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Creating a Magnifying Glass Effect in Photoshop

Using layer groups to reveal hidden content By Dave Nagel
My headline on this article is a little misleading. We're not actually going to create a magnifying glass effect in Photoshop, but rather fudge one. What's the difference? Well, if Adobe Photoshop were perfect, I'd be showing you how actually to magnify a portion of a layer interactively, as is possible with a program like Adobe LiveMotion. Instead, I'm going to show you how to make it look like you're doing this without actually doing it.

Sound complicated?

Actually, it's quite simple. We're once again going to pull a nice little trick using Photoshop's Group function to reveal content from a hidden layer. In the past we've used this function to fill a piece of editable text with an image. Now we're going to use it to make it look like we're magnifying text through a magnifying glass. There are actually several ways to accomplish this effect. But this one creates a somewhat interactive magnification of an underlying layer, which will be useful for a future tutorial in which I show you how to animate this effect in Adobe ImageReady, as in the example below.

The magnifying glass in motion. (Click the Play button to watch.)

For now, let's just look at how to get this thing working.

1. To begin, open up Photoshop and create whatever background elements you'd like. In my case, I'm creating a textured paper layer and a text layer. Both will be magnified by this effect.

2. Now, to keep things simple, in your Layers palette, create a new layer set by clicking the little folder icon at the bottom of the palette. Name it "Magnifying Glass." This is where we'll place all of the elements that will go into our effect.

3. Select your layer set, and create a new layer within it by clicking the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. On this layer, draw a circular shape and fill it with any color you'd like. Gray keeps things simple.

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