How to Make Photographs Translucent With Photoshop

By Brian Richards

Photographers and photo editors sometimes use translucent photographs to create an overlay effect in their final images. This technique is particularly popular with portrait photography, in which a full-length photograph features a translucent overlay of the subject's face. Photographers may also choose to overlay static images with action shots, such as in sports photography, or may simply want to overlay two translucent images for artistic effect. Whatever the goal, creating translucent photographs in Photoshop requires only a few tools and can be done without any special Photoshop experience.

Step 1

Open the image you wish to make translucent in Photoshop. If you are overlaying two photos, the photo you should open is the photo that will appear on top. Click on the "File" menu button, and then on the "Open" option. Search the explorer window for the file you want, highlight it and click "Open."

Step 2

Duplicate the image by dragging the Background layer in the layer pane to the "Create a New Layer" button. This will create a layer called "Background copy."

Step 3

Delete the original Background layer by dragging it to the trash can icon in the layer pane.

Step 4

Create a new layer by clicking the "Create a New Layer" button. On this layer, you may fill in a solid background color, apply a color gradient, copy and paste the background photo or add anything else you wish to appear through the translucent photograph.

Step 5

Click on the layer with the image you wish to make translucent in the layer pane.

Step 6

Select the "Layer" option from the toolbar, and choose "Layer Style" and then "Blending Options."

Step 7

Slide the opacity slider left or enter a value in the opacity box. The value you choose will be dependent on how translucent you want your top image to be, but you will probably use a value between 30 and 70 percent. Keep the "Preview" check box selected so that you can see the effect on the image as you move the slider. When you are satisfied with the effect, click "OK."

Tips & Warnings

  • The best bottom images use a solid, black background. Bottom images with a great amount of detail can make it difficult to see the top, translucent photograph.
  • Save a copy of the image in .psd format or in another image format that supports layers. If you overwrite the original .jpg or .gif image and do not retain a backup, it will not be possible to remove or edit the translucent effect. However, if you save the file in .psd, it will be possible to return to the image and adjust the opacity if you later change your mind.