Creating Acrylic Nails At Home



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What are acrylic nails?


Step by step instructions

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 (I’ve included links for users from the UK and US for each piece of equipment):

1. Nail polish remover (US) & cotton pad (US)- to remove any old nail polish

2. Primer (US)(unless your acrylic liquid already has a primer in it) – helps the acrylic bond to your natural nail

3. Polymer (the acrylic powder) (US)– clear & pink – you will also need a white powder if you didn’t apply white tips beforehand

4. Monomer (the acrylic liquid) (US)

5. Container for your acrylic liquid (US)(glass containers are recommended – I use a plastic one specifically sold for acrylic liquid).

6. Medium size brush (US)– to apply the acrylic mix

7. Cuticle Stick (US)– to push cuticles back – the acrylic could lift if applied over your cuticles

8. Nail file (US)– to dehydrate your natural nails & to smooth out the hardened acrylic

9. Dusting brush (US)– 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 (US)/UV gel top coat (US) – if you’re using the UV gel top coat you will also need a UV lamp (US), cleanser plus (US)(to remove the sticky residue) and a cotton or lint free wipe (for the cleanser plus) (US)


All the equipment :)

All the equipment 🙂

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:

1. Artificial nail tips (US)

2. Nail glue (US)

3. Acrylic nail cutter (US)

Optional but still recommended:

1. Nail dehydrator (US)– helps to dehydrate your natural nail before applying the acrylic

2. Nail pincher (US) – to pinch the sides of your nails to make them look thinner/more slender

3. Cuticle cream (US)– applied at the end to hydrate/soften the cuticle area

4. Cotton bud (US)– (for those using the UV gel top coat) – to remove any UV gel off the skin before curing it under the lamp


Step by step instructions


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 🙂

Removing old nail polish

Removing old nail polish

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.
Be careful not to push too hard as its a sensitive area

Be careful not to push too hard as its a sensitive area

  • 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.
Filing the free edge

Filing the free edge

  • 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.
    File your nails until they take on a white-ish colour

    File your nails until they take on a white-ish colour


  • Use your dusting brush to get rid of any excess dust so that it doesn’t get trapped under your UV gel.
    Brush dust away so it doesn't get trapped under your top-coat :)

    It only needs a quick gentle brush


TipThese 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.

Apply the dehydrator to the natural nail only

Apply the dehydrator to the natural nail only

  • 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.

Again, only apply the primer to your natural nail :)

Again, only apply the primer 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.

Removing the sticky residue

Removing the sticky residue

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 ¬_¬
Pour some liquid ready in your container

Pour some liquid ready in your container

  • 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.
1. Dab your brush into the monomer ----- 2. Scrape the brush on the side of the container ----- 3. Dip three times in the polymer ----- 4. Your bead shouldn't be too liquid-y or too powdery.

1. Dab your brush into the monomer —– 2. Scrape the brush on the side of the container —– 3. Dip three times in the polymer —– 4. Your bead shouldn’t be too liquid-y or too powdery.

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 3The 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.
1. Apply the bead to the middle of your tip ----- 2. Push the bead out to the edges of your tip ----- 3. Pad the acrylic out using the belly of the brush to neaten it up.

1. Apply the bead to the middle of your tip —– 2. Push the bead out to the edges of your tip —– 3. Pad the acrylic out using the belly of the brush to neaten it up.

Tip – To neaten up your smile line, smooth around it with your brush in a sweeping motion (rather than prodding). If it needs adjusting then adding more liquid to your brush may help.


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.

Personally, I have never used a nail pincher so I can’t really comment on how good they are, if you have used one then how are they? Are they worth the purchase?


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 :[
Filing the white area of the nail plate

Filing the white area of the nail plate

Tip – Keep moving your file around because if you file for too long in one place you might get a burning sensation.


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 coatSimply 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 coatMost 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.

Applying a UV gel top-coat

Applying a UV gel top-coat

  • 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

Applying-cuticle-cream-to-acrylic-nailsMy first attempt at this did not come out beautiful – they were awful! I thought I would never do them again! But I’m glad I did because you soon get the hang of it :]!

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.


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25 thoughts on “Creating Acrylic Nails At Home

  1. I’ll be following these instructions when my kit finally arrives, definitely the best I’ve found so far!

    • Aw good thank you, I’m glad you think so 🙂 ! Let me know if there’s anything you need help with xx

  2. Josephine

    I am thinking about switching from gel to acrylic since I’ve developed an allergy to UV light. If you don’t apply the gel layer and the gel top coat at the end, is that OK? Also, without the top coat, if I paint my nails black, for example, will it stain the acrylic nail?

    • Hi Josephine thanks for your comment! If you don’t want to use the UV gel then that’s okay, you can apply a regular nail polish topcoat over the acrylic instead.

      To answer your second question, yes, black nail polish will more than likely stain the acrylic somewhat. However, if you apply a few layers of a regular, clear nail polish top coat before the black polish, then this should prevent some of the staining. If you were wearing a lighter nail polish on the acrylic, for example, pink, and you wanted to change it because you wanted to wear purple instead then it wouldn’t matter that there was a bit of stain because the second colour (purple) would hide the stains.

      I hope this helps you out. I will send you an email too to let you know I have replied in case you miss this.

  3. Marci

    Everytime I do mine they look funny .. I can’t ever do the, right and I, not sure why

    • Hi thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear that you’re having a bit of trouble. Without knowing any specifics all I can really recommend is that you try a different brand. If this isn’t something you want to pay for then the only other thing is to have this step by step guide up on your computer as you are doing them, and try to follow each step as closely as you can. That way you might be able to tell which step it is that you are having difficulty with and I can try and help you out 🙂

      • maxine

        hi Emily, i found your tutorial very helpful but i got the acrylic powder that you use with glue instead of making the bead. i really am having a problem with getting the surface smooth, then when do i draw on the nail? before i apply the acrylic or after the acrylic? soooo confused.

  4. Chloe

    I have both a UV nail kit and an acrylic nail kit, but i only have the UV primer. Can i still use th UV topcoat with my acrylic nails, but just cure it first?

    • Hi Chloe, yep that would be totally fine to do that 🙂

  5. Chloe

    Meant to say the UV primer not topcoat^^

  6. linda

    that is so cool thank nailsxco I didn’t know none of that stuff but you told me i offering you 1,000,000,000

  7. andi

    which acrylic powder do I use on the false tip if the false nail tip is white?

  8. Danielle Rambadt

    You were saying that you get your nail things off of eBay, I was wondering if you have ever heard of a smartphone app called Geek (for Android phones) or Wish. They have nail kits, curing lamps, nail art and polish, ect. for extremely low prices. That’s where I bought my kit from, it was a 15+ piece set for $15.00, it came with all 3 colors of acrylic powder too, most sets I have found come with only 1.

  9. This is the best step by step have come across with so far :)…thankyou so learning how to do manicure.. Have actually got a client tomorrow but i was still not so sure baut what to do.. So I’ll just read this article till i get it…the only question i have is…uhm for the natural tips the ones i have to blend in to make them look like a real nail…do i have to file them again after applying the acrylic???or maybe i just have to use the nail buffer??

  10. erika

    Hi hope u can answer my question! 🙂 having a bit of trouble with what i should put first is it dehydrator ,primer,then the anti- fungus or in what order do i have to do it ….?? Thanks

  11. michele

    I’ve just started doing acrylic & it came out awful..mine tend to get that catchy doesn’t come out smooth..that was my first attempt.
    The second time around is a bit smoother, just that now my nails are completely flat & the part near my cuticles have a gap so it keeps catching on my clothes..
    How do I get that rite..any help will be great.

    • Michele

      I’m right-handed & I’m really battling to do acrylic on my right-hand, I know it should be easier than actually painting my nails..but I can’t seem to get the acrylic dries too quickly. Is there anything I can do. I also want to know how to get rid of the gap around the edges- do I file it down or is it something that I’ve done wrong when applying the acrylic.Please help I’m really loving acrylic I just wish I could get it right.

  12. Emma

    Amazing tutorial, exactly what I was looking for. Going to do my first attempt later. Thank you!

  13. kam

    Hi there, I’m beauty therapist…I do manicure pedicure shellac…everything…I want to learn acrylic…I want you to help me please.

  14. great article and very informative! i have been trying to teach myself to do acrylics for a few weeks now, and i definitely see my mistakes now

  15. sharron

    Hi, I am training to be a nail tech, I am just not getting the hang of acrylic nails they always turn out terrible, I have practiced 3 different time for a few hours, I am starting to think I am not going to master this, anyone with any pointers would be appreciated and how long did it take others to master doing nails?.

  16. Hello, I want to ask you sth.
    please , with what I can prepare an acrylic powder? ?

  17. Michelle P

    I’m right-handed, how challenging was the application to your dominant hand, using non-dominant hand? I used to do my own acrylics, couple of decades ago…I managed to learn to use brush with my left hand, for application to my right hand. I’m going to need practice to use my left hand.

  18. natalija

    I want you to ask you what if i do not use Nail dehydration? do the nails need that or it is not very important step?

  19. Portia

    If l don’t have a cleanser to remove e stick,wat else can l use

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