Difference between Transparent and Translucent

Updated on June 27, 2018

The terms “transparent” and “translucent” are often used in the fields of material science. These two words describe the physical properties of certain things that are commonly used by people or utilized in building different structures or homes. People are often confused when referring to objects as either transparent or translucent. This article will help you understand the meaning of each and ascertain their differences.

Summary Table

Materials are clear in appearanceMaterials appear frosted, stained, or not as clear
Allows all light to pass through without being scatteredAllows only partial light to pass through it
Follows the law of refractionDoes not follow the law of refraction
Allows clear image formationDoes not allow a clear image formation, only partial visibility


transparent door
A transparent door

When you refer to an object as transparent, it usually alludes to something that is made out of perfectly clear material, such as plain glass. Transparent things allow all light to pass through them. Moreover, objects that are on the other side of something that is transparent are clearly visible.

translucent window
A translucent window

An item is referred to as translucent when it is made up of semi-clear materials that are either frosted, stained, or darkly colored. Translucent objects allow only some light to pass through them. Things that are on the other side of a translucent material are visible only to some extent.

Transparent vs Translucent

The main difference between transparent and translucent materials is all about their physical properties that affect the amount of light that is allowed to pass through them.

Something that is transparent appears to be perfectly clear, similar to a pane of glass. This clear material allows light to completely pass through it. On the other hand, an object that is translucent, like frosted glass, does not appear clear. This type of material allows only some light to pass through it.

Transparent objects follow the law of refraction, which states that light bends when it passes through a certain object. Since light is able to pass through it completely, it allows a clear image formation of something that is on the other side. Translucent objects do not follow the law of refraction since light scatters when passing through it. As such, the light is diffused and images on the other side are only partially seen.

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