Make your own 'transparent' display

With a few clever photography tricks and some tweaks in your favorite photo editor, you can create the illusion of a see-through PC monitor.

Once you've seen some amazing pictures of seemingly transparent LCD screens, you may want to create your own optical illusion. After researching the topic, I wanted to give it a try, too. So I'm going to show you the simplest way I've found to create the effect. All you'll need is a digital camera, photo-editing software, and about an hour to produce the image.

In this step-by-step guide, I use Gimp, the free photo-editing software for Windows, Mac, and Linux; but any standard photo editor that can produce layers and perform basic editing will work as well.

Take Your Photos

Before you get started, you need to determine (and write it down for later reference) your screen's resolution. Microsoft has two online tutorials--one for Windows 7 users and one for Windows Vista users--that show how to obtain this spec.

Next, you need to take a photo with your computer screen in the frame, and another without your screen in the frame. If you're using a laptop, the only adjustment you have to make is to fold the clamshell down before taking the second shot. Desktop users must remove their monitor from the desk entirely to achieve the right effect. You should also mark the location where your monitor sits on your desk with tape or pencil. This will make it easier to restore the screen to the right spot later on.

201935-whatnottodo_original

When taking your photo, make sure that you have enough light in your environment, but avoid having a strong light source--like the sun or a bright light--directly behind you, as it could cause screen glare in your final picture, decreasing the illusion of transparency.

The other key is to be sure to take two shots at an identical angle.The best approach is to mount your camera on a tripod. If you don't have a tripod, you can create a makeshift one. To take my shots I just used my nightstand, with a few boxes piled on top of it. You should also turn off your display or give your desktop a solid color background. This will simplify the task of editing the screen in your photo-editing software later on.

When it comes time to take your final shot, you may want to use your camera flash or to be in a room with a lot of natural light. This is because both light sources help create the transparency effect in your final shot. But if you use a flash, take care to use an angle that doesn't let the flash slip onto the screen. In the experimental shot above, the shot is pretty good overall, but the flash ruins it.

Tip: Have at least two items that run beside and behind the screen. Doing so will make it easier to line up your final shot later, and it will add to the transparency effect.

After you've captured two shots that you like you can upload them to your computer. Here's how my two photos looked initially:

201935-image1_350

201935-image2_350

Tip: If you're using a laptop, try not to move the base of your computer at all from start to finish of this project. That way, the only adjustment you'll have to make will be to the screen angle when lining up your final shot.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags graphics softwarelcd monitors

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ian Paul

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?