See the Invisible

Row! Row! Yellow powder!note 

There's all sorts of ways to see someone or something with Invisibility.

See-Thru Specs is a Sub-Trope. Compare Invisibility Flicker, for when the invisible entity makes itself visible through some flaw with their invisibility, and Visible Invisibility, where the invisible character is visible to the audience. Contrast Anti-True Sight.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball, Yamcha defeated the Invisible Man after the Turtle Hermit (aka Master Roshi) had a nosebleed that spilled all over the Invisible Man.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: it's well-established that thermoptic camouflage is foiled by water. So how does the Major deal with the cloaked Umibozu troops? She turns on the fire sprinklers.
  • In Keroro Gunsou, the Keronians' anti-barrier makes them invisible to humans, but they also have control over who can see them. In rare cases, a person is able to see them regardless.
  • In Gantz, the hunters get controllers with the ability to turn their user invisible by "changing their frequency". Those who are also invisible and thus on the same frequency and see each other. The vampires carry with themselves special glasses and contacts with which they can see through the camouflage. Also some of the aliens, for example the Nurarihyon, can see the invisible without any sort of equipment at all.
  • This part of Nanami's True Sight package in El-Hazard: The Magnificent World.
  • In Gundam Build Fighters, Sei equips the Build Strike's head vulcans with "paintball" rounds, which Reiji uses to mark the Qubeley Papillon's clear plastic Attack Drones.

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Incredibles, one mook finds an invisible Violet by throwing dust and watching for the cloud to be disrupted by a body.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • It Follows has a demon that stalks its latest victim, Jay, that is invisible to everyone except its current target. Jay has a moment of being Dangerously Genre Savvy by luring the demon to a private swimming pool with her friends waiting outside the water. As soon as the demon gets in the water, her friends can see it. However, the demon proves Dangerously Genre Savvy itself by diving underwater, which negates the advantage.
  • In the Predator movies, the title creature's invisibility device shorted out when immersed in water.
  • Skinner from the film version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen wears white makeup so people can see his face. He also wears clothes, of course.
    • Another invisible man (Sanderson Reed, actually) becomes partially visible when covered in dust. Also, Skinner later gets burned with a flamethrower, showing charred skin.
  • The invisibility process in Hollow Man doesn't stop the subjects from showing up on thermal cameras. The villain is also accidentally revealed just prior to an attack by the smoke from his victim's cigarette. In the climax, the heroes throw around paint to try and make him visible, or at least make sure his footprints show up.
  • Inverted in Star Trek: Generations: They can plainly see the Klingon Bird of Prey, but they are too badly damaged to muster enough firepower to penetrate the enemy's Deflector Shields. So they exploit a design flaw in the Klingon ship and force it to cloak. Remember that in Star Trek, cloaked ships are unable to use sheilds or weapons. As soon as the Bird of Prey starts cloaking, Enterprise hammers the crap out of it.
  • In Forbidden Planet, the invisible monster's tracks appear as it walks towards the spaceship, and its shape is later rendered distinguishable by light-sparks when it returns and is caught in an energy fence.

  • Fairy Tales and other magical lore indicate that a seeing stone also allows one to see things that have magicked themselves invisible.
  • In the Harry Potter series, we've been shown several ways in which Invisibility Cloaks can be thwarted. The ability of dementors to sense people is not impaired by invisibility cloaks. Moody's magical eye can see through invisibility cloaks. A person wearing an invisibility cloak still shows up on the Marauder's Map. Cats, and Mrs. Norris in particular, may or may not be able to see through invisibility cloaks. And it is possible, though difficult, for wizards to learn to do this on their own as Dumbledore demonstrates. There are also some mundane constraints, such as the fact that the wearer remains solid, remains capable of making noise, etc. Amusingly, later in the series they have trouble with the cloak because they've all grown and they don't fit it as well.
  • In The Dresden Files, wizards who have their mundane senses frustrated can use their Sight to see someone or something's true form, regardless of any veils or invisibility tricks. The downside of this is that they can never forget this true image, which is the last thing you want if you catch a glimpse of an Eldritch Abomination. In Turn Coat, Harry thinks he's being tracked and uses his Sight to look for his tail. When he wakes up a minute later, he's crashed his car. He thinks about what he saw and blacks out again, recovers, tries to walk away from the wreck, has another careless thought, and comes to as a gibbering mess on the sidewalk. Several books later he's still dealing with the aftereffects of this mentally-scarring encounter, and has managed to bring the horror levels down so that thinking about it only causes a skip in his speech.
  • In the novelisation of the Doctor Who serial "The Daleks' Master Plan", the Doctor and his companions, on a planet inhabited by invisible monsters, throw one into a swamp to render it visible. The scene isn't present in the original serial.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • In The Way of Kings, Rock says he can see spren all the time, while many of them can be invisible. He considers it disrespectful to point them out when they're trying not be seen though.
    • In Words of Radiance, though not stated outright, there are subtle hints that the Parshendi can see spren at all times. When humans see spren, they're described as just appearing out of thin air and then fading the same way—but the Parshendi actually see them flying in from out of sight, and then zipping off again when there's nothing to attract them.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, the Ringwraiths are normally made visible only by the garments and armor they wear. Anyone who wears the One Ring, however, gains the ability to see them in their true forms. Not a pretty sight.
  • Journey To Chaos: Defying this trope is something that Eric has to do while on a Rescue Arc. The kidnappers are using surveilance magitek to spot intruders and a diferent sort to spot concealment spells used to hide from the first sort. Thus, Eric creates an invisiblity spell within his personal spirit barrier.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 1983's Invisible Woman Pilot Movie, during the climax, Alexa Hamilton got covered in mud, making her visible.
  • In an episode of Stargate SG-1, the humans were fighting an invisible enemy called the Reetou, but are given devices from the Tok'ra (Transphase Eradication Rods, or TERs) that can render them visible.
    • These rods show up again when Nirrti develops a personal cloaking device based on natural Reetou ability. They also sweep the base several time throughout the series using TERs.
  • In the Sci-Fi Channel The Invisible Man series, Darien shows up on thermals not because he's hot but because he's cold, as quicksilver blocks visible light.
  • In Lost Girl, Bo could see auras, or at least sexual auras, and as such saw an invisible man when he was near the women he loved.
  • In "Je Souhaite" of The X-Files: Scully taps a body of a dead guy who was turned invisible by a Literal Genie with a yellow powder and his whole body emerges. Scully is amazed and very, very excited by this positive proof of the paranormal.
  • In the Smallville episode "Shimmer", Clark Kent is able to see an invisible man because his skeleton still shows up on his X-Ray Vision. In the episode "Fade", Clark tries this trick with another invisible man, but it doesn't work. He still manages to find him with his super hearing.
  • Star Trek contributes various forms of Applied Phlebotinum to detect cloaked starships, including tachyon detection grids, metaphasic sweeps, antiproton beams, and quantum beacons. There's also an implicit cloak/sensor arms race going on — when we see ships with sufficiently old cloaks compared to the sensors of the ship(s) looking for them, plain sensors without any specific tricks usually suffice.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons has several examples.
    • Early articles advised spreading dust/flour on the floor (to see footprints) or throwing flour/dust/water in the air (so it coats the opponent and reveals an outline).
    • Certain spells can be used this way, such as True Seeing and True Sight.
    • Dust of Appearance makes anything invisible it's sprinkled on become visible for everyone. Reveal Invisible (Al-Quadim) and Invisibility Purge (D&D3) spells do the same. Glitterdust doesn't remove invisibility as such, but anything corporeal dusted with sparkles becomes very noticeable.
  • Star Fleet Battles: It's possible to see cloaked Romulan ships with the "flash cube" effect (detonating a transporter bomb or mine).
  • Call of Cthulhu
    • Supplement Shadows of Yog-Sothoth, adventure "Devil's Canyon": A race of invisible monsters can be seen if looked at through camera lenses prepared using Cthulhu Mythos knowledge.
    • When the Powder of Ibn Ghazi is sprinkled on invisible monsters, it makes them visible.
  • There's quite a few sources of invisibility in Warhammer 40,000 - from magic to chameleonic aliens to hyper-advanced powered armor - as well as ways to get around them. In game terms, as long as you can draw an unobstructed line from attacker to defender you can still declare the attack, you just suffer an accuracy penalty (Invisibility spell, Deathleaper's special camouflage) or the target gets a "cover save" (anything else). Flamethrowers ignore the "cover save" variant, and the Tau faction's laser-guidance "Markerlight" system can be used to light up less-than-visible foes.
    • In the novel Fire Caste, the Tau's advanced invisible "Stealth Suits" are rendered as the distortion effect to bionic eyes.

  • BIONICLE: in the Mata Nui Online Game, a Muaka manages to snatch Kopaka, who was using the mask of invisibility, in its jaws after determining where Kopaka was by looking at his footprints in the snow.
    • The Kanohi Rode, worn by Axonn, allows its user to see through any form of deception, including the aforementioned mask of invisibility.

  • In Eternal Darkness, there's a level where you must (well, if you want some goodies, including a BFG, anyway) protect the player character's servants from an invisible monster. You can make this a lot easier by using the "reveal invisible" spell.
  • In NetHack, the grammatically suspect Ring of See Invisible and Potion of See Invisible grant this ability. You can acquire this power permanently by eating the flesh of a Stalker while already invisible.
  • The Lens of Truth in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask allows Link to see invisible things, as well as see through illusionary things like fake walls or floors.
  • Twilight Princess: When in wolf form, Link can use his senses to find invisible objects, including trails of scents used to find plot-related people. It's also the only way to defeat Poes, who are otherwise intangible.
  • Tohno Shiki's power in Tsukihime prior to his near-death experience was "to see things which are hidden" - within the story it lets him see the normally invisible projections of a magical attack. After his near-death experience he can also see where death is hidden in every object and person, giving him One-Hit Kill powers but also threatening his sanity with the result that he must block his power with special glasses.
  • Team Fortress 2 has a couple of ways to detect a cloaked Spy. Bumping into or winging one will result in a brief flicker of a team-colored outline, while Jarate, Mad Milk and weapons that cause bleeding will result in a mysterious mass of drips moving across the battlezone. But the most effective Spy-checking measure is the Pyro's flamethrower, which creates a halo of highly-visible flames to highlight the otherwise-invisible target.
  • StarCraft: the Zerg Queen's Ensnare ability shoots a big gob of mucus in an area, slowing down everything caught in it. As a happy side effect, it also reveals invisible units (or rather the person-shaped glob of zerg snot just standing there). The defiler's Plague and several other abilities have a similar effect. In StarCraft II abilities such as the infestor's Fungal Scourge mimic this effect.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has the shout 'Aura whisper' which reveals all enemies, living, undead, daedra and mechanical, even if they are hiding in the landscape (coffins, holes, pile of bones/ash) or invisible. Detect dead can also be used to find fleeing invisible vampires.
  • In God of War II, you can tell where Perseus is because he's in a shallow pool of water.
  • In the Homeworld games there's a number of ships capable of cloaking themselves (and, in the case of the un-armed cloak generator, a small number of other ships). To counter them, you can either build advanced sensor platforms (or just upgrade your mothership with these) capable of showing them, or wait for them to become visible when opening fire.
  • Dark Souls 2 has the Eye of the Priestess, an item that grants the ability to see magically-obscured things. This is very useful, as one of the bosses in the area you find it is completely invisible. It's technically possible to beat the boss without getting the Eye, but it is extraordinarily difficult, even by Dark Souls standards.
  • In World of Tanks, enemy vehicles out of your detection range (or the detection range of teammates who can pass that information along) are invisible but the effects they have on destructible objects in the environment most certainly are not. An artillery unit using the overhead aiming view can easily track careless enemy players whose tanks are out of view but smashing their way across country.

    Web Animation 
  • In Red vs. Blue season 13, Washington is fighting a mercenary with a cloaking device in close quarters combat, but manages to turn things around by slashing his own palm with a knife and splashing his enemy with a handful of blood.
    Wash: Hi.

    Western Animation 
  • Jonny Quest once had this invisible monster which was created by some Applied Phlebotinum and went on a rampage. Jonny and Hadji dumped a bunch of paint over it, which not only made it visible, but also made it look much less terrifying.
  • In the Tom and Jerry short "The Invisible Mouse", Tom tries to find an invisible Jerry by throwing flour on the floor so that Jerry would leave footprints. When he does, Tom tries to hit him with a frying pan. Moments later, the words "Missed me" appear on the flour.
  • In The Trap Door, one of the recurring monsters, Bubo, is invisible, until Berk manages to hit it with a glob of some yellow stuff. It has remained yellow ever since.
  • One episode of Kaput & Zösky features the duo landing on a planet where everyone is invisible. They make the aliens visible by catching them in a butterfly net and spray-painting them red.
  • Wile E. Coyote once used a mail-order chemistry set to become invisible to try and catch the Road Runner...unfortunately, although his prey couldn't see him, neither could the driver of an oncoming truck. After he was struck, his footprints in the sand became noticeably staggered, and he fell off a cliff, making Coyote-shaped holes in several clouds on the way down.
  • In one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Batman is fighting a man wearing a suit that makes him invisible, and the Invisible Man is winning. Up until Bats breaks a nearby watertower, and raining spray reveals the man's form.
    Batman: Peekaboo. (POW!)
  • An episode of Jackie Chan Adventures had Jade quickly responding to fighting an invisible enemy by attempting to get paint on his clothes. She's used to dealing with magic weirdness.
  • In the Peanuts special, It's Magic, Charlie Brown, Snoopy has managed to turn Charlie Brown invisible as part of a magic act. To try and make him visible, Snoopy first covers him with mud and blow-dries it, but it all breaks off when he moves. Snoopy then covers him with a sheet and a necktie. (Ol' Chuck uses his invisibility to actually kick the football while Lucy holds it up.)
  • Zig-zagged to the hilt in the Warner Bros. cartoon "Cheese It, The Cat!" In order to sneak to the refrigerator to get a cupcake for a birthday party, Ralph Crumden covers Ed Morton in "invisible ink." It doesn't make Morton invisible, but as long as he thinks he is, he does not fear the cat. Morton gets the cupcake and eventually eats it, leaving no recourse but for Ralph to get another but not before he has Morton cover him with "invisible ink." Ralph can still be seen and when he goes out, the cat attacks him. And it's Ralph who calls Morton "a mental case!"