help making witch fingernails

edited January 2015 in General
so i need to make a really long and nasty looking set of false fingernails for a witch character im creating. im a student studying special effects make-up. its really important to me that i create these nails just like the pros would if it was for an actual film. it just makes sure my work is industry relevant and im up to date with the current techniques. i only need the actual nails no finger extensions of any sort. I was wondering if anyone could offer me any advice on how i would make these? ive seen a lot of DIY videos on you tube showing how to make nails but weather or not this is the correct and most safe way to make them im not sure. thank you  


  • Here's how I've made fake nails in the past.  (This is just one of any number of possible ways, but it's worked for me!)

    1. Find some clear plastic sheet material that is about the same thickness as the nail you wish to create.   Some possible sources are: overhead projection transparencies, lamination plastic, plastic water bottles/jugs that are not corrugated, or any online plastic retailer.  I've had good luck with Fiji plastic water bottles as a cheap/refreshing source of clear flat plastic.
    2. Place the clear plastic over your subject's nails and trace the outline of their nail bed, and then sketch your custom nail design for each finger around that.  Use a pencil/marker that can easily be removed, like a grease or fabric pencil.  (a little 99% isopropyl alcohol can help remove most marks from other pencils/pens)
    3. Cut out the nail shapes using scissors or a knife.
    4. Find a cylindrical object with a curve that matches the lateral (side-to-side) curve of your subject's fingernails.  This object should not be heat sensitive as heat is used later.  Soda cans work great, I prefer smaller cans like Red Bull as their radius is a bit smaller, so the curve better matches that of a human nail.
    5. Place the nail lengthwise on your cylindrical form.
    6. Apply heat with a heat gun (or hair dryer) to soften the plastic.
    7. If needed, apply light pressure to the plastic to help it conform to the shape.  The plastic will be hot, so use a moist paper towel or a well-gloved hand.  Be careful not to leave any makes in the soft plastic, as these can become more apparent when you paint the nails later.
    8. Allow the plastic to cool, then finish as desired with further trimming, heat-forming, distressing, and color.
    9. Apply with regular false-nail glue or Pros-Aide.
    You can get a bit more advanced if you have a stone life-cast of your actor's hands to work off, but a properly labeled tracing (that includes the nail beds) can work great as well.

    I used alcohol activated Skin Illustrator pigments to paint the nails I created for a zombie makeup.  I applied lots of light washes to build up grime and weathering, and some heavier applications of dark red where the nail meets the nail bed to simulate irritation.  I then roughed up the tip with a dremel tool and hand files, followed by some light sanding so the nails looked rough/jagged but did not have any sharp spots that could be problematic for the actor they would be glued to.  I also suggest removing the 

    Please share your work here when you are done, I'd love to see it!

  • thank you so much! this a great method i think ive actually seen a tutorial on-line showing this method. will definitely share my images when ive made them!  
  • Any time!.  

    If you can find that tutorial I would be interested in seeing it too!


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