Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Transparent Screens

Transparent Screen
This was my attempt at a transparent screen, where the background of your computer screen looks transparent. What’s more, I’m going to tell you how I did it. This isn’t necessarily the best way to do it but it worked for me.

Firstly, I’d recommend the following:

  • That you use a camera with a zoom function
  • That you use a tripod
  • That the screen is either a flat panel, or better, a laptop screen

First of all, turn your screen on and place it in front of something – in my example, I had my timetable on the wall to make the effect look more realistic. Ensure that the screen is exactly vertical.
Next, position your camera on the tripod directly in front of the screen, and zoom in so that the viewable area of the screen occupies 100% of the viewfinder. Having an SLR camera, or a digital camera with an LCD display on it will make this much, much easier. Take the image.
Upload this to your computer. Now, you can either set this image as your desktop background, or simply display it full screen – either way you can improve the effect by having a couple of small applications in the foreground. If you have Windows 2000/XP, Mac OS X or a recent Linux distro, you should also be able to the application windows partly transparent, which will make the effect even more cool.
Now to take the second photo. Have the camera in the same position, but zoom out so that you can see the rest of the screen and the space around it, then take the photo. By keeping the camera in the same position, you should ensure that desktop background exactly lines up with the ‘real’ space around it.
And bob’s your uncle. Hopefully your results will be better than mine – it’s a victim of somewhat poor lighting and high brightness on the screen. If you’re using Flickr, remember to add your photo to the transparent screens pool, where you can also view some other more daring images.


  1. What’s the point of the second image?? I don’t see it doing anything… Post a link to these in my dailies at the end of March… Absolutely sweet.

  2. Erm, the second photo is the photo of your computer with the transparent background – ie, the photo at the top of this page.

  3. Doh! It didn’t occur to me that it should be in the same position, but of course it would have to be (for the best photos) so that it lines up perfectly…. /me feels dumb!

  4. Sorry to ask a non-photograph type questions but, how do you get the application windows to be partially transparent?

  5. Usually the program will have an option somewhere, but if not, PowerMenu lets you make any application partially transparent. Run it, then click on the icon in the top left corner of the application you want to make transparent, select Transparency and choose a percentage – the higher the percentage, the more transparent it is.

  6. I was really confused as to how this worked, until I figured out that after you zoom the camera in on the screen, you should take the screen out of the way before taking the picture. You might want to explain this little detail for the other blonde readers out there… ;o)