To estimate the residual stresses in the thin film and surface coatings, combined method based on nanoindentation and finite element (FE) analysis was developed. A simple equation for estimating the residual stress was composed of the hardness and the parameters which can be driven from the nanoindentation loading and unloading behaviors. FE analysis on the nanoindentation procedure under the various residual stress levels was performed to determine the parameters that included in the equation. The equation showed a good coincidence between the estimated residual stresses and those for the FE analysis. Thus the proposed method was considered as a useful method for estimating the residual stresses in the thin film without stress free specimen.