Just for Fun: Transparent Laptop

Although not many people have, you’ve probably seen pictures of laptops that appear to be transparent. I thought it was a cool idea, so I tried it myself. It turned out to be a lot harder than it looks – my final product isn’t even much to brag about. Although it can be hard, it is a fun thing to do, and fun to send to friends for a laugh and a “how did you do that?”.

iBook

Here’s what you will need to make your own transparent laptop picture:

  • Digital Camera
  • Tripod
  • Memory Card reader (not required, but makes it much easier)
  • Laptop (yes, windows laptops work too)
  • Photoshop, GIMP or similar image editing software

This project involves taking three different pictures. The first two will be taken at the same time, and the last will be taken after some editing. It is very important that you do not move your computer or tripod during the whole process.

First, set up your camera and tripod and frame the shot that you will want your final picture to look like. Take one with the laptop closed, and another with the laptop open. After the shot of the open laptop, do not move the display, the camera’s zoom, or the camera itself.

Now you will have to carefully load the two pictures you took onto your computer. I suppose using another computer may be easier. Open both images in your image editor. Paste the open-laptop image into a layer above the closed-laptop image. Use the Crop Tool to size and rotate a rectangle that will fit exactly on the screen of your laptop. Crop it, then delete the open-laptop layer. You are now left with a picture of whatever was behind your laptop’s screen. This is the image that you will set as your desktop background.

Editing iBook

You will now have to do some trial and error. Once you have your desktop background set up, take a step back and maybe even take a picture. You will most definitely have to adjust the color of your background. Go back to your image editor and adjust things like Color Balance, Hue and Saturation until your background is almost the same as the real life background.

Once you have calibrated the color settings, just set it as your background and open some windows like Finder or Adium. Having windows open makes the picture look a lot more real. Now you can step back and take your final picture. Finally, you can edit the image so that the screen and the background match each other even more so.

Feel free to post your results in the comments, would love to see some more!

Comments

40 Responses to “Just for Fun: Transparent Laptop”

  1. Sumner on May 10th, 2007 4:19 pm

    Hey good read Alex¦ I have always wanted to know how this effect was accomplished.

  2. Ryan Ponce on May 10th, 2007 7:57 pm

    I tried that once, and you are right it looks pretty easy, but believe me its not. It’s a bit easier on a laptop though because you can adjust it better by tilting the screen to the right angle. Your rendition doesn’t look half bad. Good work.

  3. Miles Evans on May 11th, 2007 7:14 am

    Yeah it is a bit tough to get the lighting right on both images. I saw a great one of a baby coming through a notebook a while back, but I can’t seem to find it again. I noticed some decent examples on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/groups/transparentscreens/pool/

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  5. Connor on May 13th, 2007 12:24 pm
  6. Joe Jacobs on May 13th, 2007 3:17 pm

    That is so cool!

  7. Patrick on May 17th, 2007 6:05 am

    @Connor
    Your photo looks awesome!

  8. Connor on May 17th, 2007 7:32 am

    @Patrick

    Sorry! It’s not mine, I was posting it for reference for Miles Evans, in the previous post.

  9. Faizan on May 23rd, 2007 6:42 am

    This can also be done real time
    take the picture set it as desktop background ;)

  10. Fractal on April 27th, 2008 9:25 am

    this sucks.. =( i wanted a real transparant laptop damnit..

  11. harry on January 2nd, 2009 11:30 pm

    You know that lcds are really transparent, they just put a backlight or reflective sheet on the back

  12. spinrahardjo on April 15th, 2009 9:25 pm

    To get the same exposure and color for each picture, you set set your camera to Manual mode, use the same Aperture, speed, and White balance for each picture taken.

  13. Afzaal Hussain on November 11th, 2009 7:09 am

    This is a beautiful machine laptop .and this is fun techonology .
    I belonged to pakistan this is my faverout taptop.

  14. Afzaal Hussain on November 11th, 2009 7:11 am

    To get the same exposure and color for each picture, you set set your camera to Manual mode, use the same Aperture, speed, and White balance for each picture taken.
    This can also be done real time
    take the pictYeah it is a bit tough to get the lighting right on both images. I saw a great one of a baby coming through a notebook a while back, but I can't seem to find it again. I noticed some decent examples on Flickr: ure set it as desktop background

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  29. Mohsin on January 5th, 2011 2:12 am

    hmm… interesting.!! I think its possible to attach a web cam behind ur moniter and program it to take screenshots every 20 mins plus update ur desktop background with that picture…!! U can make it ur college project or something.. I’m sure it will work!! :D

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