Create a Magnified Cutaway Detail View in Photoshop

Emphasize an element in an image by enlarging it for a detailed view

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

Creating a magnified view of a small part of an image and then combining it with the entire original image draws attention to the small detailed area.  Often this is 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. Then a couple of lines that are drawn from the enlarged detail to its position in the original image, links the two. This type of pullout is not difficult to do in Photoshop.

Open and Prepare the Image in Photoshop

Convert to Smart Object

Sue Chastain, UI Adobe

Start by opening the image in Photoshop. Use a high-resolution file to capture as much detail as possible in the magnified view.

In the Layers palette, right-click on the background layer and choose Convert to Smart Object. This allows you to perform nondestructive editing on the layer and makes it easier if you need to edit the image after creating the detail view. 

Double-click the Layer 0 name and rename it Original.

If you need to edit the photo, right-click the smart layer and choose Edit Contents to open the image in a new layer. Perform any necessary changes to the image in the new window. Select Save to close the window for the smart object.

Select the Detail Area

Make a Selection of the Detail Area
© Sue Chastain

Click on the Elliptical Marquee tool in the toolbox and use it to select the area that you want to use for the detail view. Hold down the Shift key as you draw to keep the selection a perfect circle shape. Use the Spacebar to reposition the selection before releasing the mouse button.

Copy the Detail Area to Layers

Layers Palette
UI © Adobe

Go to Layer in the menu bar and select New > Layer via Copy. Rename this layer Detail Small. Right-click on the Detail Small layer, choose Duplicate Layer and name the second copy Detail Large.

At the bottom of the Layers palette, click the New Group button to add a folder icon on the Layers palette.

Select both the Original and Detail Small layers by clicking on one and then shift-clicking on the other and drag them both onto the Group 1 layer. 

Scale Down the Original Image

Options Bar for Transform
© Sue Chastain, UI © Adobe

Click on Group 1 in the Layers palette, and go to Edit in the menu bar, then Transform > Scale. Both layers in Group 1 are scaled together.

In the options bar at the top of the Photoshop screen, click the Chain icon between the W: and H: boxes, and then enter 25% for either width or height and press the Check Mark icon to apply the scaling.

You can also use free transform here, but by using numeric scaling, you work with a known value. This is necessary if you want to note the magnification level on the finished document.

Add a Stroke to the Cutaway

Add a Stroke to the Cutaway
© Sue Chastain, UI © Adobe

Click on the Detail Small layer to select it. A the bottom of the Layers palette, click the Fx button and choose Stroke. Adjust the stroke settings as desired. Use a black stroke color and 2-pixel size, for example. Click OK to apply the style and exit the dialog box.

Copy the same layer style to the Detail Large layer. You can copy and paste layer styles by right-clicking on the Detail Small layer in the Layers palette and choosing Copy Layer Style. Then, right-click the Detail Large layer and select Paste Layer Style.

Add Drop Shadow to Detail View

Add Drop Shadow to Detail View
© Sue Chastain, UI © Adobe

Double-click on the Effects line directly beneath the Detail Large layer. Click on Drop Shadow and adjust the settings to your liking. Click OK.

Reposition the Cutaway

Reposition the Cutaway
© Sue Chastain

With the Detail Large layer selected, select the Move tool and position the layer where you want it in relation to the whole image. Click on the  Group 1 layer and move it to the bottom of the Layer list so you can see the Detail Large layer superimposed on the larger image. Still using the Move tool, move the pullout area to where you want it to appear.


Add Connector Lines

Add Connector Lines
© Sue Chastain

Zoom in on the image for precise placement. Click the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette to add a new empty layer. Move it between the  Group 1 and Detail Large layers. With the new empty layer selected, activate the Pen tool in the toolbox. In the options bar or layers palette, set the line width to the same size you used for the stroke effect on the Detail Small layer. For example, set the line to 2 pixels and the color to Red.

Click once on the small circle stroke and once on the large circle stroke 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 at the same time as you adjust the line position for smaller increments. Click once on the other endpoint and adjust its position in the same way.

Repeat the process to draw a connecting line on the other side of the circles.

Add Text and Save the Finished Image

The Finished Image
© Sue Chastain

Zoom back to 100% and give the image a final check. Adjust the connector lines if they look off. Add text if desired. 

To keep the image editable, save it in the native Photoshop PSD format. If your brochure is in another Adobe application, you can place the Photoshop file directly in your layout. Otherwise, you can select all and use the Copy Merged command for pasting into a brochure document, or flatten the layers and save a copy to import into your brochure.