Adding a little polish
When retouching beauty and fashion images we’re sometimes asked to add an illustrative touch that goes beyond the usual skin and hair work. In these cases retouchers have to think more like a painter to create a believable effect.Here is an image brought to us by photographer Richard Radstone that shows just such a challenge. In this case Richard needed some finger nail polish added to the model’s fingers and I thought it would be a good chance to talk about how we can add these illustrative touches.To begin with let’s take a look at the original photo, without the nail polish:
In creating this illustration we’ll use shadows and highlights to give our model’s nails a shape that fits with the lighting of the image. Then we’ll add some specular highlights to create the shiny look of polished fingernails.
Now let’s get started:
Step 1) Create a shape for the nails: Using the Pen Tool create a shape you’ll fill with the base color for the nail polish. To do this zoom into the image and trace the shape of the natural nails on the model’s hand.
Step 2) Turn the Pen Path you just made into a Selection. Note: the feather used depends on the resolution and sharpness of the image. For this image we’ll use a feather of 1 pixel. (We can always soften and finesse the edge of this layer later using a Layer Mask later.)
Step 3) Create a new Layer and name it “nails”. Fill this layer (using the Selection you just made) with the base color. At this point it’s not important to choose the perfect color as it can always be adjusted later on. For this image I started with 147Red, 99Green, and 91Blue.
(Notice that even though we used the same color for the 3 nails the one at the top looks lighter than the others. This is an illusion caused by the colors near that nail are so much darker than the others. This is something retouchers and illustrators always need to remember and if necessary adjust for.)
Step 4) Add shaping to the nails. To do this we’ll use two layers clipped to the base color, one to darken the far edge of the nails and another to lighten the closer edge of the nails. By using clipping these layers to the “nails” layer we don’t have to worry about the effects bleeding out into the other parts of the image.
4a) To add the darkening effect create a new layer and call it “Shaping – Multiply”, be sure to click on the option that says “Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask”. In the option for Blending Modes choose “Multiply”.
We’ll use this layer to darken the far edge of each nail. Using a small, soft brush choose a dark color such as Black or a dark version of your base color paint along the far edge of the nails. In doing this imagine how the light would play on the nails and remember that darker colors seem to make the colors recede into the image. Here is an example of the darkening effect I painted on this image (Note this is a subtle move):
4b) Now to complete the shaping we’ll add a layer that lightens the leading edge of the nails. To do this create a new layer, name it “Highlights”, once again be sure to click on the “Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask” option and then set the Blending Mode to “Overlay”.
Choose the Brush Tool and using a small soft brush paint choose White as your color and paint along the leading edge of the nails. Again since this is an illustrative effect use your imagination to see where the lighting in the image would naturally create the lighter edge of the nails.
By balancing the light and dark tones we’re painting in we’re creating a sense of the nails having the rounded shape real finger nails have. By keeping the highlights and dark tones on separate layers it’s easier to finesse the effect by using the opacity of the layers and if necessary layer masks to get just the right shape to these tones.
Here’s a shot showing the image with the highlights I added:
Step 5) Push the shaping effect with an Adjustment Layer. To emphasize the lighting effects we added we’ll use a Curves Adjustment Layer to push the contrast of the nails a little more. Add a Curves Adjustment Layer (Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Curves), and set the Blending Mode to “Luminosity”. (Using the Luminosity Blending Mode will keep our adjustment from affecting the color of our nails.)
For this effect we’ll pull the both the Black Point (pushing the shadows) and the White Point (pushing the highlights) over. Here is a screen shot showing the adjustments I used:
Step 6) Changing the Color to a light shade of Cyan. With the shaping of the nails working we can start to see that the Color we chose isn’t really reading as well as we’d like. Adjusting the Color is easily accomplished by using another Adjustment Layer and this time we’ll use the “Color” Blending Mode to make sure we’re only affecting the Color of the nails.
Using the same steps we did in adding our Contrast enhancing Curves add a new Adjustment Layer. Again make sure to use the “Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask” option to keep the effect isolated to just the nails. This time instead of using “Luminosity” set the Blending Mode to “Color”.
With the Curves dialogue open you can easily adjust the Color of the nails. To change the Color to a light pastel shade of Cyan push the White Point of the Green and Blue Curves over to about halfway over. Then pull the White Point of the Red Curve down about 1/3 of the way. And finally to lower the saturation of the Color pull the White Point of the RGB Master Curve down about 2/3 of the way.
Here is a screen shot showing the settings I used:
Step 7) Add specular highlights to create a “shiny” look. Fingernail polish leaves a shiny, glossy look to the nails. This means the glossy surface will have specular highlights. To add these we’ll simply paint in White with a small brush.
Create a new layer, name it “Specular Highlights”, then using a small brush paint a thin White line along the first nail where the light would be reflected by the glossy surface. Use a Layer mask, or the Eraser tool to finesse the shape of the line so it’s a little thinner at each end. If it looks too sharp use the Blur Tool to soften the line a little bit.
Then copy this layer and using the Move tool position the copied line into place over the next nail. If necessary use “Free Transform” to scale and/or rotate the line so it fits properly on the nail.
Repeat this for the last nail.
Here’s a crop showing the specular highlights I added to the nails:
Step 8) Add Noise. Looking closely at the image we can see our painted nails are looking good, but the paint we added stands out because it lacks the Grain or Noise that is present in the rest of the image. To fix this we’ll just add a Noise Layer to our nails.
Create a new Layer and with the New Layer dialogue open name the Layer “Noise”, once again make sure the “Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask” option is clicked on. This time set the Blending Mode to “Overlay” and then choose the “Fill with Overlay-neutral color (50% gray)” option.
With this Layer chosen now go to Filter>Noise>Add Noise and set the Filter to add a small amount of Noise to the Layer. The exact amount of Noise needed will depend on what matches the Noise present in the rest of the image. In this case I used a setting of 2 with the Gaussian and Monochromatic options chosen.
With the Noise added our image is complete. Here is a shot showing the final image:
With the image finished let’s take a quick look back at how we created the new painted nails. First we created the basic nails layer by using the Pen Tool to create our basic shape. Then after filling that layer with our base color we used Multiply and Overlay Blending Modes to create a sense of the nails having a curved shape just like real fingernails do. Then we shifted the color towards a more complimentary color using a Curves Adjustment Layer set to the Color Blending Mode. After that we added some specular highlights to create a glossy, shiny look and finished it all off by adding a little bit of Noise so our painted nails blended into the image more naturally.
By using Blending Modes and illustrative touches we were able to create a realistic effect. Now how can you apply these ideas to your own images?
(image © Richard Radstone: http://richardradstone.com )