DIY Professional Looking Manicures and Fingernail Art




Introduction: DIY Professional Looking Manicures and Fingernail Art

Having great looking nails helps provide a positive feeling about yourself. Nails send a non-verbal message about who you are; your emotional well-being; and that you care about yourself. Demonstrating your ideas of Art, Culture, Beauty or just creative fun flash.

Fingernails are your billboard to the world announcing to everyone, I Am Me!

Everyone notices great nails. They don't need to cost a king's ransom either, nor is this a difficult skill to master. Professionals charge about $30 to $40cdn for a basic manicure including stock nail polish; add another $15cdn plus for custom nail art or special nail color. For about the same amount of money as a basic professional manicure service you could purchase the tools and supplies to do manicures yourself. A young beginner could likely buy enough basics to begin learning and practicing for about $10 to $15cdn, all while enjoying nice nails.

Manicures and Nail Art improves with practice. Your friends will supply all the willing fingers you require to practice on. So little materials and supplies are actually used each manicure you could do them for $2 each and earn enough to more than replace used supplies. Imagine having professional looking nails for about $2 a week.

Although I've written this instructable with language aimed more toward girls; guys take note and read between the lines. Guys, do I need to mention how this is just the most perfect way to meet lots of beautiful ladies; instant friends and instant Kino too Plus they will pay you for your pleasure. And yes, even men do enjoy manicures, and they are fabulous too, ladies do notice.

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Step 1: Prepair Your Supplies

All great nails begin with being clean strong healthy nails. People with healthy hygiene, a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet are rewarded with healthy nails. Not just for the health of the nail but also that polish will not chip, flake and will last longer. When nails look fantastic you are more apt to take care of your hands and also your body.

Here is a list of what we use. They are a personal choices here, shop around and you'll find alternative products and brands that work well for you too.


Whenever you buy any tool get the best you can afford and take care of it and it will not let you down. When buying, remember to check that it is the right type of tool specifically for natural nails; as there are also tools best used for acrylic nails. For the same reason check any base coat must also be for natural nails.

Cuticle Pusher and Cleaner - A stainless steel cuticle pusher tool; edges are buffed smooth to prevent scratching the nail; textured body provides secure grip.

Fine Paint Brushes - Small sizes like 000, 00 and 0 are very useful for the fine art lines and a size 0 and 2 are great for those touchups with nail remover solution. Avoid the cheapest ones as the hairs will work out, stick to the wet products and mess up an otherwise good job.

Flexible Diamond Dust File - These are more optimal and last a lifetime. There are less expensive glass crystal files that also work well but require more care in handling. Emery stick or board will also work but wears out rapidly and does not do as neat a job. If money is an issue then maybe start with these and upgrade later to a diamond file. A regular common nail files use fine grooves cut into metal to file nails. Only use the nail file for repairs and rough filing, and then switch to the diamond file for the detailed filing.

Cuticle Nippers - Much like fine detail side-cutter pliers these are used to nip the cuticle material. These are available in a variety of quality and pricing.

Nail Buffing Block - seful for buffing cuticles and the skin around the nails.

Bio Pump from Bio Sculpture Gel - This 180ml fingertip pump is ideal for dispensing Polish Remover and Sanitizer. Strong, clear plastic; these pumps are vacuumed and will not leak.


Cotton Balls - Buy these in value packs. There are different opinions about this. Cotton balls, synthetic all-purpose cosmetic puffs or pads, or paper towels? Again, it's mostly a matter of preference. Cotton balls may leave fibers behind. Puffs can disintegrate. Paper towels can shred. No one choice will be right for everyone. Experiment with a few different applicators and see which you like best. Overall, however, you will probably be more successful with a pad-shaped applicator, rather than traditional cotton balls, which can be hard to keep hold of and get soaked through more easily. You may therefore need to use more of them, which can drive up both the price and the aggravation factor.

Bio Sculpture Acetone-Free Polish Remover - There is also a difference of opinions here. Acetone-free removers are believed to be less drying on the nail itself, and contain fruit derivative solvents (methyl pentane, ethyl acetate, and others) in lieu of acetone, which can be toxic if exposure to the fumes is prolonged. On the other hand, acetone-free removers are not as effective as acetone-based formulas; this could lead you to use more remover, and therefore, you may unwittingly increase your exposure to the fumes. Acetone is also hard on natural nails. The bottom line: It's really a matter of preference. If you use mostly clear or pale polishes, and are concerned about the use of solvents, then select an acetone-free formulation. If you favor darker or brighter polish colors, go for one that has acetone to decrease your exposure time. Best yet, use the solvent recommended by the color manufacturer to avoid compatibility issues.

Nail Products

There are almost more brands and products available then different people who use them. To avoid any incompatibility issues try to buy brands that offer a range of products from cleaners, base coat, color, etc. Quality products will generally be easier to use, last longer and generally feel better.

This 'ible' uses the OPI brand label; we are not saying it is superior or inferior to others brands available, but rather that we are pleased and satisfied with the results of using these. Check their website and you'll find a lot of information about nail care, issues, and a cool way to test nail colors.

Avoplex Enzyme Skin Therapy Cleanser - This is a skin moisturizer that works well on cuticles and skin around the nails. It replenishes essential moisture with the essence of rich, hydrating avocado at its core.

Avoplex Nail Cuticle Replenishing Oil - Hydrates and restores moisture and lipids with antioxidant vitamin E plus skin-loving avocado, sunflower, sesame and kukui nut oils.

Original Nail Envy Nail Strengthener by OPI - The base coat is one common type of nail polish. It helps prepare the fingernails to accept a colored polish. It also keeps darker nail polish from discoloring the natural nail. It is usually clear and may be worn alone to protect the nails. OPI base coat is available in Original and Maintenance formulas. Assuming you will be starting to do your nails weekly, use the Original formula for four weeks then it is only necessary to use it every 4th week. Use the Maintenance formula through the other three weeks.

OPI Nail Lacquer - These quality polishes come in so many styles and colors you shouldn't be shy about experimenting. They even have metallic, bold and bright.

INM Out The Door Top Coat For Nails - Out the Door's long wearing, high gloss finish will not yellow. It is used over dry nail polish to harden and protect the color. (As well it will protect any nail art.) It helps keep the color from fading and chipping. A top coat may also be worn alone to provide a neat natural, manicured look while protecting the nails.

Step 2: Now on to the Nails


Whether or not you currently have nail colors, use a nail polish remover and cotton balls to remove all visible and invisible traces of oils and dirt. All skin has natural oils that help protect the surface cells of the body. Microscopic dead skin cells coated with natural body oils, hand lotions collect in the crevasse around and behind the nail and in the cavities of the hands.


Put about a teaspoon of Avoplex Enzyme Skin Therapy Cleanser in a small bowl and add water, as warm as is still comfortable. Soak entire nail and finger tips of one hand for about 3-5 minutes to soften the nail, skin and cuticle.


With a cuticle-pushing tool work all cuticle material to outer edges of the nail. Trim cuticles with cuticle nippers. Once trimmed, use a nail-buffing block to clear off any remaining material paying particular attention to the cuticle area. Put a small amount of Avoplex Nail and Cuticle Replenishing Oil on each nail base; rub it in and leave for a few minutes. Clean the oily nails again with Nail Polish Remover.

Step 3: Nail Shaping

Healthy nails grow strong and hard. Frequent nail care also encourages healthy nail growth. Every six months you have new fingernails, from cuticle to tip. The rate of growth of healthy nails is about an eighth inch a month. "Just like the eyes are the window to the soul, so are the nails," says Tamara Lior, MD, a dermatologist with Cleveland Clinic Florida.

If your nails break often they are likely too long for your lifestyle. Chipping and flaking nails can be a sign of poor health or lack of vitamins. Google fingernail health for articles on conditions that may indicate through nails. There are also products available that can help most nail issues, check the OPI website; tab Beauty Consult; sub-tab Nail Rx.

Shape Nail

Shape each nail first to the length you desire. Here is a good place to check OPI's web page and use the 'Try-On This Color' tab. It allows you to experiment with nail lengths for preference and see what you are most comfortable with.

Nails look best either by mimicking the natural rounded shape of the fingertip or when longer with a flat center with rounded corners. The diamond dust file is perfect for this job. Remember with frequent nail care, little nail material is filed. File your nails in one direction and round the tip slightly, rather than filing to a point. After filing clean each nail with the nail polish remover again to remove the nail dust.

Step 4: Base Coat Hardener

You should use a base coat hardener each time you do your nails. It will protect the nail from breaking and also provides a smooth coat for the nail color to adhear to.

If you are just starting out use a good base coat hardener each time you do your nails for the first four weeks. After that use maintenance base coat hardener for 3 of every 4 weeks and use the regular base coat hardener that every 4th week.

Remember to shake the product well to mix. Rolling end over end as well as around is one way to eliminate creating bubbles if your product does this. Apply with even strokes from cuticle to tip using the five-stoke method.

Five-Stroke Method - Once up the center, once up each outer edge and finally once on each side of center.

Step 5: Paint the Nails

After letting the base coat dry a few minutes, apply the desired nail color, mixed well, with the five-stroke method. You may choose to use a nude or natural color as flaws will not show.

An important tip - use your less dominant hand to brush your dominant hand first. Your dominant hand will be steadier longer for a neat job for the second hand. Apply a 2nd or even 3rd coat as required to get a smooth consistent coat. Do each finger sequentially and then each nail will be dry by the time you apply the next coat.

Once finished applying the color coats, use a small paintbrush dipped in the nail polish remover to stroke remove any "ooops" color on the skin. This makes for a very neat and professional effect. If you are not intending nail art this time, skip ahead to Step 7.

Step 6: Nail Art

Here is where the real fun comes in. Once you see just how easy it is you too can become creative. Regular well-done nails are noticed, admired and possibly even commented on. Nail art is enchanting and complimented on.

Ready made decals and stickers are available in most drug, department and dollar stores. They come in so many designs so you don't have to be artistic. Just peel-n-stick each finger or just the thumbs to be different. Wait for the nail polish to dry about 3 hours before applying.

If you have an artistic lean you can freehand complex tribal designs but for the rest of us even simple straight lines work strikingly well. Here are some ideas to get you started.
  • Idea 1: Paint 1/2 of each nail in a dramatic contrast like red/yellow, violet/gray, black/white etc.
  • Idea 2: Art color 1/2 nails on a diagonal.
  • Idea 3: Art paint a bold diagonal line, similar colors.
  • Idea 4: Art line a V on each nail.
  • Idea 5: Stick a star on each nail, art line comet tails.
  • Idea 6: Stick a flower on each nail, art line a stem and leaves. (See pictures in this Instructable)

You get the idea, just keep it simple and work on your skill of making these simple mark, eventually try hearts for Valentines Day, candles for Birthdays, clovers for St. Patty Day, suns, moons, smileys etc.

These are small easy strokes to do with the smallest brushes. Practice a few times with any paint on paper and see how easy it is to learn to make a simple line. I'll bet within twenty tries or less you will be able to do Ideas 1-6 repeatedly. Remember these are simplistic lines and need not be perfect. You may even need to apply these art strokes in two coats.

Fellow Instructables member jtobako adds:
Just a few comments on the nail art part, 'cause that's the only part I do : )

Get a good quality brush, about 10/0 and treat it nicely. Acrylic paint works well, because the top coat will smear acetone sensitive paints. If you are painting multiple colors in a design, do all of the fingers with one color, then the next, then the next. The acrylic will dry faster than the nail polish : )

Simple pics work well, don't worry about the paint going on a little thick. With a darker background, you may need to do the shape it white before a light color.

They last about 2 weeks, and do get a lot of comments : )

Step 7: Top Coat

Apply a final top coat hardener, to protect the nail color and nail art if applied. Again use the five-stroke method, wipe off the top side of the brush on the bottle and only stroke with the product left on the underside of the brush. Allow this coat to totally dry while taking care not to mar the finish. Totally dry may take 1/2 to 1 full hour to occur.

You can alternatively just use the Base Coat or the Top Coat by themselves to help protect nails as you allow them to grow.

Now Go Let People Notice Them Fabulous Nails of Yours!

Girls remember, it's not the nails that make the girl,
but rather the girls that make the nails that counts.

Reply with pictures of your own creations, so we can all share.

by Egon Pavlis - arcticpenguin

Step 8: Other Nail Art Examples

As we try different ideas I'll keep posting the latest pictures here.

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    11 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    This is awesome! Thank you for posting this...I've always loved have nail art on my fingers. I wish my nails would grow longer, but oh well..they still look nice all dressed up :)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Amazing looking nails! Thank you for sharing this article it's really helpful! thank you

    Very thorough and interesting! The chart above made me consider my nails: I have weird ripples that make my nails look uneven, and I was never sure why. While I don't have psoriasis or arthritis at least now I know it's not just me that has it.


    i have actually been looking for a natural easy nail polish to make with items around the house. I really want to make some green nail polish. If you have any ideas, could you reply to my comment?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Don't know how to make polish natural or easy, I'd be wondering about it's affect on health, natural doesn't always mean healthy or thoroughly tested. Maybe if you find something that will work flr yellow and blue, combined should give green.


    10 years ago on Step 5

    can you explain a little further what is the five strokes method, I apply my nail polish with 3


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    If your brush is wide enough or nails are narrow enough 3 strokes may work well. I call the strokes in order center; left edge; right edge; left of center; right of center. The last two strokes help blend the center and edge stoke. Using 5 strokes lets you concentrate on the outer edge knowing the 4th and 5th stroke will blend evenly. Time should be kept short as possible so each full stroke does not dry much between strokes. I've just posted the thumbs of latest ones. Teal blue with offset orange/red flower and 3 red burst stripes.

    Lithium Rain
    Lithium Rain

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Beautifully done! I've done my nails like this before, and it's great - the only problem is the feel of that extra weight on my fingers drives me batty. :D


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Just a few comments on the nail art part, 'cause that's the only part I do : ) Get a good quality brush, about 10/0 and treat it nicely. Acrylic paint works well, because the top coat will smear acetone sensitive paints. If you are painting multiple colors in a design, do all of the fingers with one color, then the next, then the next. The acrylic will dry faster than the nail polish : ) Simple pics work well, don't worry about the paint going on a little thick. With a darker background, you may need to do the shape it white before a light color. They last about 2 weeks, and do get a lot of comments : )


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice info. Great tips. I've updated the Step in the "ible" and credited you. You are now famous.