Jan 12, 2016

How to Color Nail Polish in Photoshop

In today’s episode, we show you how to color nail polish in Photoshop!

Applying Nail Polish

Often times you might want to change the nail Color of your subject.  Maybe you want to try a color that would better fit the overall image.  We have a very simple but effective solution for you!

Getting Started

We start off by adding a new Adjustment Layer and choosing Solid Color.  Don’t feel locked in to the Color you choose.  It’s extremely simple to change the Color later on.  From there, we Invert the Layer Mask.  We then paint white on the Layer Mask and we only paint on the fingernails.  The great thing about a layer mask is you don’t have to be incredibly precise when painting the Color on the nails.  Something like the Pen Tool would probably give you more precision if that’s what you desire.  Once you paint on top of your nails you are halfway done.  It won’t look realistic at all because there are no highlights on top of the nails.  The next step is figuring out how to add highlights on top of the color you just added.  If you can do this successfully, your image will look realistic and the color will blend in seamlessly.

Adding Highlights

There are a lot of different ways to grab the highlights of your image.  We start off by making our Color Fill layer invisible.  We then click on our Background layer and then click, Channels.  Channels helps us separate the Colors in the image.  The Red, Green and Blue in our image.  Our Blue Channel is what we choose to focus on while we try to grab our highlights.  We duplicate our Blue Channel and then pull up our Levels.  We then make our darks a bit darker to help Darken the Skin and to help the highlights stand out.  We then make a selection of the Light areas on our Blue Channel Copy.  After that, we create a New Layer and fill our selection with white.  This creates a layer with Highlights from our entire image.  We make our Color Fill layer visible again and then create a Clipping Mask.  This allows the highlights to show up only where our Color Fill layers are.

Finishing Touches

We then add a Gaussian Blur to help things blend it a bit more.  We also add a Layer Mask and paint away all of the areas that we don’t want to be visible with the nail polish.  This helps us get a very clean and precise look.  It didn’t take us long but we were able to color finger nail polish right in Photoshop!  Now get out there and try this technique on some of your own images.

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  • user image

    Always more to learn! A question though: could bringing the highlights out not have been achieved with blending modes rather than selecting from the channels and adding them back in?

  • user image

    Would love to see Arron’s take on colorising an old black and white photograph. Have tried a couple of techniques but never sure what works best.

    • user image

      There are several of Aaron’s tutorials on YouTube. This is one example that you might fine useful.

  • user image

    Also very useable
    I did some test with coloring nails and put the white highlights over them in a normal pictures not juts one of a hand and the result is not bad at all.
    I am be doing that for years and this is a welcome surprise.

    If you are looking for challenge, make an oily skin of a normal dry skin. Like you put oil on it.
    With the reflection of light and so on. I have been doing it and had some success but sometimes it’s a drag so a nice trick out of your sleeve would be more than welcome 😉

  • Rachel

    Great tutorial!! Had an issue with nails when I shot a grad portrait session last summer. I wasn’t sure how to fix it, but I, basically, tried to just “clean” the nails as best as I could. This is great for me for future shoots!! Thanks! Keep up the great work. I love your tutorials – the free ones AND PRO ones!