Definition and Comparison of Transparent, Translucent, and Opaque Objects

Transparent, translucent, and opaque materials all explain just one thing- How does visible light passes through it. Here we explore and explain the three properties and understand the transparent, translucent and opaque objects differences with examples.

Transparent object – What is it?

A transparent object is something that you can see through and is clear. You can see through them and look at what is present on the other side. This happens because all the light that comes in contact with the transparent material passes through it. 

You will also see some intricate detailing like colours when you see through a transparent object.

Characteristics of transparent materials

Here are a few characteristics that make it clear that the object is transparent.

  • You can see the object placed on the other side clearly.
  • Light can pass through the object completely.
  • Since the transparent object does not block the light, no shadows are formed.
  • Transparent objects are also referred to as see-through objects because you can see through them without any obstructions. 

Examples include glass windowpane, cellophane, and a clear glass light bulb.

Transparent Material examples

  • Prism – Prism is a transparent material, and you can see everything clearly through it.
  • Glasses – We use a number of items that are made of glass. There are lenses, fish tanks, watches, spectacles, etc. Light passes through these glass objects and this is why glass is completely transparent.
  • Diamond – Diamond is the clearest object that has ever been made. Try reading something written on a sheet of paper, seeing it through a diamond. You will be able to see it clearly.
  • Air – Air is everywhere around us. It lets you see through it clearly. And this is why air is transparent.
  • Water – If you have gone swimming and looked inside water, you will notice the clarity. If the water is clear, then you will be able to see through it without any hindrance. Water is thus a transparent material.

Translucent Object – What are they?

Translucent objects let the light pass through them, but you will not be able to see the object on the other side clearly. So if you were to look through translucent objects, you can spot the object on the other side but not clearly.

Why does this happen? The translucent objects let only some light pass through it directly and obstruct the rest. As a result, you see a fuzzy and unclear image through the translucent object.

Causes of translucency

Translucency is caused because of:

  • A non-uniform density – Because matter is non-uniformly distributed, it causes different densities in different object parts. This causes inaccurate transmission and irregular refraction. The density fluctuation results in the centres getting scattered. The place where this fluctuation takes place causes the light ray to scatter.
  • Crystallographic Defects- If there is a fluctuation in the crystal structure composition, then this causes the light to scatter.
  • Boundaries- If you see a polycrystalline structure then the grain boundaries and the cell boundaries behave like a scattering centre.

Translucent Objects characteristics

  • Translucent objects produce a faint shadow because these do not block the light completely.
  • Translucent objects let the light pass through them partially.
  • If you place an item on the other side of the translucent object then you will not be able to see it clearly.
  • These may also be referred to as see-through objects because you can partially see through them.
  • You will not be able to see anything clearly through a translucent object.

Examples of translucent objects are vegetable oil, sunglasses, sautéed onion, and wax paper.

Translucent Objects-Examples

  • Coloured Liquids – Put some coloured liquid into a bottle made of glass and look through it. You will not be able to see clearly through the liquid.
  • Butter Paper – Look through a butter paper. You will not be able to see clearly.
  • Clouds – Clouds are translucent. 
  • Tinted Glass- Look through a tinted glass. You will not be able to see things clearly.
  • Frosted Glass- You will not be able to see the opposite side of the frosted glass clearly.

Opaque Object – What is it?

Opaque objects do not let light pass through them at all. These are completely opposite of a transparent object.

Characteristics of opaque objects

  • Absorption – Opaque objects absorb the light completely and decrease the intensity of the light.
  • Scattering- Opaque objects are made of molecules that absorb the light and scatter them across randomly. The cumulative scattering causes the light wave to get dissipated before it can emerge on the other side of the object.
  • Reflection – The incident lights get reflected from the surface of the opaque object. The opaque objects are coloured because it causes a particular light wavelength to get reflected. The rest of the light’s wavelength either gets absorbed or scattered.

Opaque Objects – Characteristics

  • You cannot see the object that is placed on the other side of the opaque object.
  • Light does not pass through the opaque material.
  • Since opaque objects block the light that passes through it completely you can see dark shadows that form around it.
  • You will not be able to see anything through an opaque object.

Opaque Materials – Examples

  • Wooden door

  • Textbook

  • Steel cupboard

  • Paper Cup 
  • Mirror – You can only see your reflection in the mirror. You cannot see through the mirror.


In simple terms, if the material lets the light pass through it completely then it is a transparent object. This includes water, air, and glass as examples. You can clearly see the objects that are placed on the other side of the transparent material. 

Materials that allow only a partial amount of light to pass through it are translucent. Examples are oily paper, tissue paper, etc. You cannot see the objects on the other side clearly, but you can make a rough image of them in your brain.

The materials that obstruct light to pass through it completely are opaque. Examples are wood and metals. The opaque object does not let you see through it at all.


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