How to Create a Magnified Cutaway Detail View in Photoshop

Emphasize part of an image by enlarging it for a detailed view

Still life of old map with magnifying glasses
Tetra Images / Getty Images

Magnifying parts of an image using Photoshop is an effective way to draw attention to small details on the page. This can be accomplished by selecting a circular area, enlarging it, and then placing it on the original image in a position where it doesn't obscure any important information.

Instructions in this article apply to Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 for Windows and Mac.

How to Magnify Part of an Image in Photoshop

It's best to use a high-resolution file to capture as much detail as possible in the magnified view. To magnify a section of an image in Photoshop:

  1. Open your image in Photoshop, then right click the background layer in the Layers palette and select Convert to Smart Object.

    If the Layers palette isn't visible, select Window > Layers from the top taskbar.

    Open your image in Photoshop, then right click the background layer in the Layers palette and select Convert to Smart Object.
  2. Double click the Layer 0 name in the Layers palette and rename it Original.

    Double click the Layer 0 name in the Layers palette and rename it Original.
  3. Click and hold the Marquee tool and select Elliptical Marquee tool.

    Click and hold the Marquee tool and select Elliptical Marquee tool.
  4. Select the area that you want to use for the detailed view. After releasing the mouse button, click and drag the selection to reposition it.

    Hold down the Shift key as you draw to keep the selection a perfect circle shape.

    Select the area that you want to use for the detail view.
  5. Select Layer > New > Layer via Copy.

    Select Layer > New > Layer via Copy.
  6. Rename this layer Detail Small.

    Rename this layer Detail Small.
  7. Right click the Detail Small layer and select Duplicate Layer.

    Right click the Detail Small layer and select Duplicate Layer.
  8. Name the copy layer Detail Large and select OK.

    Name the copy layer Detail Large and select OK.
  9. Select the folder at the bottom of the Layers palette to create a new layer group.

    Select the folder at the bottom of the Layers palette to create a new layer group.
  10. Select both the Original and Detail Small layers and drag them both into the Group 1 folder.

    To select multiple layers at once, hold down the Shift key as you make your selection.

    Select both the Original and Detail Small layers and drag them both into the Group 1 folder.
  11. Select Group 1 in the Layers palette, then go to Edit > Transform > Scale.

    Select Group 1 in the Layers palette, then go to Edit > Transform > Scale.
  12. Select the Chain between the W: and H: boxes in the options bar at the top, then enter 25% for either the width or height and select the Check Mark to apply the scaling.

    You can also use free transform here, but by using numeric scaling, you can note the magnification level in the finished document.

    Select the Chain between the W: and H: boxes in the options bar at the top, then enter 25% for either the width or height and select the Check Mark to apply the scaling.
  13. Click the Detail Small layer to select it, then select the Fx button at the bottom of the Layers palette and choose Stroke.

    Click the Detail Small layer to select it, then select the Fx button.at the bottom of the Layers palette and choose Stroke.
  14. Set the Size to 2px and select OK.

    Set the Size to 2px and select OK.
  15. Right click the Detail Small layer in the Layers palette and select Copy Layer Style.

    Right click the Detail Small layer in the Layers palette and select Copy Layer Style.
  16. Right click the Detail Large layer and select Paste Layer Style.

    Right click the Detail Large layer and select Paste Layer Style.
  17. Double click Effects directly under Detail Large in the Layers palette, then select Drop Shadow in the Layer Style dialog.

    Double click Effects directly under Detail Large in the Layers palette, then select Drop Shadow in the Layer Style dialog.
  18. Select OK.

    Select OK.
  19. Click the Group 1 layer and drag it to the bottom of the list in the Layers palette.

    Click the Group 1 layer and drag it to the bottom of the list in the Layers palette.
  20. With the Detail Large layer selected, select the Move tool and position the layer where you want it in relation to the whole image.

    With the Detail Large layer selected, select the Move tool and position the layer where you want it in relation to the whole image.
  21. Select the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette (between the folder and trashcan icons) and move the new layer between the Group 1 and Detail Large layers.

    Select the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette (between the folder and trashcan icons) and move the new layer between the Group 1 and Detail Large layers.
  22. With the new empty layer selected, select the Pen tool from the toolbox.

    With the new empty layer selected, select the Pen tool from the toolbox.
  23. Zoom in so that you can see both the small and large detail areas close up.

    Zoom in so that you can see both the small and large detail areas close up.
  24. Click once on the small circle and once on the large circle to draw a straight line between the two.

    Use the arrow keys on the keyboard to make adjustments to the endpoint that is selected. Hold down the Control key as you adjust the line position for smaller increments.

    Click once on the small circle and once on the large circle to draw a straight line between the two.
  25. Click on the large circle again to draw another connecting line on the other side, then right click inside the two lines and select Stroked Path.

    Click on the large circle again to draw another connecting line on the other side, then right click inside the two lines and select Stroked Path.
  26. Select OK.

    Select OK.
  27. Zoom out to give the image a final check and adjust the connector lines if they look off.

    Zoom out to give the image a final check and adjust the connector lines if they look off.

To keep the image editable, save it in the native Photoshop PSD format. Exporting the image as a JPEG or other file type allows you to import it in other programs, but the layers will be flatted.

A magnified close up of ants crawling on a plate made in Photoshop