Beginners Guide To Applying Acrylic Nails

Love having acrylic nails and want to try your hand at doing them yourself? While it might look simple when you’re watching a trained nail technician, it will take time and patience to learn how to apply acrylic nails yourself at home. However, it can be achieved with some practice! To help you get started, here at Naio Nails, we’ve created a step-by-step guide and video tutorial with all the products and information you’ll need.

Before you get started, check out our video tutorial on the basics of acrylic application, which you can also refer back to when applying acrylic nails yourself:


How to Apply Acrylic Nails

The products you’ll need:

Step 1. Prepping the Nail

Before you start, first, you will need to master prepping the nail!

1.  Gently push the cuticle back with your cuticle pusher, ensuring no cuticle remains on the nail bed, as the acrylic will not stick to it.

2. Use a buffing block to remove all shine to the nail by softly swiping left and right over the entire nail bed.

3. Remove dust either with your manicure brush or wipe over with some acetone on a lint-free pad.


Applying a Nail Tip (Optional)

At this stage, you can apply your nail tips if you’re using them, if not, skip to the next section.

1. Pick out the correct sized nail tips that fit your nails snugly and lay them out ready.

2. Apply a small amount of nail glue to the tip where it will meet your natural nail bed.

3. Press and hold the nail tip (with nail glue on) firmly to the nail for about 10 seconds or until you can feel the tip has stuck. If it is lifting up at the sides you can use your pinching tool or an angled pair of tweezers to gently hold the wings down.

4. Using nail tip cutters or nail scissors (trickier to use), cut/snip the nail tip to your desired length.

5. File down the nail tip to the shape you would like (e.g almond, square, coffin, etc) don’t file upwards from the underneath of the tip though or you may cause it to pop off, you can support the top of the nail while filing to prevent this from happening as well.

If the tip hasn’t blended with your natural nail and you can feel a ridge, gently buff over the join with a soft file and get a lint-free pad and apply a small amount of pure acetone to it. Wipe the pad side to side over the join between the nail tip and your natural nail to make the tip blend in with your nail.

6. Ensure no dust remains from the filing of the tip and apply nail prep/dehydrator to the entire nail bed, this should quickly air dry leaving the nail a slightly white/matte finish.

7. Apply acid-free nail primer to the entire nail bed.

Step 2: Applying the Acrylic

1. Pour your acrylic liquid into your dappen dish.

2. Dip the acrylic brush into the dappen dish and push the brush tip to the bottom of the dappen dish to get the air bubbles out.

3. Swipe the brush on the edge of the dappen dish once to get the excess liquid off.

4. Dip the brush tip into the acrylic powder and stroke the brush through the powder towards you until you create a ball of acrylic (it should look like a tiny golf ball- if the ball is too wet or dry, start again).

5. Press the brush (with acrylic powder ball on) to a lint-free pad to drain the excess liquid off.

6. Apply the ball of acrylic to the top of the nail (near the cuticle) and bring the bead down to the very tip. Tilt the nail down as you are doing this as it will prevent the acrylic flooding the cuticles.

7. Sculpt the acrylic by pressing the brush flat to your nail and gently moving the acrylic to smooth out bumps and to spread it out evenly (remember to keep your brush clean by dipping it into the acrylic liquid while doing this).

8. If you need more acrylic to cover the entire nail, repeat steps 2-7 until you’re happy with the coverage of the nail.

Using a Pinching Tool (Optional)

After you have practised doing acrylic for a while or are confident doing basic acrylics, you can use a pinching tool on the nail to make the nail longer, more slender, and to make a stronger C curve, which will make the nail stronger. If you’re not using a pinching tool, move onto the next steps.

  • When the acrylic is still drying (but it doesn’t feel tacky) place the Pinching Tool on the nail like a clamp (move the tool further down the nail if it’s pinching too hard and it will pinch a little less). If you want it to pinch really narrow then use the bottom end of the pinching tool.
  • Leave on for about 3 minutes.
  • Tap the nail to see if it makes a ‘ting’ sound (if not, leave it on a bit longer) and then remove the pinching tool by squeezing the sides apart.

9.  Wait a little over 2 minutes for the acrylic to dry (it should ‘ting’ when you tap it- when it’s not dry it will sound hollow).

10. File the entire nail until it is smooth on the top and around the edges and to make the shape more defined. (The higher the grit count on the nail file, the smoother the file. i.e 240/240 is smoother than an 80/80 nail file).

11. Now you need to add a top coat to seal in the acrylic. The two steps below show 2 ways of doing this:

If you DON’T have a lamp to dry your acrylics:

– Apply Air Dry Top Coat to your entire nail and leave to dry for about 2 minutes.

If you DO have a lamp:

– Apply Urban Graffiti Top Coat / Mega Gloss or Matte Top Coat (depending on which finish you want).

– Put your hand under the lamp and turn on.

– Leave to cure (dry) for 2 minutes under a UV lamp (or 1 minute for a LED lamp).

– When the time is up, remove your hand.

12. Finish off the look by adding a stroke of cuticle oil to the cuticle area of each nail and rub in with your fingers.

And you’re done! You can now enjoy your new acrylic nails and be proud that you did it all yourself. Remember, it may take a few tries to get them perfect, but, with some practice, you’ll soon be applying acrylic nails at home like a pro!

Now you know how to apply acrylic nails yourself, it’s also a good idea to learn how to remove them yourself after 2-4 weeks. You can find all the steps you need for this in our How to Remove Safely Acrylic Nails blog post.

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