Introduction: Paint “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” on Your Nails

About: Autistic and love crafting of all sorts, Origami is by far my favorite. I also love baking and anything with dinosaurs 🦖

Easier than it looks! Learn how to hand paint “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” on your nails!


Nail polish remover and small glass or lid
Thin detailed brush: I used the Ultra fine sable winning nail brush from Sally’s Beauty
Small detail brush: I used the Detailing and dotting duo brush from Sally’s Beauty
And Tin foil to mix and use colors

Base & Top Coat:
Essie First Base
Senche Vite fast dry top coat (great to seal in the art)

OPI “Bubble Bath” or any nice dude/neutral color
OPI “Blue my mind”
Sinful Colors “ Show and Teal”
China Glaze “ White on White”
Salon Perfect “In a Prosecco” (from Walmart, the perfect light blue/grey)

Step 1: Get a Good Base

Start with a base coat some require it to dry before adding color do double check your directions.

I used OPI Bubble Bath this is a sheer color that requires 3-5 layers for a good opacity. For mine I did 3 coats because I am adding color on top. Let dry a bit before adding the waves.

Step 2: Shape the Wave

Grab your OPI Blue my Mind and we are Gould to shape the wave over 4 nails.

But first! To make this look the best everyone has different nail lengths so practice closing your fingers to a soft fist to see where you should line up the waves. This will be different for everyone

Drop a few drops of blue onto your tinfoil and pick up your small detailed brush and work one nail at a time from the bottom up.

Remember you’re not shaping the whole wave just where the blue is. Next step we shape and outline more!

Step 3: Shaping and Details

Grab your white nail polish!

Now remember the nail polish remover and a lid or small glass. Clean the brushes between use. :)

Here is where we start to define the wave. With white on the tin foil and the ultra fine detail brush we are going to outline the wave as shown in the first picture and the under layers of defining wave lines as well.

Once you’re happy with the shape we are going to clean the brush and dip into the white again. I’m talking very little paint on the tip and we are going to slowly paint tiny lines off each bottom section of the white we just painted. Drag the brush into the white not out. You can control the length of details we are adding.

Try to spread out the details enough so the waves don’t look furry/fuzzy. Remember we are adding the light blue/grey for depth in the next step.

And don’t forget you can refer back to the original painting as well!

Step 4: Final Touches

OPI “Blue my mind”
China Glaze “ White on White”
Sinful colors “Show and Teal”
Salon Perfect “In a Prosecco”

Clean up your ultra fine brush and it’s going to get messy!

On the tin foil mix one drop of Show and Teal and one drop of In a Prosecco. This medium blue will be the lines along the wave. Carefully paint thin stripes on the dark blue following the curve of the wave. Feel free to touch up up the white if needed.

Now with the clean ultra fine brush brag In a Prosecco and we will add details to the tips of the wave and a few along the white of the wave.

I said this can get messy, if you mess up it’s pretty easy to dip back into another color and fix it. The first time it took a few retrys and touch ups. But it’s so satisfying when it’s finished!

Line the top of the wave with a thin detailed line with Blue my Mind. This will give a crisp look and separate the white from the nude/neutral base color you started with.

Top off with Senche Vite after waiting for the colors to dry a bit so it won’t smudge when you apply the top coat.