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Share to PinterestDIY Acrylic Nails: A Comprehensive Guide
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DIY Acrylic Nails: A Comprehensive Guide

By Jo Marshall
Share to PinterestDIY Acrylic Nails: A Comprehensive Guide

If you're the type that loves to have fun nails with a bit more oomph than a simple coat of paint, you've probably tried out acrylic nails in the past. If your budgeting brain cringes a bit at the regular cost of a salon visit, why not give DIY acrylic nails a try? Light some floral-scented candles, brew yourself some relaxing tea, and give yourself a manicure and a new set of tips at a fraction of the cost — all from the comfort of your home.


Buy your acrylics kit

Share to PinterestAcrylic nails
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First, you need supplies. If it's your first time doing acrylics, the easiest way is to purchase a DIY acrylic nails kit. A professional kit should contain detailed instructions so you won't be left in the dark. When shopping for a nail kit, remember to look for tips made with ethyl methacrylate (EMA). It is a much safer alternative for you and the environment than toxic methyl methacrylate (MMA), which is bad for your nails.

Once you're a bit more experienced, you can buy the individual items you need based on your exact preferences. Stock on these for your own professional DIY acrylic kit:

  • Clippers
  • Semi-coarse nail file and buffer
  • Acrylic brush
  • Mixing bowl
  • Acrylic nail tips and glue
  • Acrylic nail primer
  • Nail dehydrator
  • Acrylic liquid
  • Acrylic powder


Prep the nails

Share to PinterestFiling acrylics
zilli / Getty Images

Start by removing any old nail polish and make sure you properly soak off remaining gels or acrylics. Next, using a cuticle pusher, if you have one, gently push your cuticles back (but don't cut them). Be careful not to overdo it, or they might bleed; putting acrylics on damaged nails or cuticles is a bad idea. Then, trim your nails short and buff them up, sweeping left and right with your buffer on each nail to remove excess shine.


Choose the tip size and apply the acrylics

Share to PinterestNail tips
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Your DIY kit will come with a range of acrylic tip sizes so take time to select the right one for each nail. If you can't find the perfect fit, use a nail file and shape it up so it fits nicely. Once you've got 10 tips, apply a dot of nail glue and put them on one by one. Don't rush through this process and make sure the tips are even and straight. The bottom of the acrylic tip should rest nearly one-third of the way down your nail. Apply pressure to each nail for 10 seconds to secure it.


Shape it up

Share to PinterestShaping nails up with a file
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Using a nail clipper and a file, smooth the acrylics into your desired shape and length — round, square, or coffin. With practice, you will be able to achieve varying shapes and lengths and choose one that's most suitable for your hands. If you see a noticeable line where the tip meets your real nail, use a buffer to smooth it out.


Apply the primer

Share to PinterestApplying nail primer
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Once your tips are on and shaped up, pour the acrylic liquid into the mixing bowl and organize your materials and powders so you can reach them easily. The acrylic liquid has a strong smell, so make sure you're in a ventilated area — set up a fan or open a window. Next, apply dehydrating nail primer to remove any remaining moisture from your nails so that the acrylic mixture sticks to the nail. Wait for the primer to dry, then rub your nails with a lint-free pad to prime them for the next step.


Coat the nails with the acrylic mixture

Share to PinterestApplying acrylics mixture
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Dip your brush into the acrylic liquid, tap on the side of the bowl to remove excess, and then dip the brush into the acrylic powder. You might have to practice a little bit before you reach the perfect liquid-to-powder ratio. The mixture should be easily spreadable but not too wet. Start applying it just above your cuticles and working your way up towards the end. Wipe the brush off on a paper towel between each application.


Leave it to dry

Share to PinterestAcrylics nails drying
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Acrylics are quite temperature-sensitive, so they will dry faster in a warmer room. When you first start doing your own DIY acrylic nails, choose a cooler environment so that you have more time to apply the mixture before it hardens. The drying process should take about 10 minutes. The easiest way to check if it's dry is to gently tap your nails — if they make a clicking sound, you're all set.


Create the final shape

Share to PinterestFiling DIY acrylic nails
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Since your nails are all ready and shaped up, you only need a little touch-up. Using a semi-coarse nail file, go along the edges and tips for the perfect Instagram-worthy shape. You can also quickly go over the nails again with the buffer to create an even and smooth surface.


Paint the nails

Share to PinterestPainting nails
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You can achieve your desired color by applying an acrylic powder color of your choice after step 6, or you can paint your nails with a regular clear or colored nail polish as the final step. Make sure you cover the entire surface of the nail for that professional and sleek finish, and let it dry completely before going about your day with your fab new fingertips.


Maintain the nails

Share to PinterestAcrylic nails
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Apply some cuticle oil after you're finished to keep your skin healthy and moisturized. After two weeks or a bit longer, your nails will have noticeably grown out and require a touch-up. You can either reapply the acrylic to fill the new space, or remove it completely. If you notice your nails looking unhealthy or changing color, check for signs of infection and do not reapply the acrylic. Make sure you disinfect all your tools every time you use them to avoid starting or spreading infection.



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