Translucent shades allow light to filter out the sides of the lamp and are best suited for reading and ambient light. A translucent shade may be either a hardback shade or a softback shade. A translucent shade lets the light through with a gentle diffusion. There are many degrees of translucency. For example, silk is more translucent than coated papers or parchment. The inner surface of a translucent lampshade should be white or off-white for the best results.


Opaque shades let no light through the sides, but rather casts it upward and downward in a focal glow. Opaque shades create up-and-down beams that set dramatic moods and highlight objects. The exterior material of an opaque lampshade can be any color, while the inner surface can be white, gold or silver. Opaque shades are distinctively modern, especially when in dark colors like black and gray.