Photoshop is an incredible space where everything and anything is possible to create, work on, and adjust including transparency. It employs features such as Opacity and Fill, to display transparency at different levels that affect different features of an image.

Although it is generally known that both affect transparency, there is still a degree of difference between them. In this article, the difference between both is fully explained with clear examples.

Key takeaways

  • As you reduce the percentage of “Opacity” and “Fill”, the transparency will increase.
  • When you change the percentage in “Fill”, only the filled layer will get transparent, not the “Stroke” area.
  • When you change the percentage in “Opacity”, all the layers involved have their transparency affected.

photoshop difference between opacity and fill featured image

The difference between Opacity and Fill

Options of "File" on the photoshop screen

Step 1:

To employ and understand the difference between opacity and fill, you’ll need to create a new canvas to experiment on. Open your Photoshop, at the top left-hand side of the screen, click on File, then click on New or use Ctrl + N.

Dialogue box of "New"

Step 2:

Clicking on New, a dialogue box will pop-up for you with certain dimensions and requirements to fill up. Input the necessary details and dimensions appropriately considering the work you have at hand.

White canvas on photoshop

Step 3:

After filling in the drop-down box, your new canvas with your background layer is ready for use.

Black rectangle on a white canvas

Step 4:

To check out the difference in features between opacity and fill, make use of the canvas; create a new layer, and use the rectangle tool available to draw a rectangle on the new layer.

Blue outlined rectangle on a white canvas

Step 5:

In the image above, there is a blue coloured rectangle that borders the inner one, this is called a Stroke. To do that, click on the rectangle tool, you’ll find a pick tool located on the toolbar by the left-hand side of the screen. Once clicked on, a menu appears at the top of the screen on the menu bar, the Fill and the Stroke. Click on Stroke and pick your desired colour.

The size of the stroke is also adjustable, as seen above where the stroke size is increased to make it bold.

Blue outlined grey rectangle on a white canvas

Step 6:

Now when it comes to the difference between opacity and fill, always keep in mind that their work is almost similar but a few things are different in their overall result. The purpose of both opacity and fill is to reduce the transparency of the image. As the percentage reduces, the transparency increases. Their difference comes in the layer style used to achieve each one of them.

In the image above, the feature used was the fill feature. Here, there was a reduction in the fill percentage, but despite that reduction, the sharpness of the stroke remained the same without changes or reduction in its transparency. In infill, only the filled layer changes in transparency.

increased transparency in the rectangle

Step 7:

In the above image, instead of changing the Fill, the changed feature is the Opacity and in this case all the layers involved had their transparency affected. Both the stroke and the fill in the rectangle created from the rectangular tool both experienced a reduction in their transparency as the opacity increased. In the case of Opacity, all the layer styles reduce and change once it reduces.

The word "Practice" on a white canvas

Step 8:

To further demonstrate the difference between opacity and fill, a test is used to further enlighten prospective designers. To do the text, go to the Type tool, located in the tool mark tip. Here, the word typed is Practice.

Selecting "blending options" in photoshop

Step 9:

Once you type the text, return to the text layer, and right-click on it. Doing that, a drop-box with various commands pops up as seen above. On it, click on Blended options, and you’ll get a dialogue box.

Dialogue box of "blending options"

Step 10:

On the dialogue box, pick the following: Click on Stroke, Inner-shadow, and Drop shadow.

The word "Practice" after blending

Step 11:

The above image shows the result from the commands carried out in the previous step.

The word "practice" after transparency effects

Step 12:

Here the reduction is on the Fill, that is why the only affected area or layer is the inner red-coloured layer of the word practice, thereby becoming more transparent/clearer. Whereas the border layers of the word practice are unchanged in terms of transparency.

Transparent word "practice"

Step 13:

In the case of the image above, the fill is at 100% and the Opacity is reduced. Here the transparency affects all the layers, both the internal and external layers of the text are now transparent-like.

To put it in simpler words, Fill as a future, only affects the object filled in terms of transparency, but it does not affect the other styles applied like the Stroke, Drop shadow, Inner shadow, and other styles employed in the example. Whereas Opacity affects all layers and styles both inner and outer completely.


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When designing with Photoshop, you have a variety of tools at your disposal to make your designed image and work appear in different perspectives and levels of visibility. The work of Fill and opacity, though quite similar in function, apply their functionality at different depths. Therefore as a designer, it is important to know when to use any of these tools.