How to Make a Color Transparent in Photoshop

“I want to be able to see through that color.” 

Have you ever had this thought when working in Photoshop? How can you make a color transparent in Photoshop?

Hello! I’m Cara and I use transparency frequently when I’m creating product designs. Photoshop makes it easy to turn colors fully or partially transparent with just a few clicks of a button. 

Let’s take a look at how to make a color transparent in Photoshop!

Quick heads-up: the screenshots and tutorial below are based on the Windows version of Photoshop CC. If you are on the Mac version, they can be slightly different.

Step 1: Make a Selection

The first step for turning a color transparent is to make a selection. Photoshop needs to know what part of the image you want to affect. There are various selection tools in Photoshop including the Lasso tool and the ever-handy Quick Selection tool.

Since we want to make a selection of one color, we’ll choose the Magic Wand tool for this selection. 

The Magic Wand tool makes a selection of the same or similar color pixels when you click on a spot in the image. There are various settings that allow you to fine-tune the tool for your image. 

For this example, we’ll grab the Magic Wand tool from the toolbar. It may be hidden behind the Quick Selection or Object Selection tools. Just right-click and choose the tool from the fly-out menu. 

Then, click on the color in the image that you want to turn transparent. I turned up the tolerance to 50 but it still took a few clicks to get my selection in this image.

Step 2: Delete the Selection

If you want the selected pixels to be completely transparent, you can simply delete the selection at this point.

Note: if you’re working on the background layer, it is automatically locked and you won’t be able to delete it. Unlock the layer by clicking the icon that looks like a lock on the right side of the layer.

With the layer unlocked, you can hit the Backspace or Delete key to remove that part of the image and turn the pixels transparent. 

Make a Color Partially Transparent

What if you want to change the color to be only partially transparent? Perhaps you’d like to put another image behind your image and have it peeking through. 

Let’s look at how to do that. 

Step 1: Create and Save Your Selection

Create a selection with the Magic Wand tool as we’ve already discussed. We’re going to be jumping around a little, so let’s save the selection to ensure we don’t lose it.

Go to Select in the menu bar and choose Save Selection.

In the box that appears, make sure your current document is selected and give the selection a name you’ll recognize. I called mine “Avocado.” Click OK

With your selection active, press Ctrl + J or Command + J to duplicate the layer. Because you have a selection active, the program will duplicate the selection only and put it on a new layer. Notice that the selection disappears. 

Click on the first layer to go back to it. 

Then load the saved selection by going to Select > Load Selection. Pick your saved selection from the list.

The selection reappears. Delete the selection by pressing Backspace or Delete. Don’t forget to unlock the layer if it is a background layer. 

Remember that your selection won’t disappear because the copied layer is on top. You’ll see it go transparent in the bottom layer’s thumbnail. Or you can toggle off the top layer by hitting the eye icon on the left so you can see. 

Select the top layer. To make it partially transparent, simply bring down the opacity. Notice how the checkered pattern that indicates transparency is starting to appear? And we can still see part of the avocado.

Now you can drop another image behind it or create whatever effect you’re going for.

Pretty nifty, right?

Saving Transparency

Keep in mind when you save a file with transparency, you have to use the PNG option. JPEG and other file formats don’t support transparency. If you save it as a JPEG, the transparencies will be filled in with white. 

To preserve the transparency, you have to save the image as a PNG.

Curious about what else you can do in the wonderful world of Photoshop? Check out how to fill a shape with an image for more fun effects!

About Cara Koch
Cara fell in love with photography circa 2014 and has been exploring all corners of the imagery world ever since. When she felt limited by Lightroom, she dove headfirst into Photoshop to learn how to create the images she wanted.

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