Nail Design Art Techniques

Nail Design Art
Nail Design Art


Nail Design Art polish is the true hero of any nail art look. Nothing has quite the pop, sheen, or luxurious finish of colorful, polished nails. The vast selection of polish colors on the market lets you customize your look to suit any mood or outfit. Build and maintain your collection using the following tips, and as you browse the projects in this article, note that you can substitute your own color selections. Remember, anything goes!

Choosing Polishes

Opaque polishes work best for nail art because they require fewer coats than translucent polishes. The best way to test the opacity of polish is to try it out, painting a single stroke down the center of one of your nails. Can you see the nail through the polish, or does the polish cover the nail in a dense layer of color? If you are shopping for polishes where testers are not available, simply hold the bottle up to the ceiling light and tilt it sideways.

If light easily passes through the glass, then the polish has low opacity. A quality associated with opaqueness is pigmentation, meaning the concentration of individual units of color. Polishes with high opacity are likely to have a high pigment count. As you grow your nail polish collection, choose several polishes that are highly opaque and highly pigmented.

Keep in mind that opacity and pigmentation have little to do with color darkness and lightness. Light-colored polishes, such as white and pale pink, can be just as opaque and highly pigmented as dark polishes, and vice versa. Likewise, the thickness of polish is not an indicator of opacity. In fact, thick, syrupy polishes are most likely old and should just be tossed out!

Storing Polishes

Nail polishes expire after a year or two. Exposure to changing temperatures and humidity can alter the consistency of polish, so storing in a bathroom is not recommended. Make a safe home for your nail art supplies in a closet and store the bottles upright and securely capped.

Applying Base and Top Coats

A clear base coat (also called a primer) is applied to clean, unpainted nails before colored polish is added. The primer creates a smooth clear layer on which to begin painting and provides greater adhesion for the polish. It is commonly applied during nail art but is not a necessity. A clear topcoat, however, is vital—it’s the perfect finishing touch to any nail art project.

Applied at the very end, it seals the underlying polish and provides protection, durability, and a glossy shine. Be sure to use a fast-drying clear topcoat, which reduces the final drying time of the completed look.


The most important thing to consider as you choose a workspace is keeping the surrounding area clean and protecting furniture and surfaces from polish spills and stains. Choose a table or other sturdy flat surface and cover with white waxed paper, taping down the edges of the paper to keep it secure. Make sure your waxed paper surface is large enough to contain two spread hands plus all your nail art supplies, with some extra space.

Arrange your nail preparation supplies—such as nail files, clippers, and nail polish remover—to your front left, and nail art supplies—such as polishes and brushes—to your front right. (Reverse if left-handed.) Keep a small stack of paper towels and small trash can nearby.

Your workspace should be well-lit and well-ventilated. Open a window or use a small fan to disperse polish and polish remover odors. When not in use, store nail art supplies in small plastic bins or shoeboxes, all in one
a place for easy access.


Nail preparation can be extensive, including a full range of manicure procedures, or it can be as simple as you like. The projects in this article require merely a thorough cleaning of the hands. First, remove old nail polish with nail polish remover and a clean cotton pad. Then wash hands with soap and water. If you would like to clip or file your nails, do so now, and follow with a second hand-washing using soap and water. Dry hands thoroughly with a cloth towel. Apply a clear base coat, allow it to dry, and you’re ready to begin!


As mentioned previously, a fast-drying clear topcoat is a must for any nail art project. A single coat is all that is needed. All projects in this article include a top coat as the final step, along with a 15-minute period of stillness when hands should be laid flat and undisturbed.

(Do not shake hands to speed up the drying time, as this can unsettle the polish.) After 15 minutes, touch nails lightly to confirm they are dry. Hands can then be used for light tasks, but wait an extra 25 minutes before increasing activity, not letting your nails come in direct contact with objects that could dent
or smudge the nail art.

For most nail art projects, multiple coats and multiple colors are applied to each nail, and underlying layers should be dry before the next coat or color is applied. However, the drying time between coats is much shorter than the drying time of a completed look. If nails are dry to a light touch, generally after a few minutes, they are ready for the next layer of polish.


A messy workspace can create mess-ups on the nail and a mess all over your hands. An organized workspace, with all the supplies you need right there at your fingertips, is key to keeping clean. Prevent a mess from accumulating by tidying up as you go—closing polish bottles after you apply color and discarding used paper products, for example—but save the major cleanup until your nails are completely dry.

Your Nails

Easy access to nail polish remover is a must for nail art projects. Before beginning a project, apply it to the nail area using a clean cotton pad to remove old polish and natural skin oils. Apply it during a project if a mess arises. And apply it after completing a project to remove stray polish from the cuticle area. A small angled-edge eyeliner brush allows you to apply remover with precision, and the brush handle keeps a protective distance
between your working hand and the powerful remover.

Before you start a project, pour some polish remover into a plastic soda cap, and place it next to the angled-edge eyeliner brush. As needed, simply dip the brush into the polish remover, press lightly against a paper towel to soak up the excess, and apply to the areas of the cuticle where you see stray polish. However, avoid overusing your hands during projects, as you will likely have wet polish on your nails that needs time to set and dry.

Instead, save minor nail cleanup for the end, after all nail art has been applied. Just before adding the topcoat, do a quick review of fingers and cuticle area, and carefully wipe away messes with the angled-edge
brush, dipping into the remover as needed.


Like any craft or beauty regime, nail art has its secrets. The tips that follow will broaden your skills, amp up the fun factor, and extend the life of your finished, gorgeous nails—and make your friends ask, “How did you do


An exciting aspect of nail art is the use of embellishments—decorative materials that can be adhered to the nail to add unexpected texture, dimension, and novelty. Some projects in this article feature embellishments for brilliant, sparkling effect, such as Glitter Studs and Half Nail with Crystals. In the Gold Leaf project, small pieces of shimmering metal foil are nestled in black polish, while the Lace project calls for real pieces of lace. There are few limits to what you can apply to the nail, using a clear topcoat or nail glue as an adhesive. Think sequins, feathers, torn bits of colored paper, seed beads, stickers, and even flower petals.

False Nails

Many nail art looks, including some of the projects in this article, take a long time to produce and require intricate handiwork. If you want to preserve the nail art and reuse it—rather than wiping it all away with polish remover when it’s time for a change—then simply apply nail art to a set of false nails and enjoy them again and again.

Another benefit of false nails is that both hands are free to complete the look. (Decorate the false nails before attaching them to your real nails for the cleanest result.) If your nails are naturally short, false nails will give you more length to work with, much like a painter deciding to use a larger canvas. False nails can even be filed and shaped just like natural nails.

All the projects in this article can be applied to false nails, which you can store in small ziplock bags. Choose a set of false nails that are natural, unpainted color, and read instructions carefully before proceeding to nail art projects.



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