On this page I’ll add tools I use for my nail designs. Some are in the ‘like, duhhh’ obvious category, some are a little more unusual if you’re just getting started. Want to share a tool? Let me know, I’ll try it out for this blog!
Always, ALWAYS start off painting your nails by adding a layer of base coat. If you don’t, then you’ve just waived your rights of complaining when you remove the polish later to find ugly discoloured nails. I was in a hurry a few weeks back and just quickly splashed on a colour, but now I still have to look at not-so-funky pink nails underneath every time I remove the polish until it grows out. I’ll usually go for Sally Hansen’s ‘Double Duty’, as it also does fairly well as top coat and nail strengthener so easy for on the go, but in my opinion a base coat can be kept fairly simple. It’s there to protect the nail, and better ones will also help strengthen the nail.
Not as necessary as the base coat, but for most nail designs it’s the finishing touch that’ll make your look as matte or shiny as you want and lengthens the time you can enjoy your colour. Good quality top coats will help prevent chipping. I’ll splurge a little on this as I’ve tried multiple top coats that didn’t quite do it for me. I also use top coat to secure any loose glitter or other decoration rather than sticking them on with nail glue. It’s just as strong and so much easier to remove! Currently my fave’s Nails Inc ‘Kensington Caviar Top Coat’, it really does achieve the wet/shiny look and dries real quick. Don’t worry about the slightly pink look of it, it goes on clear. As for matte, I’m still looking for a good option. I’ll post it when I find it!
Nail art brushes
For some designs, the brush provided just isn’t going to work, especially when you want to make fancy shapes or dots. It’s good to have a couple of nail art brushes handy. If you Google it (here, I did it for you) you’ll see what I mean. In The Netherlands where I live, nail art is getting more popular but it’s still hard to find sets in stores. I got a double-sided brush by Bourjois Paris here which is a great starter tool to have. I’ve a few others but will be ordering more online as I do more designs.
Nail art polishes
More and more you’ll see little kits with nail art polishes in stores, basically a polish with a very thin brush. Unnecessary if you have a collection of above mentioned nail art brushes, but good if you can’t get hold of them for any reason.
Nail art pens
In some stores you’ll find so-called nail art pens, they kind of look like markers that allow you to draw on shapes on your nails. I find using these easier than thin nail art brushes sometimes, especially when I’m trying to make leopard spots (tried it twice, it worked hooray!). Not the most essential part of a nail art collection but certainly a good kind of dummy proof alternative to brushes.
Nail polish removers
I’m saying removers here, as I suggest you have a few different types handy. For ‘normal’ polish removing, a gentle remover without acetone’s best for your hands and nails. You can get regular bottles and wipe off with cotton, but I also love nail polish remover pots in which you can dip your finger in until the polish dissolves. A lazy woman’s fave 😉 In addition, to clean up around your nails, clean your other nail tools and for easier removal of glitter polish, get some remover with acetone. It’s just that much stronger to make it easier for yourself. For travel, get some ready pads filled with remover. As a traveller I know how scary it is to pack opened bottles of remover. You’ll not have a good day when you open your suitcase to find the bottle spilled remover over your clothes…
I swear by having nail sticks handy now when doing nail designs. Most often used to push back cuticles, they’re also super handy to scrape off excess nail polish as you’re painting your nails, as well as being a tool to help put nail art glitters in place nicely. The wooden versions are cheapest and easy to find/order, and actually I can re-use them multiple times by just wiping off any polish using some acetone nail polish remover.
The thinner the better – the kind you’d usually use to remove splinters work best. Tweezers used for plucking your eyebrows will usually end up plucking your polish instead. Used to pick up, place and position glitter flakes, rhinestones etc on your nails. By far easier than attempting to using your fingers and (wet) nails.
Different kinds of glitter, flakes, fimo nail art figures etc.
In other words – decorations! There are so many types out there that I’m not even going start explaining every single one of them. Google for ‘nail art store’ and you’ll find a good list of stores around the web. Amazon, eBay and similar will also carry quite a collection. When it comes to decoration, I do prefer online stores and street markets over make up stores, as the latter will usually package up the same things nicely in much smaller quantities, for much higher prices. For just a couple of €, $, £ you can order so much more! I got a few wheels of assorted rhinestones, some fimo flowers and flakes in different shapes handy in my nail art collection, to allow me to mix and match. Want to re-use deco? At least for rhinestones, because I secure them with top coat rather than nail (art) glue, I can soak them in polish remover afterwards and they’re ready to go again.
Sticky tape and scissors
Huh? Yes, to make stripes and cut out other shapes! Any sticky tape will do. One tip I read online was to first stick the tape on your skin before you attempt to stick it on your nail. And yes, that’s great advice. To use, simply cut out your shape or stick it on your nail whole for stripes, pop on your chosen colour of polish and while the it’s still wet, carefully remove the tape again. Repeat as often as required for your design. It’s super cheap, easy and fun! Important note: only stick on tape once the coat before is COMPLETELY DRY. Not sure? Go take a break, watch a movie, and start your nail art layer after an hour or so.
Often used to make gradient nail art/ombre nails. I’m still practicing this, but I got simple household sponges, eyeshadow (sponge) applicators and simple make up sponges in my collection. Many blogs have tutorials for them, I haven’t found the one yet that works for me, but once I do I’ll be sure to acknowledge them in one of my blog entries!
You might sometimes come across some one who’s been ‘stamping’ their nails. They use a stamping kit like here to make cool shapes on their nails without having to try drawing it on themselves. You basically need a stamper, a scraper, one or more plates and ‘stamping polish’ (or just thick nail polish that can potentially cover with 1 coat). I’m reading a lot of ladies using Konad, Pueen plates and kits, however there are more brands. As I’m still starting out on this, I got a little kit from my local Claire’s store to practice. I’m not at the stage yet to show off my stamping skills, as soon as I am I’ll surely do a couple of blogs on them!
Studs and ‘nail pearls’
As a more edgy alternative to all things glittery, I also like to place studs on my nails. You can find studs from any craft store/market/internet, smaller kinds definitely work better. What also works well as studs are nail pearls. You might have seen them before, they’re advertised to sprinkle over your nail to get a funky 3D effect (which lasts 24-48 hours max), however I prefer to pick a few out and place them in whatever formation I want before securing them with top coat. Check out my blog on it (link coming soon). Rock on!