Pretty much anything you create in Photoshop has an opacity setting, but the way you change the opacity will vary between different types of layers and tools. For example, a layer’s opacity is changed differently than your brush opacity, or your shape’s fill opacity is changed differently from your background opacity. Luckily, there is one method that works for just about any layer or image you’re working with.
To change the opacity of a layer or image in Photoshop, click on the desired layer in the Layers panel. Next, click on the Opacity option in the upper right corner of this panel and drag the slider to reduce the opacity of the selected layers.
Alternatively, you can press 1-9 on your keyboard to change the selected layer’s opacity between 10% and 90%. To change the opacity back to 100%, you will need to press 0 instead.
Although this method works well for changing the opacity of an entire layer at once, it’s not as ideal for changing opacity in certain parts of your photo. Luckily that’s exactly what you will learn throughout this post, along with some more in-depth explanation of the layer panel opacity setting.
– Changing Layer Opacity
You may need to change a layer’s opacity in Photoshop to combine two or more layers together, to apply an effect to an image, and so on.
In the layer panel below, there is an image layer and a background layer underneath it. Notice I converted the target layer into a smart object, but the following steps work for any layer type.
You can change the opacity of a layer in the layers panel. As you can see, the target layer’s opacity is set to 100%, which means the layer is 100% visible.
To change layer opacity, click on the arrow next to the opacity percentage. A slider will appear where you can drag left and right to increase or decrease the layer opacity.
As I changed the layer opacity to 50%, the image is now 50% visible, therefore partially revealing the yellow background layer beneath it.
– Changing The Opacity Of Adjustment Layers
You can also change the opacity of any adjustment layer too.
To see the available adjustment layers options, click the small circle icon at the bottom of the Layers panel.
For my example, I’ll choose ‘Photo Filter.’
I didn’t want the effect to be harsh, so I clicked the adjustment layer and reduced the opacity to 46%. Changing the opacity of your adjustment layers is a great way to get more subtle adjustments in your images.
– Changing The Opacity Of Groups
Instead of changing the opacity of layers individually, you may want to change the opacity of group layers. The advantage to this is that you can edit the opacity of multiple layers at once with a single setting.
There are three ellipses in the example below, and each ellipse has its corresponding layer.
I grouped the ellipses by pressing Control+G(On Windows)/Command+G (On Mac).
So when I click the group layer and change its opacity, the new opacity value is applied to all of the layers that compose the group simultaneously!
– Changing Brush Opacity
First, grab the Brush Tool in the toolbar (B).
The color you use the first time you use the brush is opaque because the brush’s opacity is set to 100% by default.
To change the opacity of a brush, go up to the upper-settings bar and find the ‘Opacity’ option. Then, drag the slider to the left to decrease the opacity or to the right to increase it. Just remember this settings bar is only available when the Brush Tool is selected.
Alternatively, press any number between 0 to 9 on your keyboard to set the desired opacity percentage. For example, press five if you want the opacity to be 50%.
I applied 100%, 50%, and 20% opacity to color #3814db, respectively. Even though the color is the same, you can see how the reduced brush opacity changes its appearance.
– Changing Gradient Opacity
When you reduce the opacity of a gradient, you create a more subtle gradient effect.
For this example, I will apply a gradient to my background layer.
To start, I will grab the gradient tool (G) from the toolbar.
Then, I’ll go up to the upper settings bar and double-click the gradient editor to open the gradient editor panel.
I can choose any gradient from the available presets or I can enter the colors I want in the gradient bar. I share how to create custom gradients in my guide to using the Gradient Tool.
I chose a blue gradient from the available presets and clicked ‘Ok’ afterward.
To change the gradient’s opacity, go to the upper settings bar and choose a value for the gradient.
The gradient will apply to the background with the opacity value you set.
– Changing Layer Style Opacity
First, you need to select your desired layer, in my case that is the text layer.
Then double-click on your desired layer to open the layer styles panel.
All of the effects available are listed on the left side of the panel.
I will start by applying a stroke to the text to add an outline.
You can see that there are many options to stylize the stroke in the layer styles. You can also change the opacity of the stroke in the same place.
Almost all of the layer style options have the opacity adjustment option. And all you need to do is drag the sliders to the left or to the right as needed.
I will reduce my text’s opacity to 90%, moving the slider to the left a little.
I also went to the Blending Options section. As you can see, there were options to adjust opacity values too.
I went to ‘Advanced Blending’ and changed the fill opacity of my text to 0% because I wanted to create an outline effect.
Now, the only thing visible in my text is its stroke since the fill opacity was set to 0%. For effects like this, the layer styles panel is the best place for dealing with opacity settings.
– Changing Layer Mask Opacity
Layer masks are great for adding selective adjustments or removing backgrounds in an image non-destructively. Although there are a million and one uses for layer masks, they can also be used to slightly change the opacity of your layers.
For example, I have two layers in my layers panel. Each layer has a pattern that I created out of geometric shapes.
To create a layer mask, select your layer, then click on the layer mask icon.
A white layer mask will be created beside the selected layer. The white color indicates the layer mask is 100% visible.
Now, I will grab the brush tool in the toolbar (B).
And I will make sure the foreground color is set to black, and the background color is set to white.
Then, I will click and drag the brush around a portion of the layer linked to the layer mask.
You can see that the portion of the layer that I painted black disappeared completely. Then, the equivalent portion of the bottom layer is now visible.
If you click on the layer mask while holding ‘Option’ (On Mac)/’Alt’ (On Windows) you will see the black brush stroke that “erased’’ the content.
If you use the white brush in the same spot, you will notice that the target layer will be 100% visible again. And that’s how layer masks work: when you use a black brush, you hide a layer’s content, while a white brush reveals.
Grey is the intermediate color between black and white. Therefore, you can paint a layer mask gray to change its opacity.
To check this info, keep your brush active and the layer mask selected, and go to the color picker panel.
Once you’re there, enter the hex color code #808080.
With the panel still open, pay attention to the HSB values. H stands for hue, S for saturation, and B for brightness. When the B value is set to 50%, the color is 50% transparent on a layer mask.
With your color chosen, click OK.
Now, click and drag with the brush anywhere the target layer. When you do this, the content of the target layer will be half-visible and half-hidden. As a result, the opacity of the layer mask will be 50%.
And that’s how you change the opacity of a layer mask in Photoshop, by painting the layer with shades of grey. So when you use a darker shade of grey, for example, the opacity of the area you use the brush in will be higher.
I did a few tests.
HSB (0%,0%,70%) – 70% Gray (70% opacity)
HSB (0%,0%, 20%) – 20% Gray (20% opacity)
By changing the color of the brush you use on a layer mask, you can be more selective with how the opacity of your image is adjusted. For example, you could paint a 50% grey brush in one part of your mask while painting 20% grey in another section. What you’re left with are selective opacity adjustments that wouldn’t be possible in any other way.
So now you know how to change the opacity of anything in Photoshop. Whether it be text, images, layers, or layer masks, you’re all set for editing the transparency of assets in your projects.