How to make "Transparent Laptops"

WOW! I wish I was cool enough to be able to do that!

Pretty neat eh?

We've all seen them around and I will show you how to make your own!
Just for the record, I have made one successfully using the non-cheating method, but it was very difficult to do and turned out like crap, and all I have seen that do not cheat also look like crap.
Also, the only way it would work is if it is a directly strait on shot. If you can make a good looking one without cheating, send it this way!


I will be using Adobe Fireworks on this project because I prefer it over Photoshop, but it's pretty much the same process if you want to use Photoshop or any other photo editing software.

Step One
Set up a camera on a tripod where you want your laptop to be.

Step Two
This step you have a couple options. You can either take a picture of the scene with your laptop absent, or just closed (my choice). If you chose the latter, make sure your laptop won't be visible where the screen will be open in the next photo, or it may kinda destroy the effect.

My awesome kitchen

Step Three
Now open up your laptop and take another photo

My awesome laptop!

Note: I didn't take this photo with the same exposure so the lighting turned out different... this isn't necessarily a bad thing, since the final product will have a background with a slightly different tint than the setting its in, making it look more like a real desktop wallpaper. Experiment with the exposure and lighting as much as you want.


Step Four
Set your background color on your laptop to a high-contrast color, one that will be easy to erase. Take a screen shot.

Anyone who would willingly keep their background that color should be shot

Step Five
Bring all your images into your favorite photo editor

Bring your open laptop image to the front, we will work on that first.

Step Six
Cut out the laptop background image, leaving slight feathering of 1 or 2 on to keep it nice and smooth looking

Step Seven
Now simply bring in your other photograph without your laptop, and place it on a new layer below this one.

Looking pretty good already! Something missing though... Ah yes, the operating system!

Step Eight
Open up your desktop screen shot. Use the magic wand tool to select all the green (or whatever color you used) in the image. You may have to play with the tolerance and feathering a bit to get rid of all the green remnants. I set my tolerance to 35 and turned on anti-aliasing and it turned out pretty well. Or you may want to just turn off anti-aliasing on screen fonts and icons, that way you don't have to mess with the tolerance. Of course I didn't think of that until just now (after I took all my screen shots) so mine may not look as good as yours.

Step Nine
Finally, bring in your transparent desktop image into the composite of your other images. Place this new layer in between the other two, so it lies in front of the background but behind the monitor... wouldn't want the taskbar jumping out of the frames of your screen! Just use the distort tool to position the corners of screen into place.

And there you have it! You can play with it more if you like, adjust the color and brightness to match better.
One idea is to save an image of your laptop while turned off, cut out the blank screen, paste it on top of this one, adjust the transparency and give it a more realistic looking surface, with glares and shading.

Mine's kinda cheesy since I whipped it up real quick... I've made better in my day, but you get the general idea!
Now go out and try it yourself, post it somewhere and brag about a cool desktop background you made like all those others.