We’ll learn how to use layer styles and filters to produce the cool
magnifying glass effect shown in the example below.
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
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.
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 above.
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.
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
Size: 95px or higher
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 next example.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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!
The result? Below we can see the final image, a true masterpiece.