See Through or Not See Through!
The Difference between Transparent, Translucent and Opaque Fabric may seem fairly straightforward to a lot of people working with textiles. But as with many things, some fabric does not fall easily into specified categories. In normal day to day situations transparent means completely see through. Just a few materials fall into that group, plastic, glass and very clear PVC natural crystal can all be seen through with no haze or texture. With fabric though, the physical state of the group is slightly different.
When talking about transparent in fabric terms, this group consists of fabric you will certainly be able to see through, but with a slight hindrance due to the weave, texture and pattern. Even if the fabric is extremely fine, there will still be the smallest amount of cloudiness that would affect the clarity when you look through the fabric. To explain better, I have taken these images on text so you get an idea of how much you can clearly see.
Almost clear, must be sheer
The types of fabric that fall into the transparent category are widely known as SHEERS. These sheer fabrics are widely used in dressmaking and decoration. Some fabrics such as chiffon and georgette drape beautifully and has a mat like appearance, others like organza and organdy are slightly stiffer but are more decorative as the surfaces have either a fine shimmer or a soft sheen to the fabric.
Otherwise known as semi – opaque, this group of fabrics consists of materials that are woven in a solid form and material with an open weave which includes holes and patterns.
Fishnet fashion fabric, lace and even hessian could be considered semi opaque, simply because there are some parts you can see through and some you can’t. The group which is more considered translucent consists of fabric with a complete weave that has semi see through visibility.
- Fine Silk
- Cotton Voile
This fabric ranges in translucency. Some you can see slightly through when the fabric is flat and some show a lot more translucency when held up to light or over objects. The images below demonstrate this change depending on light and where the fabric is placed.
As you can see with the metallic lame fabric here, when laid flat it appears opaque and you can’t see through to the text. Yet when the fabric is raised even slightly it becomes very obvious the fabric is in fact translucent. So even though the fabric is opaque, when flat it certainly doesn’t belong in the opaque category.
Completely Opaque Fabric
This group of fabric has the largest range of the categories. Opaque fabric has a huge range from medium weight Lycra and cotton dress fabric through to faux fur and fleece to very heavy leatherette and vinyl.
As you can see in this list of just a few opaque types of fabric, there is a dramatic difference in appearance, thickness and weight.
Don’t Get Mixed Up!
Mixing up fabric weight, fabric thickness and fabric transparency can sometimes happen. This may be stating the obvious, but the weight of a fabric does not determine its placement in a particular category. In other words, just because a fabric may be thin, doesn’t mean its light weight. Waxed cotton is a thin fabric, yet it holds a lot of weight. The same as assuming a thick fabric will be heavy. Sherpa fleece is very thick with some kinds up to an inch thick yet this fabric is reasonably light so it rests in the medium weight group.
We can help
If you need fabric for a particular project, but unsure about weight, transparency or thickness, don’t hesitate to contact us. Pick up the phone and call us on 0121 359 2349 or message us on Facebook better still pop in to our Birmingham Fabric UK warehouse, we always like a face to face chat! Plus you will be able to take free fabric samples away.