Opacity of Window Shades and Roller Blinds

A kitchen with blinds and a sink.

Let in the Sunshine, Block the Glare

“Can someone see through my blinds?”

In layman’s terms, the level of opacity is the level at which light passes through an object. In rooms where more light is desired, shades with more opacity are often ideal.

To know what will work best for your family and home, it’s important to understand these different levels of opacity. For instance, many of our clients have been surprised to hear that if you can see out during the day with a sheer shade, it’s possible for people to see into the home when the interior lights are on.

In rooms where it’s important to be able to block out light and sound, like in a nursery, shades with less opacity often work best to let your sleeping beauty nap peacefully. In a media room, you’d want little opacity, to prevent any glare from interrupting movie night. At Ruffell and Brown, we have gorgeous solutions in every openness and opacity.

Window shades have come a long way. Gone are the cumbersome vinyl shades available in a narrow selection of neutral colours. As a true all-in-one solution, our extensive line of shades not only filter light beautifully, they can also provide maximum privacy, regulate the temperature of your home and dampen sound inside and out. Styles like our line of natural wooden shades can also block up to 88% of harmful UV rays even when open and as much as 99% UV protection when closed.

In fact, you can customize your window fashions down to every detail – from style, colour, texture and pattern to manual or motorized function and opacity and more.

From Sheer to Blackout

Light and Airy or Light Blocking

  • Sheer– Created from thin (but strong!) fabric, sheer window coverings provide the least privacy and let in lots of light. Objects are fully visible to and from the outside. Sheers are an excellent way to preserve your beautiful view while blocking some harsh glare.
    If you choose a sheer fabric, you’ll want to consider what level of privacy you’d like. If you prefer a more classic look, layering drapes or curtains with structured shades will soften the look while adding another level of privacy.
  • Semi-sheer– These provide some privacy and let in moderate amounts of light. Objects are less visible and typically a bit blurry. Semi-sheers help to provide more privacy while still maintaining the airy feel of a sheer.
  • Semi-opaque– These provide another level of privacy but still let in plenty of natural light. Your view will be mostly blocked and appear shadowy. Semi-opaque fabrics are a good bet for south facing windows that receive direct sunlight and glare.
  • Opaque– These provide even more privacy, and the least light aside from the blockout / blackout systems. When closed, the room will become darker and your view will not be visible.
  • Blockout system– These provide complete privacy and little light, aside from what might peek around the edges. If you’re after true blackout, optional side channels will block any light that would come in on the sides of the shades. Objects are completely blocked from view inside and out.

Once you know what level of opacity you want, it’s time to shop!

Whether your home design aesthetic is modern, Victorian, eclectic, country cottage or anywhere in between, we’ll help you discover the perfect blend of form and function.

Styles of Window Shades

Available in a Wide Variety of Opacities, Choose the Style That’s Right for You

  • Cellular Honeycomb Shades – These boost your home’s energy efficiency by insulating windows year-round, thanks to the air-trapping honeycomb shape. These shades are a best-seller and ideal for windows of any shape or size.
  • Natural Shades – These provide privacy and light control in natural light to dark toned wood finishes. Natural wood shades are lighter than you might expect and can complement the décor of any home.
  • Pleated Shades – Crafted from premium fabrics, pleated shades add a pop of extra dimension to your windows and are available in all opacities.
  • Roller and Screen Shades – Based on the original roller shade, today’s roller shades operate very smoothly thanks to the continuous cord loop and less bulky mechanics. Choose from a wide range of fabrics from high tech screen mesh to gorgeous wovens.
  • Roman Shades – Always a classic, these can be installed on the inside or outside of your window frame to provide a soft look with many options for light and privacy control.
  • Sheer Shades – With soft fabric vanes, sheer shades create a softened look like sheer curtains, but with the crisp lines and effectiveness of venetian blinds. They are available in three vane sizes and are suitable for windows of all sizes.
  • Transitional (Banded) Shades – A newer version of the roller shade, this has bands of sheer fabric that alternate with bands of blackout or semi- opaque fabric. When fully lowered, the vanes can be tilted open or closed for total or partial privacy. This creates the privacy feel of a blackout roller shade with the light filtering properties of a sheer window covering. It’s the best of venetian blinds and shades in one package.
  • Privacy Panels/Blackout Panels – Many of the shades we offer have the option for privacy/blackout panels. Once you’ve narrowed it down to style, you’ll want to decide on the opacity and whether you’d like blackout panels added.

Motion and Convenience – Choose How Your Shades Operate

Manual or motorized, there are many available choices designed for ultra-convenient living. A few options:

  • Cordless Lift – A best seller and ideal for homes where child and pet safety is paramount. Cordless lift lets you raise or lower the shade by pulling lightly on the bottom rail.
  • Top-down, bottom-up – These are another type of cordless shade. With a truly flexible configuration, you can leave the top or bottom sections open for maximum privacy and unobstructed views.
  • Motorized – We offer a wide selection of Hunter Douglas Motorized operating systems. Open and close your shades using a remote, your smartphone, Google Home or Alexa devices, or set up a schedule for your shades to raise and lower automatically. You can even use solar power to recharge your shade’s battery.


At Ruffell and Brown, we are one of the largest independently owned window covering centres in Western Canada. We offer a nearly endless selection of window fashions from top brand names like Hunter Douglas and Elite Window Covering Centre. Whichever you choose, our professional team will help design window fashions to fit your every need, from capturing as much natural light as possible to providing a greater degree of privacy. Visit our downtown Victoria showroom, or arrange for a complimentary consultation in the comfort of your own home.

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