So you want to try your hand at DIY nail art but where do you start? The first thing you need to do is get your hands on some basic nail art tools. This is a list of my 5 essential DIY nail art tools.
1) Nail polish
The essentials are: a base coat (to prevent nail discolouration and allow your nail polish to glide on smoothly), nail polish, and a top coat (to ensure your manicure lasts for more than a day). I like to use a quick drying top coat cos that saves oodles of time and is so convenient to use, but it’s also good to have a normal top coat or clear polish in hand for certain more complex nail designs.
After trying loads of different brands, I’ve found that it’s so important to invest in good quality nail polish. These are more expensive but they’re worth it cos they last longer, dry faster and don’t get lumpy. I’ve had such bad experiences with cheap nail polish that now I’m just sticking to brands that I’ve used before (and like) and reputable brands. Orly, OPI, China Glaze, Sally Hansen and Essie are some of the good ones. It’s also a good idea to test out polish from a brand you’ve not tried before buying it.
2) Nail dotters
Nail dotters help create dot and circle patterns. I use these all the time to create simple polka dot designs. They come in a variety of sizes. Starting out, it’ll be good to get your hands on one that has a medium sized round nib on one end and a small one on the other so you can choose the size of the dots you want to create.
HOW TO USE: Find a plastic sheet and drop a few blobs of nail polish onto it. I like to use name cards that are hard and feel a bit plasticky for this cos they’re small and disposable. Dip the round nib of your dotter into the polish. Try doing a few dots on the sheet/name card till you get the right size and consistency that you want. Do the same onto the surface of your nail. Be careful not to use too much pressure, that may cause the dots to look deformed. Remember to clean them after use and dry thoroughly. These tools are made of metal and susceptible to rusting.
MAKE YOUR OWN: It’s also easy to create your own nail dotter using stuff you have lying around your home. Bobby pins are a cheap and convenient alternative. Just bend them out straight, and use the round tips at the end like normal dotters. Because all you need is a round end, you can use anything that resembles a dotter, like the back of an eyeliner pencil cap, for example.
3) Nail stripers
These, to me, are an absolute essential. They are nail polishes that come with a long, thin brush rather than the usual flat and broad ones. I use them for painting lines and adding random flicks of colour. They are so easy to use and very versatile. I recommend getting two colours, white and black, when you first start. Brands like LA Colors have a wide range of colours and come pretty cheap, so have fun with it!
If you don’t want to have to buy a new polish every time you want to try another colour, you could alternatively get a nail striper brush. However, not all brushes are good for nail polish. I’ve tried nail polish on a few and they completely ruined the hairs on the brush. Use water-based nail paint if you must. This makes it much easier to clean the brushes. If you’ve used nail polish, use acetone, some soap water and a paper towel to clean your brush.
4) Stationery tape
Ever wondered how DIY nail artists create super neat and straight lines and stripes? Using tape you can create many different geometric and striped designs like this one:
Stationery tape is one of the best tools EVER for nail art. Any sort of normal scotch tape is fine, but you can experiment and see which give you the best results. They’re great for creating neat lines and geometric shapes. Just cut the tape into the desired strip/shape, paste it onto your nail and paint over. Easy as that!
Always make sure that your base nail polish is thoroughly dry though. Use a quick-drying top coat like Seche Vite if you don’t want to wait.
Cut the tape before you start painting your nails so you avoid smudging when you try to cut it with wet nails.
Paste the tape somewhere where it’ll be easily removable so that you don’t get them stuck when you want to paste them on your nails.
Use tweezers to remove the tape to prevent accidentally messing up your nails.
If you mess up, you don’t have to start from scratch again. Use a nail art brush and touch up where necessary. This usually does the trick.
5) Nail art brushes
If you’re really serious about doing nail art, you might want to consider investing in a good set of nail art brushes. The main types of brushes for nail art are fan-shaped brushes (brush E in picture above), flat brushes, flat angled brushes, thin brushes (for detail) and long stripers. These brushes can be purchased conveniently (and rather affordably) in a set. The Bundle Monster New Pro 20pc Nail Art Design Brushes from Amazon is a pretty good bargain and comes with a dotter.
A short video on how to use the different types of brushes:
MAKE YOUR OWN: You don’t need to use nail art brushes for nail art, you could even use your usual paintbrush. Just trim it to the shape you desire and use it like a nail art brush! It’s convenient and not to mention cheaper to start with a paintbrush.