Here I will show you the best way I have found to make your own acrylic nails at home. They can be hard at first, but you soon get the hang of it.
The menu below is a quicker way to skip to where you want to go – just use the back button on your browser to return to this menu:
Step 1 – Cleaning you nails
Step 2 – Preparation
Step 3 – Nail dehydration
Step 4 – Applying the false nail tips
Step 5 – Applying the primer
Step 6 – Some quick acrylic preparation
Step 7 – How to apply the acrylic
Step 8 – Part one of applying the acrylic
Step 9 – Part two of applying the acrylic
Step 10 – Part three of applying the acrylic
Step 11 – Pinching the acrylic
Step 12 – Filing your acrylic nails
Step 13 – Top coating your acrylic nails
What are acrylic nails?
- Acrylic nails are known for being a sturdier, longer lasting alternative to gel nails. The acrylic is applied over your natural nail, and can also be used to extend your natural nail. You mix a liquid (called a monomer) with a powder (called a polymer) and then apply the mixture to your nail where it will harden.
- I hope you all have better luck at doing this than I did when I first started out. For some reason I could not grasp how to do it, it went wrong a lot more than it went right ¬_¬! I have written the process I now follow below.
To create acrylic nails you are going to need:
1. Nail polish remover & cotton pad – to remove any old nail polish
2. Primer (unless your acrylic liquid already has a primer in it) – helps the acrylic bond to your natural nail
3. Polymer (the acrylic powder) – clear & pink – you will also need a white powder if you didn’t apply white tips beforehand
5. Container for your acrylic liquid (glass containers are recommended – I use a plastic one specifically sold for acrylic liquid – you can find these cheap on eBay)
6. Medium size brush – to apply the acrylic mix
7. Cuticle Stick – to push cuticles back – the acrylic could lift if applied over your cuticles
8. Nail file – to dehydrate your natural nails & to smooth out the hardened acrylic
9. Dusting brush – to brush away the leftover dust from filing – using your hand may add moisture back on to your nail
10. Paper towel (kitchen roll or a towel you don’t use anymore) – used to wipe your brush on throughout the process
11. Nail polish top coat/UV gel top coat – if you’re using the UV gel top coat you will also need a UV lamp, cleanser plus (to remove the sticky residue) and a cotton or lint free wipe (for the cleanser plus)
I mostly buy all of this equipment off eBay because you can get them at low prices, and most of the equipment can be used again and again. The expensive makes do produce better results, but I prefer to pay low prices because they do the job ^_~
If applying tips you will also need:
2. Nail glue
Optional but still recommended:
1. Nail dehydrator – helps to dehydrate your natural nail before applying the acrylic
2. Nail pincher – to pinch the sides of your nails to make them look thinner/more slender
3. Cuticle cream – applied at the end to hydrate/soften the cuticle area
4. Cotton bud – (for those using the UV gel top coat) – to remove any UV gel off the skin before curing it under the lamp
Step 1: Cleaning your nails
Using your nail polish remover and cotton pad, remove any old nail polish you may have on from previous pampering. I find that rotating in small circles works best 🙂
Step 2: Preparation
- With the flat end of your cuticle stick, gently push your cuticles back. The other (sharp) end can be used to gently scrape away any leftover cuticle. This stops the acrylic from lifting near your cuticle.
- The tip (or free edge) of your nail should now be filed or cut down to your desired length. Most people do them short when applying artificial tips.
- Using your nail file, gently file your nail plate. This will dehydrate your nail so that the acrylic/false nail tip will adhere to your natural nail better. It should look a white-ish colour once it’s ready.
- Use your dusting brush to get rid of any excess dust so that it doesn’t get trapped under your UV gel.
Tip – These can be done in any order, but I would recommend filing your nail plates last so that you don’t accidentally add moisture back on to them whilst doing the other steps.
Step 3: Nail dehydration
Using your nail dehydrator, smooth a thin layer of liquid over your natural nail plate. It should only take a few seconds to dry. Important note – those who are also applying artificial nail tips need to apply them first before the dehydrator, otherwise it makes it very difficult for the tip to stay glued on to your natural nail. Once the tips are secured on your nail (step 4), it is safe to apply the nail dehydrator, but only apply it on top of your natural nail, not the tip.
- I wrote this under the ‘optional’ equipment because I personally have never needed to do this – filing my nail plate to dehydrate it has always worked well for me, and you can do this before applying the tips. Let me know your personal preferences below in the comment box as I am interested to know whether this is just me :]
Step 4: Applying false nail tips
Those applying tips – Visit lesson 5 of Nails101 if you need any help 🙂 – if you have been following the preparation from this article, then you will be able to start from step 4 over on the nail tip article 🙂
Step 5: Applying the primer
You can ignore this step if your acrylic liquid already has a primer in it.
Now that your natural nail plates (and false nail tips) have been dehydrated/filed, it’s time to apply the UV gel primer. Smooth a thin layer over your natural nail (don’t apply it to the artificial tip) and wait for it to dry completely. The primer will help the rest of the manicure adhere to your natural nail.
Those applying a UV gel primer:
- Hold your nails under your UV lamp for 2 minutes. I suggest 2 minutes because my 36watt lamp has a 120 second timer on it and the UV gel is always cured after this time.
- I can’t say for sure with a 9watt lamp because I have never used one, but I would suggest tripling the 2 minutes just to be sure. You can always keep taking your nails out to test them. Please feel free to comment below if anybody has any advice when using the 9watt lamps 🙂
To finish, place a few drops of cleanser plus on to a cotton/lint free wipe and smooth over your nails until the sticky residue has gone.
Step 6: Some quick acrylic preparation
- Pour your acrylic liquid (monomer) into your chosen container. This makes it easier to dip your brush in and out of. You should never dip your brush in to the actual bottle because it can contaminate the rest of the liquid ¬_¬
- Open your tubs of acrylic powder (polymer) and have them set out ready in front of you. You should have a clear one and a pink one. Those doing white tips should also have a white one as well.
- You will also need your medium sized brush and paper towel – or whatever you have chosen to wipe your brush on.
Step 7: How to apply the acrylic
I have written below the process which will be used to apply the acrylic on to your nails for the next few steps:
- Dip your brush in the liquid, wiping the back of the brush on the side of the container on your way out. Following straight on from this, dip the brush in the relevant powder 3 times. Do this in a sort of scraping motion so that the powder will gather on the side the liquid is on. You do it like this to get the mixture just the right consistency – not too liquid-y or too powdery.
- After each bead has been created, dab the back of your brush (the side free from acrylic) on to your paper towel to remove more moisture.
This can sometimes take quite a while to get right (it did for me anyway :(). If the bead does come out wrong, simply wipe your brush on your paper towel and try again (I used several paper towels -_-)
Tip 1 – When spreading the bead out on to your nail it can dry fast. If you still need to do more spreading then dip your brush back in the liquid and add it to the part you want to spread more.
Tip 2 – If at any point you run out of acrylic i.e. you haven’t got enough to spread around, then you can simply create another bead.
Tip 3 – The best way to apply the acrylic is to apply it to three different “zones,” The picture below will show you the location of these zones.
Step 8: Part one of applying the acrylic (zone 1)
This step is the same for those who are applying white to their tips, and those who already have white tips.
Those with white tips – use your clear powder for this step
Those wanting white tips – use your white powder for this step
- Using the process described in step 7, place the bead on the middle of your tip and let it settle for a few seconds
- Next, spread the bead out in every direction until your entire false nail tip has been covered. Spread the dollop to the sides (using the tip of your brush), then up to the edge of your tip (using the belly of your brush), and finally spread to the edge of your smile line (you don’t necessarily have to do it in this order). Wipe your brush and gently pad down and even out the work you’ve just done.
Step 9: Part two of applying the acrylic (zone 2)
The rest of the tutorial is the same for those who originally had white tips, and those who now have white tips.
- Using the process described in step 7 again (this time using the clear powder), place the bead below your smile line. Let it settle for a few seconds whilst you wipe your brush.
- Using the tip of your brush, push the bead out to each side and then drag a thin layer down over your white tip.
Step 10: Part three of applying the acrylic (zone 3)
You now need your pink powder. Once you have made your bead, place it at the bottom of your nail near your cuticle (zone 3). Again, use the tip of your brush to pad the bead out to either side of your nail. Push the bead as close to your cuticle area as you can without touching any skin or cuticle. Finally, pull a thin layer up over the clear acrylic.
Tip – Angle your finger slightly downwards to prevent the bead running into your cuticle area.
Tip 2 – Don’t worry if the pink acrylic spreads over the white tip as it can be removed with the filing in step 12.
Where possible, concentrate on getting the acrylic thickest around the smile line – this is where your nails will receive the most pressure in day to day life. You could always go back at the end and add more acrylic to this area if need be 🙂
Step 11: Pinching the acrylic (optional)
Before moving on, remember to clean your brush before the acrylic hardens on to it (I’ve ruined a few brushes by leaving them too long ¬_¬). The best way to clean your brushes is by using the acrylic liquid.
- After 60 seconds (approximately) your nails will be ready for pinching. If your nails still feel a bit moist then wait a bit longer, but not too long – you don’t want the acrylic to set fully.
- Place the pincher over your nail, so that there is a metal prong either side of your nail. Leave it on for 2 minutes (approx) or until your acrylic has set properly. After pinching, your nails should look more slender and natural than they did beforehand. Because the acrylic is being pinched in to the middle, it also makes your nails stronger.
Tip – you can tell when the acrylic is setting as you can often feel it heating up.
Step 12: Filing your acrylic nails
Below is the order in which I file my newly made nails, but you can do this in any order you like 🙂
- Firstly, file your free edge to smooth over any sharp edges and to remove any acrylic that may be out of place/hanging over the edge. Secondly, file your side walls, concentrating on the sides of your tips. Again, this will make everything look smoother and get rid of any unwanted acrylic.
- Finally, file the top of your nail – it’s easier to do this in stages; white first, clear second, pink third. The pink section is near your cuticle so be careful not to file to close to them – it hurts :[
Step 13: Top coating your acrylic nails
Before you do your top coat, use your dusting brush to remove any bits leftover from the filing – it can cause lifting if they get stuck under your topcoat.
Nail polish top coat – Simply smooth a nice even layer over your nail without getting too close to your skin/cuticles and wait to dry. This will make your nails nice and shiny. For extra shine, I usually apply a few layers 🙂
UV gel top coat – Most UV gel top coats come with a brush already included. Using this brush (or one of your own) smooth a nice even layer over your nail, being careful not to touch any surrounding skin. You can make this coat as thick as you want, or you can even apply one, cure it, then apply another one etc.
- Once it has been hardened under your UV lamp (2 minutes for 36watt), apply a few drops of cleanser plus to your lint free wipe (or cotton pad) and smooth over all your nails to remove the stickiness. Don’t worry about getting rid of all the residue as the rest will come off from washing your hands etc.
Once complete, some people like to also add a nail varnish top coat, just for extra protection and extra shine 🙂
Now you can enjoy your beautiful manicure >_<
Tip – Applying some cuticle cream at the end of your manicure will prevent dryness and keep your cuticles soft and smooth
Either way, I’d like to see your results, I’m interested to see if anyone can get it really good (or if anyone is willing to show off a particularly bad one! – I wish I’d have taken a picture of mine).
If there was anything in this guide you didn’t understand, or you have any personal tips, please do leave a comment to help others.