Solution

The first thing to note is that the magnified portion of the image is larger than the rest of the image. It's best to start with a high resolution image, reserve the magnified portion, then resize the rest of the image smaller to create the "background." In this example, I've used a text layer that I could resize easily without losing image quality.

Start with your background image or text on a new layer—I've named mine text. We're going to create a magnifying glass object on top of it. (This solution will create a relatively simple magnifying glass, but you can make yours look as realistic as you like.)

First, we'll create the glass. Use the Ellipse Tool (U) to create a circle (hold down Shift to ensure that the ellipse forms a perfect circle). Next, use the Rounded Rectangle Tool (U) to create the handle. The beginnings of my magnifying glass are shown in the example below—you can see that the two new shape layers have been added to the Layers palette. We'll call them the glass layer and the circle layer.

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Creating the magnifying glass shapes

Creating the magnifying glass shapes

Select the handle layer from the Layers palette and press Ctrl-T (Command-T on a Mac) to transform the shape. A bounding box will appear around the rectangle. Click and hold down the mouse button outside of the bounding box. Drag the mouse around to rotate the shape. After you've rotated the handle into position, click and hold down the mouse button inside the bounding box. Drag the mouse to move the handle into place. Double-click inside the bounding box, or press the Enter key, to complete the transformation.

Your example should look like the image on the right.

Transforming the handle

Transforming the handle

In the Layers palette, select the glass layer and change its Fill to 0%. Bring up the Layer Style dialog box by clicking on the Add a layer style button at the bottom-left of the Layers palette, and selecting Stroke from the menu that appears.

Increase the Size of the stroke as you see fit, then change the Fill Type to Gradient, as shown below. Open the Gradient Editor dialog box by clicking on the gradient patch. In the Gradient Editor, change the white color to a dark gray. Click OK to apply the gradient and exit the Gradient Editor.

Back in the Layer Style dialog box, change the Angle to 125°, so that the gradient starts with a gray on the upper-left and fades to a black on the lower-right. Your image should look something like the one in the example below.

Adding a gradient stroke

Now, select the Bevel and Emboss option on the left-hand side of the Layer Style dialog box (remember to click on the style name; simply checking the checkbox won't show you the settings you need to change). Make the following changes to the Bevel and Emboss settings (these are illustrated overleaf): Style: Inner Bevel Technique: Smooth Size: 95px or higher

■ Altitude: 65° Highlight Opacity: 0% Shadow Opacity: 50% or less

You might need to adjust the Size, Angle, Altitude, and Shadow Opacity settings to give the inside of the circle a faint "rounded" shading that makes it appear as though the light is shining on it from the upper-right. When you're done, click OK. The example on the right below shows the effect we're aiming for.

Applying Bevel and Emboss style

Result of Bevel and Emboss style

Applying Bevel and Emboss style

Result of Bevel and Emboss style

Set the foreground color to white, and use the Ellipse Tool (U) to draw two highlights on the glass—a larger circle on the upper left, and a small circle on the bottom right. Decrease the Opacity of the highlights to 80% or thereabouts, as shown below.

Let's call on our artistic skills for a second. The highlights are reflections on the magnifying glass, based on the light source that's shining on the object. In this case, our light source, which is behind our point of view, is closer to the upper-left of the magnifying glass and has two reflections. If you're feeling ambitious, find a real magnifying glass and hold it up in different lighting conditions (under light from a window, or from a studio lamp, for example) to see how the reflections look. You can then create your own highlights using Photoshop's drawing tools.

Drawing highlights

Let's add a shadow to the magnifying glass to make our effect look more realistic.

From the Layers palette, select the glass layer and duplicate it using Ctrl-J (Command-J on a Mac). Select the duplicated layer and bring up the Layer Style dialog box by clicking on the Add a layer style button at the bottom-left of the Layers palette. Select Bevel and Emboss from the menu that appears. In the dialog box, uncheck the Bevel and Emboss option, and select Stroke. Set the stroke color to black, and change the Fill Type to Color as shown in the example below. Click OK.

Duplicating the glass layer and changing the stroke

Now create a new layer in the Layers palette. Hold down Ctrl (Command on a Mac) and select both the empty new layer and the duplicated glass layer. Merge these layers together using Ctrl-E (Command-E), as shown at right. You should now have a single layer that contains a black circle—we'll call this the inside shadow.

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Flattening the ring

Flattening the ring

Select the inside shadow from the Layers palette, and transform it using Ctrl-T (Command-T on a Mac). A bounding box will appear around the circle. Hold down Shift and click and drag on one of the corner handles to reduce the size of the ring. Now move the inside shadow to place it in a location that's consistent with the light source, as in the example overleaf. When you're done, double-click inside the bounding box to complete the transformation.

Shrinking the ring

Back in the Layers palette, hold down the Alt key (Option on a Mac) and click on the vector mask for the glass layer, as shown at right. Drag and drop the vector mask onto the inside shadow layer; this will duplicate the vector mask.

Now duplicate the inside shadow layer using Ctrl-J (Command-J). We'll call this the outside shadow layer. We need two shadow layers, since the magnifying glass magnifies the shadow that falls behind it, as well as the text. We'll use these two layers to create different drop shadow effects for the inside and outside of the glass.

Creating the first vector mask
Duplicating the ring

Now we're going to invert the vector mask for the outside shadow. To do this, first extend the size of your document's window so that the gray areas beyond the canvas area are visible. Select the Rectangle Tool (U), and choose the Paths icon in the options bar, as shown in the example below.

Setting the Rectangle Tool with the Paths option

Setting the Rectangle Tool with the Paths option

Select the outer shadow layer's mask by clicking on its thumbnail in the Layers palette. Click and hold down the mouse button, and drag the mouse to draw a rectangle that's bigger than the canvas, as shown below.

Adding a vector rectangle to the mask

Adding a vector rectangle to the mask

A large rectangle will be added to the existing circle on the vector mask. When two paths intersect, Photoshop inverts the area of intersection. In this case, our outer shadow circle is intersecting with the rectangle we just drew, so Photoshop will invert the vector mask for the outer shadow. This means that the area inside the circle will be hidden, and the area outside the circle (but within the rectangle) will be visible. That's why our rectangle needed to be larger than the document canvas—so that everything in our document that's around the outer shadow circle would be visible.

Let's look at the result in the Layers palette, shown at right. The vector masks for both the glass layer and the inside shadow layer have white circles against gray backgrounds. The vector mask of the outer shadow layer, on the other hand is a gray circle against a white background. (Remember: gray signifies areas that are hidden by the mask, while white signifies visible areas.)

Now let's make our shadows look more

Inverting the vector mask for the outside shadow layer realistic. Select the mask for the inside shadow layer by clicking on its thumbnail in the Layers palette. Select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. In the dialog box that appears, increase the Radius to a value that gives your shadow a soft blur while retaining its shape. As you can see in the example overleaf, I've blurred mine by 15 pixels. Click OK to apply the blur.

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Inverting the vector mask for the outside shadow layer

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Blurring the inside shadow

Do the same for the mask of the outside shadow layer, but this time use a lower value for the Gaussian Blur. I've set it at nine pixels, as you can see below.

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Blurring the outside shadow

Blurring the outside shadow

Let's work on the handle now. Select the handle layer from the Layers palette. Bring up the Layer Style dialog box by clicking on the Add a layer style button at the bottom-left of the Layers palette, and selecting Drop Shadow from the menu that appears. In the dialog box, decrease the Opacity of the shadow, and adjust its Angle, Distance, Speed, and Size settings until it lines up with the outside shadow, as shown in the example at the top of the next page. (You'll just have to rely on your artistic skills for this!)

You may want to decrease the opacity for both the inner shadow and outer shadow layers, as shown in the second example on the next page, so that the shadows are subtle and believable.

Adding a shadow for the handle
Decreasing the opacity for the shadows

The magnifying glass is done! Now let's make it magnify the text.

At the beginning of this solution, I asked you to reserve a large version of the image that you wanted to magnify. Place this version of the image onto its own layer. We'll call this layer magnified. Line up the layer so that you have the part of your image that you want to "magnify" correctly positioned underneath the magnifying glass, as shown in the example at the top of the following page. Your background text (or image) should be on another layer.

Now, create a layer mask so that the circular section of the text layer that's underneath the magnifying glass is invisible. An easy way to do this is to drag and drop the vector mask of the outside shadow layer onto the text layer in the Layers palette, as illustrated in the second image overleaf.

Two layers of text: normal-sized and magnified

Hiding the normal-sized text inside the glass area by copying a layer mask

We'll get rid of the magnified text outside of the lens in the same way. Drag and drop the layer mask from the inside shadow layer onto the magnified layer, as shown below.

Hiding the magnified text outside the glass area by copying a layer mask

It's looking pretty good, but we're not quite there yet! Let's add a touch of realism to the magnified text. If you're using a text layer, as I am, right-click on the magnified layer in the Layers palette, and select Rasterize Type from the menu that appears, as shown at right. This will convert the text layer to a raster layer. (If you're using a layer other than text—such as a photo—your layer will already be a raster layer.)

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Rasterizing the text layer

Rasterizing the text layer

Make a circular selection by holding down Ctrl (Command), and clicking on the vector mask thumbnail for the glass layer in the Layers palette. Select the magnified layer and, with the circular selection still active, use Ctrl-J (Command-J) to duplicate the selected portion of the magnified layer onto a new layer. Hide the original magnified layer by clicking on its eye icon, as shown below.

Copying to a new layer

Next, we're going to create a displacement map, which is a filter that will distort the words around the edges of the magnifying glass.

Create a new layer and select Edit > Fill to bring up the Fill dialog box. From the first drop-down menu, select 50% Gray. Set the Opacity to 100%, and click OK.

Filling a new layer with 50% gray

Create another new layer. Make a circular selection by holding down Ctrl (Command), and clicking on the vector mask thumbnail for the circle layer in the Layers palette. Select Edit > Fill, and select 50% Gray from the first drop-down menu.

Let's recap: we've just created two new layers. The first one is a 50% gray layer, and the second one contains a 50% gray circle, since we made a circular selection before we filled it.

Select the gray circle layer. Bring up the Layer style dialog box by clicking on the Add a layer style button at the bottom-left of the Layers palette, and selecting Inner Glow from the menu that appears. Set the Blend Mode to Normal, the color to black, and increase the Size until a fuzzy, black edge appears around the circle. The examples below show the settings I've used, and their results.

Inner Glow settings

Inner Glow results

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Let's create our displacement map.

1 Select both of the gray layers from the Layers palette, and merge them together using Ctrl-E (Command-E).

2 Now make a complete selection of the merged layer using Ctrl-A (Command-A).

3 Copy the selection using Ctrl-C (Command-C).

4 Create a new document using Ctrl-N (Command-N).

5 Use Ctrl-V (Command-V) to paste the selection into the new document.

This is our displacement map. Save the document (I've called mine magnifyglass-map.psd), and remember where you put it!

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Creating a map file

Close the displacement map, and return to your magnifying glass document. Hide the layer that we used to create the map by clicking on its eye icon in the Layers palette.

Select the magnified layer, and select Filter > Distort >

Displace. In the dialog box that appears, enter a small value for the Horizontal Scale (I entered 2) and click OK. Another dialog box will appear, asking you to choose a displacement map. Select the map file you saved earlier and click OK to apply the displacement map. This will make the outer edges of the text appear as though they are bending, just as they would if you were using a real magnifying glass!

Applying the Displace filter

The result? Below we can see the final image, a true masterpiece.

The completed magnifying glass effect
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