; ceramic clay; and plastics such as styrofoam. Natural-material sets are typically more expensive than those made from polymer, but they have a more organic look and feel. They can be very heavy, especially in large sets.