Here’s the basic trick of it:
1. Lay down a couple of layers of clear coat on a section of parchment paper. You want it to be thick enough to really hold everything together, and will need a decent buffer between your art and the paper; not enough and your stuff could crackle/stretch/morph later when you add more polish underneath.
2. Paint in whatever design you want! I just used black acrylic paint to swipe in some quick little birdies for this, but you can do… anything. Use polish, use acrylic paint, glue in some stones or feathers or whatever, this is your canvas. NOTE: stay away from papers. I know, I know, it’s super tempting to just slide a picture or a magazine cutout in there to look cool, but I’ve never seen a printed paper surface respond well/look good after being slathered in nail polish (tested this out ages ago and the paper surface would sort of… dissolve into this weird texture like it was disintegrating and the colors completely changed, it just looked like crap).
3. Once that’s dry, you can throw another clear coat over it to seal it — good idea for acrylics, not so necessary if you just worked in nail polish.
4. Put a thin coat of polish on your nail. I use the cheapo Wet n Wild topcoat because I know it’s thin and dries pretty fast. The base on this manicure is two days worth of wear on ULTA Alter Ego (I like this polish much more than I thought I would in the bottle, it’s really pretty and looked great in two coats).
5. While that’s drying, peel (and cut if you want) the polish off of the parchment paper. Because my little design is small and the polish is all clear, I just used a general shape, but if you’ve loaded up a ton of color and want to avoid more cleanup later you can cut the polish down to size.
6. It should have been about a minute since you put the clear coat down on your nail so that now it’s more tacky than wet — that’s the ticket. You want the polish to have oomph enough to grab onto your homemade decal, but not so wet that it won’t ever dry sandwiched in between there with no air. Now you’ll take your decal, drop it on your finger (like you would with the foils) and start rubbing it down and in to seal it to your nail. You may be tempted to tug at and clean the edges right now: DON’T. Wait til everything is completely dry. These nail transfers are all dry anyway so it’s not like it’s making a huge mess, though you may notice some color bleeding in the corners of your nails where the wetter polish is settling in. But if you start trying to clean right away while the sandwich layer is still wet you may end up pulling pieces from the corners or morphing your design; treat your fingers like you would if you had just polished your nails a couple of minutes ago and they still need to set: no knocking, scratching, bumping, hard pressing, etc.
7. Go in with a Q-tip or flat nail brush and some polish remover once it’s dry to strip the excess off of your hands and clean up the edges. Finish it up with a good topcoat (like Seche Vite) to seal it all down (don’t forget to wrap the tips!) and you’re all set!
Cool, right? And maybe this has been done elsewhere before but it’s the first I’ve stumbled on the technique and am super excited to use it for my left hand and friends.
- Makes it easy to create designs in advance
- Gives you the ability to work on something for hours without rendering your hand useless
- Full designs for your dominant hand!
- Probably won’t last as long as a manicure that’s conventionally built up on your nail
- Edges may not be perfect/can be a pain in the butt with full-cover designs
- I realized in testing this that I do a LOT of my brush work by moving my hand instead of the brush, so I’m actually more used to and comfortable with painting directly on the nail
- Because you’re not painting on the nail, placement and positioning becomes a little hit-or-miss depending on how good you are at eyeballing
And oh yeah, this time I actually went the extra step and captured a video of me doing this in case it’s confusing — don’t expect these a lot, but hopefully it’s helpful!