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How to Use Photoshop to Paint Fingernails in Photos

Updated on January 20, 2013
Nail art in Photoshop
Nail art in Photoshop | Source

Photoshop is a wonderful image manipulation program for technical and creative retouch. You can retouch and add effects to your photos in Photoshop in various ways. You can not only apply makeup to your photos, but also polish fingernails. With basic ideas on tools, layers and presets, you can paint fingernails, change the color, fill with gradient colors, or pattern. There are many ways to do nail art in Photoshop. I’m sharing some of the methods that I find handy.

Paint Nails in Photoshop: Step One

You can paint fingernails in Photoshop like you do with the nail polish. This process is little rigid and does not give you multiple options to work.

Open the photo.

Copy the photo into a new layer. If you copy the photo in a new layer, you can compare the original and retouched photo while working. Layer copy will also give you a leverage to delete the copy layer if mistakes have been made.

Choose the color you want to paint on the nails.

Select soft brush. Set the hardness around 40 percent, and opacity around 60 percent.

Paint over the nails.

Select the Dodge tool. Choose Midtones and set exposure about 35 percent. Brush over nail paint to give highlight effect. You can also use Burn tool to give shadow effects.

Nails painted in Photoshop
Nails painted in Photoshop | Source
Nails painted using Photoshop
Nails painted using Photoshop | Source

Paint Nails in Photoshop: Step Two

Open the photo.

Create a new layer.

Choose the color you want to paint on fingernails.

Select a soft brush and paint over the nails. Make sure you are on the new layer and you have set opacity and flow both at 100 percent.

Go to blending options and choose overlay as blending mode. You are also free to play with other blending modes. To go to blending options click the box just below the layer tab on the layer palette and select blending mode from the drop down menu.

If you think color is too bright, reduce the opacity.

You can also experiment with fingernail color by adjusting Hue and Saturation. Go to Image→Adjustments→Hue/Saturation or click Crtl U.

To adjust brightness and contrast, go to Image→Adjustments→ Brightness/Contrast.

To experiment with tonal qualities of finger nails go to Image→Adjustments→Color Balance or click Ctrl B.

You can give a finish touch to the nail art by using Dodge or Burn tool.

Go to Filter and experiment with different effects in Artistic, Brush Strokes, Distort, Sketch, or Stylize options. These presets in the Filter gallery will help you create amazing color effects on the fingernails.

Nail art in Photoshop.
Nail art in Photoshop. | Source
You can use different colors to paint nails using Photoshop
You can use different colors to paint nails using Photoshop | Source

Paint Nails in Photoshop: Step Three

Choose Pen tool, or Lasso tool if you like, and select the nail area. Copy the selection into a new layer. (Ctrl J)

Go to layer style and choose Gradient Overlay. In the gradient overlay dialogue box, choose gradient color and style. Set angle, scale and opacity. Hit OK.

You will see the nail filled with gradient color.

You can also fill the nails with pattern. Choose any selection tool you feel comfortable. Select the nail and copy it in a new layer. Go to layer style and choose Pattern Overlay. Choose the pattern you want to fill.


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    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      Hi Mary,

      I'm still learning photoshop, and discovering ways to do things in Photoshop. Thanks for sincerely following my photoshop tutorials.


    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      You really do come up with some creative ideas. Also, you must definitely be a PhotoShop guru! I know where to go if I ever start using PhotoShop again...certainly you have learned a lot about it.

      Now, if I could figure out how to make my fingernails look that good in real life ;)

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      @Natashlh, as I begin learning more about Photoshop, I'm also surprised how much scope Photoshop has.

      @Poshcoffeeco, true indeed.

      @Jennieinabotle, its true that Photoshop has unlimited possibilities.

      @fpherj, perhaps someone will buy Photoshop from the link I have provided. LOL

      @Peggy, thanks for your wonderful comment.

      @Rosemary, I have actually published hub about makeover in Photoshop. Thanks for your comment.

      @Angel, maybe I could polish your nails in Photoshop. Send me your nail pictures. LOL

      @acaetnna, thanks.

      @DEE, thanks

      @Eddy, thanks for always reading and commenting.

      @agusfanani, I'm trying to share what I have learned.

      @Prasetio, Photoshop is amazing, don't you think?

    • prasetio30 profile image


      7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub. Photoshop is my favorite program. I had never heard about this before and I never thought that Photoshop can be used for something like this.Thanks for share with us. Voted up!


    • agusfanani profile image


      7 years ago from Indonesia

      Now I know that photo shop can help us become versatile after reading your hub. Thank you for sharing.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      So interesting and useful .

      Thanks for sharing.


    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      7 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Brilliant an really a creative idea thanks for this hub

    • acaetnna profile image


      7 years ago from Guildford

      Awesome - just how brilliant is this! Thank you.

    • Angelme566 profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow the color awesome ! I love to look at beautiful nails , so colorful but i don't like that to be applied in my own hands. Ever since i haven't polish my nails. Great , unique and interesting hub. Voted up !

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 

      7 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      I would never have thought of this, this is awesome Vinaya.

      Hmmmm can you please do a hub on getting rid of wrinkles with photoshop :))) Just kidding

      Awesome hub you are an expert with Photoshop. Thank you for sharing this

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      7 years ago from the beautiful south

      This would be great, I don't wear nail polish or fake nails so now I can look like it huh? Always something new, thanks for bringing us this! ^

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I agree with fpherj48,

      I'll just bet that Photoshop sales will be going up when more people find your variety of hubs regarding how to use it. Thanks for the tutorial on how to paint fingernails using that program. Up and interesting.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      7 years ago from Carson City

      Vinaya....Unbelievable! Now, this is just too much! Too interesting. You are bound to peak interest in the purchase of Photo Shop.....they should give you a percentage of sales! UP+++

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie Marie 

      7 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Oh, this is so cool. I never thought about this before. You can do just about anything with Photoshop. Thanks for sharing this information. Voted up!

    • poshcoffeeco profile image

      Steve Mitchell 

      7 years ago from Cambridgeshire

      Nice idea, but seems a lot of effort to go to for minimal results.

    • Natashalh profile image


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Huh. I never thought to add nail polish in a photo. What a cool idea! Thanks for the examples, Vinaya.


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