As light hits an object it can do several things.  It can pass through it, be absorbed by it, bounce off of it, or do any of these in combination.

Materials that let some light pass through unchanged are called transparent materials.  An example of a transparent material is water.  You can sometimes see your face reflected in a body of water because some light bounces off the water.  Glass is another example of a transparent material.

Translucent material lets some light through but scatters the light.  Frosted glass and tissue paper are examples of translucent materials.

Materials like wood or metal are opaque.  Opaque means no light passes through.  A mirror is an example of an opaque object that bounces almost all the light back into the air instead of absorbing it.

Many opaque objects absorb some wavelengths of the visible light spectrum and reflect others.  The colors that are reflected are the only ones we see.  The color white reflects all wavelengths of colors, that is why something white appears white.  An apple appears red because wavelengths vary.  An apple absorbs all colors except red, so only the red light is reflected to the eye.  Objects that are a mixture of color such as purple, reflect several different wave lengths back to the eye.  Black absorbs all colors of the visible spectrum, so no light is reflected back to the eye.  Black is really the absence of color and light!


Directions: Answer the questions about light.

material lets some light pass through unchanged.

material lets some light through but scatters the light.

material lets no light passes through.

Indicate whether each of the following materials is transparent, translucent, or opaque.  Label in the following way:

TP - transparent

TL - translucent

O - opaque

glass bottle


tissue paper

waxed paper



window glass

The color reflects all wavelengths of colors.

Only the color is reflected back to the eye when you look at green grass.

Only the color is reflected back to the eye when you look at a yellow car.

The color is the absence of color and light.



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Light Transparency