How to Make a Layer Transparent in Photoshop

How do I see through that?

As you’re working with Photoshop documents, you may run into situations where you need to turn a layer transparent. 

Hey there! I’m Cara and as a photographer, I use Photoshop a lot for image manipulation. Sometimes this involves transparent layers, but the way to do this isn’t necessarily obvious. 

However, it is super easy, so let me show you how to do it.

Step 1: Select the Layer

I’ve got an image I created with a lion image and a tiger image that we’ll use as an example.

With your Photoshop document open, select the layer you want to turn transparent by clicking on it. 

Step 2: Reduce the Opacity

At the top of the Layers panel, you’ll notice a box called Opacity. The default is 100%. Change it to 0% and the layer will turn transparent.

Boom! The tiger disappears. I told you it was easy!

Troubleshooting Transparency

It’s so simple to turn a layer transparent, but there’s a major catch that people get snagged on quite easily. 

Check it out. I have selected the layer I want to turn transparent, but the opacity box is greyed out. What do I do?

Notice the layer I have selected is the Background layer. Background layers work slightly differently than a regular layer. Certain edits are not allowed. 

However, you can get around this. 

Simply double-click on the background layer or click the icon that looks like a padlock on the right side to unlock the layer.

When you double-click, you’ll get this box. 

You can rename the layer and set the opacity to zero right here. Then click OK and you’ll have a transparent background.

If you click on the padlock icon, simply turn down the opacity as previously described. Either way, you’ll get a transparent background.

Note: Photoshop indicates transparency with the checkerboard pattern. When you print or move this image somewhere else, it disappears. 

Making Part of a Layer Transparent

What if you only want to make part of a layer transparent? Simple. Grab a selection tool and make a selection around the area you want to remove. 

We’ll use a simple rectangular marquee tool for this quick example.

See my selection? Now, just hit Backspace or Delete to remove that section.

As long as all the layers behind it are transparent, the selected area will become transparent. If the layers behind are not transparent, you’ll be able to see those layers peeking through. 

What if you want to make the selection completely transparent, but not the rest of the background layer?

Hit Shift + Ctrl + D or Shift + Command + D to reselect or make the selection again. Make sure you have the background layer selected in the Layers panel.

Then hit Backspace or Delete to remove those pixels as well.

Clear as a transparent layer? I hope so! 

Try out what you’ve learned and created your own amazing works of art in Photoshop. Hungry for more tutorials? We’ve got lots! Check out how to rotate a layer or how to group layers to continue your journey!

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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