Mg-Ti alloys have uncommon optical and hydrogen absorbing properties, originating from a "spinodal-like" microstructure with a small degree of chemical short-range order in the atomic distribution. In the present study we artificially engineer short-range order by depositing Pd-capped Mg/Ti multilayers with different periodicities. Notwithstanding the large lattice mismatch between Mg and Ti, the as-deposited metallic multilayers show good structural coherence. On exposure to H2 gas a two-step hydrogenation process occurs with the Ti layers forming the hydride before Mg. From in situ measurements of the bilayer thickness Λ at different hydrogen pressures, we observe large out-of-plane expansions of Mg and Ti layers on hydrogenation, indicating strong plastic deformations in the films and a consequent shortening of the coherence length. On unloading at room temperature in air, hydrogen atoms remain trapped in the Ti layers due to kinetic constraints. Such loading/unloading sequence can be explained in terms of the different thermodynamic properties of hydrogen in Mg and Ti, as shown by diffusion calculations on a model multilayered systems. Absorption isotherms measured by hydrogenography can be interpreted as a result of the elastic clamping arising from strongly bonded Mg/Pd and broken Mg/Ti interfaces. © 2010 The American Physical Society.