Step-By-Step For Nail Art

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Things you need for amazing nail art

A fine paintbrush is one of the first things you need!! You can buy these from your local art shop; just select a very thin artists paintbrush, but make sure you can use it with acrylics. These brushes should not cost much either - mine are 1 each! Or you can browse on the internet for nail art brushes.

A good set of acrylic paints are essential for nail art. You can use nail varnish to paint on your deigns, but they can muck up your brushes, take a while to dry and are thicker therefore are harder to paint on. Acrylics are nice and light and flow onto the nail! I get mine from http://www.nailartshopuk.com but I have used artists acrylics in the past, making sure I applied base coats to the nails before painting to prevent staining.

A collection of odds-and-ends is ideal for a nail artist. Rhinestones and glitters are favourites, and are easy to get hold of. Try http://www.allthingsnails.co.uk , http://www.nailartshopuk.com or even try http://www.ebay.com because there are always auctions for rhinestones and bullion and glitters there. I use chains from broken necklaces etc to fix onto my nails for a different look, also I love nail art jewellery. Anything you see that would look good on nails, keep and save it for your nail art.

I use nail varnishes for my base coats, aswell as painting my designs with them. Make sure you have a good range of different colours. Any make will do, but a lot of technicians favour the polishes by Creative Nail Design, Toma, OPI etc.

A good topcoat is a MUST for nail art because you need to make sure your design is sealed.

If you do not want to practise on your own nails, try this idea: Buy a pack of false tips - I get mine from Claires Accessories, they are roughly about 2.50-3 for a pack of 20. Get some blue tack and stick it on the end of a cocktail stick, or an orange stick. Then stick this to the back of the nail. You can hold the stick while you paint on the nail!

First Step

You cant grab the brush, dip it in paint and expect to be the nail artist equivalent to Monet! Nail art takes time and practise, to settle into your own style. Begin with practising simple shapes, like stripes, dots etc. This will allow you to become adjusted to your brush, and youll become comfortable with using it and angling it.

You do not need to pile paint onto the brush. Simply wet the brush at the tip, lightly dip it into the paint, so that the tip is coated with a thin layer of it. Of course, if you want to do a design where it requires heavy hand painting, ie painting large dots, then pile away! Most nail artists tend to use a less amount though.

Try resting your arm on a table if your hand is a little shaky. Take your time, do not rush yourself.

Becoming More Acquainted With Nail Art

Once your comfortable, and confident that you can paint the basics, try notching your creative side up. Flowers, hearts etc are easy to do, and look eye-catching and pretty too!

To do flowers

1. Paint on a base coat colour. Any colour you wish!

2. Carefully dip your brush into acrylic paint, any colour, but if your base colour is light, try a dark colour, ie blue, and if its dark, try a light paint colour, ie white! Take your brush and gently paint a little line, imitating a petal. If you want it to be easier, load your brush a little heavy, then place your tip down, flat on the nail, so the imprint of the brush shape is left. Do this 5 times, for 5 petals.

3. Paint a dot in the centre on the petals, acting as the middle of the flower.

4. Paint more over the nails in the same fashion, or just leave it as one. Remember to seal with topcoat!!

flower.jpgYou can always expand on this design! Instead of painting the middle, try using a rhinestone! Sparkly and pretty! Just dab some topcoat or just clear varnish over the flower, wet the end of a cocktail/orange stick. Place the tip of the stick onto a rhinestone so that it is picked up. Carry it over to the flower and place it in the centre. You may want to push it down with the end of the stick, so it sticks into place better! DO NOT FORGET TO SEAL IT!! flower2.jpg

Another idea you could do is adding flashes of colour onto the petals. After painting the petals in one colour, take your brush, wet the tip and dip it carefully into a darker or lighter colour. Very slowly and gently, starting from the centre of the flower, slide the brush tip down the side of the petal, stopping about halfway. You should be creating a thin line of colour. Repeat until thin lines have been created across the whole petal, it usually takes about 3-4 lines for me.

To do a heart

1. Apply a base colour.

2. Paint on 2 quite large dots, next to each other.

3. From the outside of each dot, draw a diagonal line, so youre forming a V shape, with the 2 dots at the top.

4. Fill in the space inside the V. Then, with a light amount of paint on your brush, fill in the outsides, forming a more curved and fuller heart shape. Then add topcoat.


Practising with basic shapes like these will build up your ability. Try placing the designs together, having hearts and flowers in one design. Experiment with different colours too. Add rhinestones and glitter And most of all, have fun while youre experimenting.

A Lil Bit Harder

After youve dabbled with the basic forms of nail art, its time to get your fingers doing some more complex artwork. Your imagination is your only limit, so you can do whatever you want on a nail!

Here are instructions for creating a beach scene. Its a more simple version, but after you have mastered this, you can adapt it to your own scene!

1. Paint the bottom half of the nail a darkish blue colour to represent the sea, then paint the rest a lighter blue, for the sky. Take a light blue paint (remember, you can mix your paints! Dab some blue onto a palette and mix in white paint!!), and using paint little stripes across, to show the reflection on the water.

2. Paint an island! It might help to paint it in white acrylic paint first, then paint on yellow once its dry. This acts as a base coat, so none of the blue varnish underneath will show through.

3. Paint the palm tree trunk! Take a brown colour paint, and paint a stripe, but, try to curve it, and make it a bit thick, as in the picture.

4. The leaves. Using curved stripes again, in green paint. You can add an more realistic touch, by adding a lighter green colour on them, using the same technique as I explained with the flower petals.

5. Paint a white circle and fill it in. Once its dried, colour it with yellow. Once that has dried, paint one half orange. Once the design has dried, topcoat it!


Leopard Print

This is more easier, but is very eye-catching!

1. Paint on a gold-ish base colour.

2. Taking a slightly darker gold/brown/yellow colour, paint on large spots, but make them jagged looking.

3. Taking a dark brown colour, paint on an outline for each dot. I usually paint this outline in 3 pieces, so that there are chunks or darkness around the spots. Add random dots of dark colour around the shapes. Finish with topcoat.



You can use many different colours for this design!! Pink and white looks very funky and blue and pink is a nice variation too!! Let your imagination run wild!

The Butterfly design is quite hard to masterbut plenty of practise and youll get it in no time!!

1. Paint on a light base coat colour. In the centre, paint 3 dots, one big, for the head, and 2 smaller ones for the body.

2. Loading a very small amount of black/white paint on the very tip of your brush, carefully and lightly paint a line, starting from the head. Curve it into the shape of a wing and end it back to the body. Repeat for the other side.

3. Do the same for the smaller wings, on both sides.

4. Decorate your butterfly! You can do this anyway you want to, using any colours or patterns. Then finish by adding 2 thin swooping lines for the antennae! Topcoat the design. You could always use rhinestones for the body, instead of paint, or you could put rhinestones on the wings!!


Moving On

Ok, so youve seen how a few harder designs are done. Now lets do some even harder ones!!

The Playboy Bunny.

This is quite hard to do, it took me several attempts to get this right!

1. Paint on a base coat colour. Using a fine amount of black paint, draw a circle with the very tip of your brush. Using curved lines, draw the right ear.

2. For the next ear, draw a slightly curved line, starting from the base of the other ear, and stretching out to the left. Using a more curved line, start at the base again, curve the line and join it to the other line you just painted.

At the bottom of the head, draw a line going down, the another from the end of it, slanting back up. Next to that, draw another going down, then at the back of the shape, where the circle curves, draw another line going down. Join these 2 lines with a curved line. This is the neck and bow-tie of the bunny!

3. Fill in the shape with paint. Adjust the shape of the bunny, so make the front of the head less curved by taking a brush, dipping it in the base colour, and painting over it. Fill in the ears a bit, making them a little thicker, if needed. Basically, just adjust the proportion until it looks ok to you.

4. Then, taking the base coat colour, paint on a dot for the eye, or use a rhinestone! Take the colour of the bunny, and carefully paint the bow-tie, which is basically 2 triangles, on their sides, joined together. Paint a line under the neck for the collar. Topcoat it!



The idea with abstract is that the design is made from different shapes to form a pattern. You can do whatever you want when doing abstract! But heres an idea to get you started

1. Start with a natural base, so either use a clear basecoat, or paint the nail in a natural colour, like a manicure pink. Paint 2 curved chunks of colour on each side, leave a space between them.

2. Outline the right one in a darker colour, and inside the chunk, paint 2 lines, then another cutting through them both.

3. On the left chunk, take a light colour and paint a spiral, copying the shape of the chunk.

4. Take a very dark colour, and paint a curved, thick line, swooping from the top to the bottom. Paint on white dots from the bottom of it, crossing over the line to the top. Make sure the spots start off small then get bigger. Do another line of dots at the bottom.

5. In the top right corner, take a colour, then just paint 3 lines. Topcoat the design. Add rhinestones if you wish, or add your own shapes. :*)


Writing On The Nail

This takes a very steady hand and a lot of patience!

1. Paint on a light base colour.

2. Dip ever so lightly into black acrylic paint and write on the nail. Treat it is as if you were holding a pen and writing on paper. You may want to practise using your brush and painting small scale onto a scrap of paper. Use simple lines and curves to create a simple font type.

3. Repeat the text all over the nail, or just leave it as one word etc. Topcoat it.




Youre probably getting the hang of this nail art malarkey by now!! So just to end, Ill go through 3 techniques you may wish to introduce into your art.

Water Marbling Technique

You will need:

2-3 different colour polishes - glitters and frosted varnishes will not work. Just use normal.

Cup/jar/glass of cold/room temp water

A few cocktail sticks



Cotton Buds / cocktail or orange stick with cotton wool wrapped at one end

Nail Varnish Remover

Base & Topcoat

1. Lay newspaper down on a table or flat surface, and set the glass of water on top.

2. Paint the nails to be marbled WHITE with white nail enamel, don't forget to apply base coat first.

3. Taking your first desired colour, drip a drop of enamel onto the surface of the water in the glass. Wait for it to spread out across the water, then add the 2nd colour onto the middle of the first colour. Wait for the colour to spread out, and drip the 3rd colour in.

4. Taking a cocktail stick, gently swirl the polishes to make patterns. Swirl slowly and gently.

5. Dip your nail/fingertip into the area of polish you desire, take the cocktail stick, swoosh the polish on the water to one side, and remove your finger.

6. Clean off polish from the cocktail stick with the tissue, and remove ALL traces of polish from the water.

7. Repeat steps 3-6 for each nail.

8. Take a cotton bud or cotton wool ended stick, dip in nail varnish remover and remove all traces of polish from the skin.

9. Apply topcoat.

Sponging Technique

You will need:

Sponge cut up into smaller pieces

Nail varnishes

Base & Topcoat


1. Apply basecoat to all nails.

2. Take a dark colour, i.e. a hot pink colour, and drip some drops onto the palette. Take the sponge, dab it into the paint, and sponge onto the tips of the nails.

3. Take a lighter colour, i.e., baby pink, and again, drip onto the palette. Using a new sponge piece or the other side to the one previously used, sponge on under the hot pink as well as slightly overlapping the 2 colours.

4. Take a white enamel, drip onto the palette. Lightly dab a new sponge into the white and gently sponge right at the bottom of the nail (the cuticle base). Slightly overly the baby pink, and slightly overlap where the hot and baby pink meet.

5. Apply topcoat for the colours to blend more and to make the varnish longer lasting.

Adding rhinestones, bullion, etc

You will need:

Rhinestones, bullion etc

Base & Topcoat

Cocktail stick


1. Apply base coat, wet the end of a cocktail stick.

2. Place the wet end of the stick onto a rhinestone or whatever you want to place on the nail. Carry it over to where you want it on the nail and place down. Press the end of the stick onto hard.

3. Repeat if you want more rhinestones etc.

4. Apply 2 coats of Topcoat.

Thats basically it!!! I shall be working on another help sheet soon, with more techniques and art to try. Meanwhile, try getting hold of some nail art books, try http://thecreativenailplace.co.uk which sell a large range of nail books. I highly recommend Nail Artistry, by The Untouchables, its full of colour photos, ideas and step-by-steps for beginners and professional nail artists.

Layla Holzer - Professional Creative Nail Design Master Technician