Introduction: Custom Nail Art

Picture of Custom Nail Art

Are you tired of spending $5.00 to $10.00 on so called custom nail art for which you have to "settle" on their interpretation of the design? Have you ever seen "something" and thought, OMG, I would SO love to have that as a manicure? Well, if you can find the image in high resolution (1024 x 768 - unless you know something the hubby doesn't), wish no longer!

Step 1: What You Need

Picture of What You Need

You will need:
Fingernails (your own or purchased)
Polish Remover (Non-acetone for artificial nails, acetone - if preferred - for natural nails)
Isopropyl Alcohol
Cuticle Scissors
Bowl with water
Clear Nail Polish
Base Colour Nail Polish (Preferably White or Silver)
Lazertran Waterslide Transfers (Purchase for YOUR printer, inkjet or lazer/laserjet!)
Paper Towels
Smooth File or Buffing Block

Step 2: Template

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Find an online template like this one or create a template in Photoshop; this is most definitely NOT the template I used (I happen to be in possession of an awesome hubby who is no slouch when it comes to Photoshop!) but it will suffice. Once you have your template set up, find your images.

Step 3: Prep Work

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Now that you have a template and an image, (for this Instructable, and in honour of what would have been my Papa's birthday on 1/15,) I have chosen Papa's family tartan with the family Coat of Arms (on the thumb).

Print your image on waterslide transfer paper and cut out of template. 

Step 4: Paint Your Nails

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Paint your nails with a white or light coloured basecoat that will complement your image.

Step 5: Once the Polish Is Dry...

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And, I mean actually DRY, not dry-ish.

Step 6: Soak Your Transfer...

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Soak your waterslide transfer in water (for 30-60 seconds) and place on a paper towel to dry, then slide off the paper backing.

Step 7: Transference

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Soak a Q-tip in Alcohol. 

Liberally cover your fingernail in alcohol (via the Q-tip).

Step 8: Imaging

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Place the "waterslide" transfer image over your natural (or purchased) nail. (Use the tweezers.)

Step 9: Next...

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Soak the fingernail in Alcohol. 

Make the waterslide transfer conform to the shape of your nail.

File off the free edge and coat with clear polish.

Step 10: Final Stages...

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Do not let the finished, painted nail come in contact with ANYTHING WHATSOEVER, until it's dry.  

If you do, pray that you have a matching "patch polish" on hand.

Step 11: This Is the End, My Friend...

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And, voilà! You have your own image on your nails!

The only limit is your imagination!

Step 12: The Template

This is the template that I use. Photoshop CS3 or newer. Photoshop current up to CS6.


ChrisC7 (author)2015-01-01

I have a friend who does custom nail art on the computer and reasonable prices. Lasts 2 weeks or more and a lot less work.

rikarogg (author)2014-08-24

AMAZING I have been looking for something like this forever now...could you please send the template to

A couple questions....hopefully I don't sound too blond here....If I do not have photoshop, how do I only fill in the nail images on the template? Is there a free editor I could use and do this with? How do you tell it to only fill the 'nail shapes in'? LOL I sound dumb on that one!

Next, about how long do these last??

BrendaI (author)rikarogg2014-11-14

If you're still looking, PicMonkey is an app that I've used (with Google Chrome Browser) for photo editing. It's free, so worth a try!

rikarogg (author)rikarogg2014-08-24

ok I found the template on step 12....but could you let me know about the other questions?

Thanks for the compliment! I'm sorry, I'm just now seeing this.
1. I'm not sure how you could do it without some sort of editing program. I will look into it and try to get an answer for you. (Worst case, maybe you have a friend who has PS and could help you with the templates?)

2. These will last as long as, or slightly longer than, any regular nail polish application. The variables are numerous. If you have natural nails they won't last as long as they would on artificial nails.

erowe3 (author)2013-07-25

Thx so much I really appreciate it

erowe3 (author)2013-07-17

Ok thx soooooooo much!

The template has been e-mailed to you, so sorry for the long wait, I had some computer issues this week. I've also added the template as Step 12 in this feature.

erowe3 (author)2013-07-14

I love that template! Would it be to much if u can send me the template u made via email. I would really appreciate it. If not then can u help me with measurements??? Thank you

Absolutely, I will send you the template! I'll try to do it this evening. :)

Tie-dye Ninja (author)2012-08-22

This is so cool! i will have to make this!!

I'm so happy you like it. Let me know if you have any trouble with the steps or if you have any questions! :)

malibini (author)2012-07-25

this is so COOL!!!! I cant wait to make these. Thanks for the idea!

Of course! Let me know if you have any trouble with the application. My best advice; be patient. :)

AussieAnglerGal (author)2012-03-12

i own the sally hanson skull and crosbones set, i got it for christmas
walked into a store the other day and their $14! i am definitely making these!

AussieAnglerGal (author)2012-02-09

wow, totally cool...hmmmmm (brain cogs whirring) this needs some thought to designs...awesome
5/5 stars!!!!!

Thank you so much! I've actually gotten my hubby quite addicted to seeking out new nail images for me online, in his spare time!

hahaha, cool! this is such a great idea!!! i'll get the stuff and send some pics when i do it!

Fantastic, I can't wait to see what you find! Also, just a side thought, since the waterslide transfer paper will print anything that shows up as white as translucent once the lacquer is applied (because most colour printers don't print in white), one could even print small 'appliques' and apply them over a solid colour base, or even layer them over each other. That way you can have a compilation, all of which would relate back to the overall theme, without having to find that one "perfect" image on your own.

*Just remember that a light coloured base coat under your transfer paper is your best bet.

Ok awesome thanks! would scanned photos work?

Scanned photos would work, just make sure you're scanning at a high resolution. The more detail in the image, the better your final look will be.

wow Great, thanks!

sailormoon22491 (author)2012-02-13

This is awsome! I actually just tried out those nail art things for the first time the other day and loved them! I was lucky enough to find a nice lace set which matches my dress for my friends wedding but when practicing with the set I sat thier saying to myself I wish I could make my own. This is exactly what I was looking for! Awsome idea <3

Thanks! I'm right there with you, I only wish I'd figured this out before my "stockpiling" of all of the retail sets!

Browncoat (author)2012-01-17

Genius use for water slide transfer paper!!

One question: What is the purpose of putting rubbing alcohol on the nail?

Thank you!

The rubbing alcohol helps to fuse the decal to the nail surface. Waterslide transfers act like - for all intents and purposes - paper and will fold over on themselves to bend round the corners. The rubbing alcohol allows them "relax" (for lack of a better word) and conform to the natural contours of the nail.

Thanks. That helps explain why one of mine DID bend up on itself & come off the window after a while. :)

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