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

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

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

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

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

Step 5: Once the Polish Is Dry...

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

Step 6: Soak Your Transfer...

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

Soak a Q-tip in Alcohol. 

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

Step 8: Imaging

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

Step 9: Next...

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...

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...

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.



    • IoT Challenge

      IoT Challenge
    • Woodworking Contest

      Woodworking Contest
    • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

      Colors of the Rainbow Contest

    27 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    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??

    3 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    5 years ago

    Thx so much I really appreciate it

    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.


    5 years ago

    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

    1 reply

    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!


    7 years ago on Step 11

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

    4 replies

    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.