What Are Transparents and Overlays

There are a number of creative ways you can use transparents and overlays in Photoshop to edit your images. If you’re wondering just what are transparents and overlays, find all the answers with this helpful guide.


Like the name implies, transparents are used to give your image a clear look. They are often used as a gradient, and can be customized to fade away completely or only partially. Here’s how to apply a transparent gradient to your project:
  1. Open your project as a “Background” layer in Photoshop.
  2. Search your main toolbar for the Rectangle shape tool.
  3. Draw a rectangle. The transparency works best if you cover approximately half of your photo.
  4. Find your layer palette. Select “Fx” and find “Gradient Overlay”.
  5. Choose from the list of gradients available, and select transparent using the Gradient Editor
  6. Select “Color” and choose black. If the rectangle has a contrasting color, select the rectangle, “Fill” and choose “0%”.
There are many applications where you can use a transparent gradient to add depth and a unique style to your images. If you don’t want a gradient look, you can also create a transparent style using overlays or a transparent background.


Once you’ve practiced creating a transparent gradient, an overlay is a simple way to apply the effect to your entire image. Here are the basic steps to creating an overlay:
  1. Open your project in Photoshop.
  2. Choose “Layers” > “Select Layers”
  3. Find the layer where you wish to include a transparent overlay
  4. Duplicate the layer using by dragging it into “Create a New Layer”
  5. Open the “Layer Style” box
  6. Select “Color Overlay” and choose your color
  7. Use the “Opacity” tool to adjust the level of transparency
Practice your overlays and transparents skills on a range of images from Shutterstock. You’ll be able to add depth, shadows, gradients and other unique characteristics to any image with these simple tools.

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