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General Techniques

Opaque vs. Semi-Transparent and Transparent.

What does it mean?

by Donna Ellis


The words  “Transparent”, “Semi-Transparent” and “Opaque” frequently confuse people.



  • means “allowing light to pass through so objects may be seen on the other side” – or “completely see-through”.
  • Clear, meaning you can see through it. 
  • This does not mean colorless.
  • For example: Stained Glass can be seen through. It is often Transparent – there may be color involved, but you can see through it.
  • When thinking about transparent, try imagining that an item is made of clear or tinted window glass. You can see right through it.



  • means there might be a little more substance to the item. Light still passes through it, but it may obscure (make fuzzy) what is on the other side.
  • For example, etched glass or frosted glass can be seen through, but we cannot discern details.
  • In a frosted shower we can see someone is in the shower, but cannot see them clearly because the etching/frosting substance in the glass blurs what is beyond.
  • Semi-Transparent may be colorless or tinted.
  • Light can still be seen passing through it a semi-transparent item, but clearly-seen details cannot be observed on the other side.



  • means the substance is impossible to see through. Light does not pass through it.
  • Instead of Sheer (Semi-Transparent) curtains, Opaque curtains are used to block out light and provide privacy.
  • We can put our hands in front of our faces and not see through them, because our body is opaque.
  • We cannot see through what is opaque.


All embossing powders, flockings and glitters fall into these categories.

If we take the time to color and shade an image with markers or colored pencils, we will not want to block out the pretty coloring with opaque products. Instead we will want to use “semi-transparent” techniques and details.

 For example:

  • If it is desirable to color an image with colored pencils, watercolors, alcohol markers or acrylic paints, those items may then be coated later with VersaMark Ink and Transparent or Semi-Transparent embossing powder, and heat set for an pretty effect.
  • They may also be "painted" with glue and glittered with semi-transparent glitters or white flocking. When the glue dries, you will be able to see your artwork and all its pretty colors beneath the semi-transparent glitters.
  • The same techniques work with pretty designer papers, wallpaper, and stickers.

But if opaque glitters, flockings or embossing powders are used on top of colored images, then all the coloring will disappear. The only color that will be visible is the actual EP, flocking or glitter.


Two good applications for Opaque products:

  • when we need to cover up a mistake,
  • add a texture or color to our project or designer papers.

Two good applications for Semi-Transparent products:

  • if we want to enhance or alter certain colors,
  • if we want to add sparkle, shine or texture without detracting from the image or designer paper.

Opaque products are generally NOT good substitutes in semi-transparent techniques.

Semi-Transparent products are generally NOT good substitutes in opaque techniques.

We hope these explanations help make the art products in your stash more enjoyable, especially when trying to determine which products will work best with certain techniques, or in creating specific effects.

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NOTE: ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. The text and images may not be distributed, or republished, on any form from this website without first obtaining written permission of the copyright holder(s).

Margaret Myers

Sparkle N Sprinkle

Toll free:  888-901-9173

fax:  813-642-0941

local:  813-642-0940

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Ruskin FL 33570