Using Nail Polish on Acrylic Nails: A How-To Guide
If you’re new to the concept of artificial nails, you might be wondering if you can use your own nail polish on them instead of wearing them straight from the box. Of course, you can! In fact, it is the whole point of purchasing basic acrylic glue or press-on nails: to paint and customize them using your dominant hand.
You could also paint fake nails that you’ve already stuck on your real nails, but it may be harder to manage. This way of doing it will also eliminate the possibility of anything but the most basic designs unless you’re ridiculously talented and ambidextrous.
Here’s everything you need to know to paint your own artificial nails.
1. Gather DIY Essentials for Painting Your Fake Nails
You will need a complete set of artificial acrylic nails, preferably not the type that you need to pull or snap off a frame. Your nail polish of choice should also be available, along with any additional items you need for more complicated nail art undertakings—like decals or stickers.
Items to hold the false nails in place while you paint them will also help. We recommend using toothpicks or cotton buds, nail glue or tape, and optional items like paper or foam.
2. Make Sure Your Artificial Nails Are Ready for Polish
If your false nails are brand new, all you need to do is to make sure the 10 nails are all the correct size for the corresponding finger. Handle them with clean hands and make sure they’re 100 percent moisture-free.
If you’re working with acrylic nails that have already been painted over, rub them with acetone-free nail polish remover—as acetone can melt acrylic—on a cotton ball or swab and dry them with more cotton or cloth.
3. Set up Your False Nails in a Clean Work Space
Choose a neat and well-lit spot where you’re unlikely to be disturbed, with enough surface area to work with many small items without feeling crowded.
There are various ways to set up the 10 artificial nails for easy painting, and your preference will depend on what jived with your painting and nail art techniques. Below are three of our favorites.
First Method: Lay a long strip of double-sided tape on top of a sheet of cardboard or paper. Arrange the fake nails on top of said tape in order—left pinky to right pinky—glue-side down and press on them until they’re securely stuck to the tape. This technique is ideal for simple one-or two-coat paint jobs.
Second Method: Fold a short strip of tape back on itself with the adhesive side out, fix it to the back of a false nail, and stick a cotton bud to the tape behind the nail. Repeat until all artificial nails are set up this way. This method is best for nail artists that need to change the orientation of the nails as they’re decorated or drawn on. The cotton buds become handles for your non-dominant hand, while the other does the painting.
Third Method: Take 10 toothpicks, each with a sharp end and a blunt end. Stick them in a row, sharp end down, in a block of foam. Green garden foam is great for this because it provides a solid foundation. Start attaching your fake nails—again, left pinky to right pinky—to the toothpicks. Use a drop of nail glue on each toothpick tip and press the center underside of each nail on it. This is similar to the tape-and-cotton-bud method in that it gives you handles, but is better for quick transporting of still-wet nails with little warning as you can just pick up the entire block and move it.
4. Paint and Decorate Your Fake Nails
If you did the toothpick-and-glue technique, you’ll need to wait about 10 minutes for the adhesive liquid to dry. Otherwise, you can start right away.
You may apply a base coat specifically formulated for acrylic nails, to make them last longer and prevent discoloration. Wait for this layer to dry. If you’re not planning to reuse or repaint this set of false nails, you can skip this part.
Paint the nails you desired color. It’s also at this point that you will want to draw on designs using a pin, toothpick or thin brush. More complicated nail art will have more complicated steps. Remember that thick layers may have trouble drying out. If your design needs more than two coats, be patient and let each layer dry separately instead of quickly applying multiple coats.
Like the base coat, the topcoat is optional, especially if you’re only planning to use these fake nails for a day or two. If you’re counting on their longevity, though, apply one or two layers of topcoat after you’ve given the nail polish enough time to dry out.
5. How to Do Your Custom False Nails
If you can, wait 24 hours before carefully removing the nails from the tape, cotton buds or toothpicks. Clean the underside with a cotton ball and some acetone-free nail polish remover before fixing them above your real nails. You may clip and file the nails to achieve your desired length or style at this point, too.