Are you tired of spending insane amounts of money at nail salons just to get your acrylics done every month?
If you love having long beautiful nails and are a creative soul, you may have wondered how to do acrylic nails on your own. Though there is definitely a learning curve, learning how to do acrylic nails is not as hard as you think.
You will need to get a few nail cosmetics and tools. If you’re good at following the instructions in this article, you’ll avoid common problems with nail extensions, like irregular thickness, and have a professional-level finish.
In this article, I will teach you how to give yourself acrylic nails at home. I am a professional make-up artist with years of experience doing my own acrylics at home, so believe me, it’s possible. Let’s get to it!
Can I teach myself to do acrylic nails?
Yes! You can teach yourself to do acrylic nails. In fact, many nail artists started out as hobbyists and are self-taught.
Doing acrylic nails isn’t a complex skill that requires you to take classes. With the right guidelines, you can gain expertise and comfortably experiment with different styles and designs while catching the latest episode of your favorite tv show.
Let’s start your journey to being an expert in acrylic nails by looking at the supplies you need, how to prep your nails, the steps you’ll take, and how to maintain your acrylic nails to ensure they’re always in perfect shape.
What do you need to do acrylic nails?
You’ll need a couple of tools and cosmetic products when doing acrylic nails. I recommend you purchase an all-inclusive nail kit to have everything you need. Consider getting nail kits with EMA (ethyl methacrylate) tips which are generally safer than MMA (methyl methacrylate) tips.
Alternatively, you could source the equipment and products you need separately.
Here is a acrylic nail supply checklist of what you’ll need to ensure you have everything:
- Acetone-based nail polish remover
- Acrylic powder and liquid
- Acrylic nail brush
- Nail tip and glue
- Lint-free wipes
- Two dappen dishes
- Acid-free nail primer
- Nail tip cutters, file, and a buffing block
- A nail primer
- Cuticle pusher
Once you have these tools and products, you can start installing your acrylic nails.
Step 1: Gather the supplies
It may sound obvious, but it’s worth mentioning that the first step to doing your acrylic nails is gathering all the cosmetics and tools you need for the task.
If you purchase an acrylic nail kit like the all-inclusive kit from Morovan, please be sure to crosscheck with my list above before you start.
Also, have all your supplies readily accessible when you begin.
Not having all the listed supplies you need may have disastrous consequences. You may get stuck or forced to skip a step, resulting in an undesirable finish to your acrylic nails. So why risk it?
Step 2: Preparing your nails
After gathering all the necessary supplies, the next step is to prepare your nails for your acrylic extensions.
Remove old nail polish
The point of installing acrylic nails is to give them length, a new shape, a fresh look, and color. You must thoroughly remove any old nail polish that’s left on your nail. Soak your nails in the nail polish remover and use the lint-free wipes to remove the polish.
If you have dip powder nails, read this post on how to remove dip nails without damaging your natural nails. You can use the same basic instruction for removing a gel manicure.
Trim and buff your nails
Maintaining your nails at a manageable length and slightly rough texture ensures your acrylic nails stick. So, if you have long nails, trim and buff them using the nail file and buffing block.
Push your cuticles back (instead of cutting them)
Soak your cuticle pusher in water and use it to push your cuticles down. Doing so gives the acrylics space to stick on your nails rather than your skin and improves the look as they grow out.
Avoid trimming your nail cuticles because you risk getting a skin infection and subsequent damage.
If you have any trouble prepping your nails, here’s a video on how to do it:
Step 3: Apply nail tips using glue
Now that your nails are ready, it is time to put on the acrylics.
First, you apply the nail tips by following the appropriate steps. You could also use nail forms, but I would advise against them if you are a beginner. They are difficult to sculpt.
Choose the right size tips
Find a tip that perfectly fits each nail and file down those that aren’t the right size. Small-sized tips always provide a better finish than large ones.
Use a small amount of glue
Don’t be too generous with the amount of nail glue you use, a little will do. Apply a small amount to the part of the nail tip intended to settle on your natural nail bed.
Pick a nail glue that is free from formaldehyde as this is a toxic ingredient found in many types of nail glue. We like this one from Beetles but it does require a UV light to cure.
Make sure no air is trapped between your natural nails and the tips
Place the glued nail tip on your nail bed and press firmly against it until it is firmly attached. This step mitigates air spaces between your nails and the tips.
Shape your nail tips
Use a cutter to trim the nail tips to your desired length and shape them as you please. Your nail file will come in handy while shaping your tips, and you can choose from many different shapes like coffin, almond, and square shapes.
For beginners, shorter styles are usually easier to start with, I would avoid stilettos nails or longer coffin nails at this point.
Here is a video that will take you through the process of applying your nail tips:
Nail tips vs nail forms
Nail tips sit nicely on the end of your nail. You attach them three-quarters of the way down your nail toward your cuticle.
By contrast, nail forms go under your nail. A nail form acts as a support for the nail extension and gets removed after the extension sets.
Step 4: Apply dehydrating nail primer
Now that your tips are intact and shaped to your liking, it’s time to prep them for the acrylic application by applying nail primer. The primer removes any oils on your nail plate so the acrylic bonds properly with your nail.
It ensures the acrylic mixture sticks on your nails and doesn’t easily crack or fall off once applied.
Step 5: Apply the acrylics
After successfully preparing your nails and tips you’re ready to apply the acrylic.
Nonetheless, you have to prep your cosmetics first. Pour your acrylic powder and liquid into separate dappen dishes in a well-ventilated room to diffuse the cosmetics’ fumes and set out your acrylic brush.
Dip your brush in the acrylic liquid and allow it to fan out before brushing it through the powder, collecting a small ball at the edge of your acrylic brush. It is important to get the right liquid-to-powder ratio that forms a consistent bead that is easy to spread without dripping off the brush.
Drain your brush facing upwards on a paper towel before applying it to eliminate excesses and prevent the acrylic solution from getting to your cuticles. Your nail tips should be facing downward as well. Let gravity be your friend. Be sure to have an even spread of the acrylic solution.
Repeat these steps on all the nails.
The following video gives an illustration of the 3-zone technique that will tremendously help you in applying the acrylics:
Pro tip: After getting a bead, drain your brush for 2 or 3 seconds (bead side up) on a paper towel to prevent it from running toward your cuticles. Also, keep your nails angled tips down and let gravity do its work.
Step 6: Let your nails dry
Don’t get too excited after applying the acrylics; your nails still need to dry, lest you risk ruining your nails. The fastest option to dry your freshly done nails is by using a UV or LED lamp, but if you don’t own one, don’t worry. You’re still covered you just need patience.
Drying your acrylics without a UV/LED lamp
If you don’t have a UV/LED lamp, you can air dry your nails. This drying method should take around ten minutes, but it could be faster or slower, depending on your room temperature. The acrylics will dry faster in higher temperatures. Alternatively, apply an air-dry top coat, and your nails will be ready in about two minutes.
Drying your acrylics with a UV/LED lamp
The process is much easier if you own a UV/LED light. All you have to do is turn it on and place your hands under it. The nails will dry in under two minutes.
Pro tip: You can tell your acrylic nails are ready by tapping them gently. If they produce a clicking sound, you’re good to go!
Step 7: Finish up your nails
The final step entails applying a few finishing touches on your nails.
Touch up the edges
Touch up the edges of your fresh acrylic nails using a file to enhance their shape.
Use a cuticle oil
Once you finish with the nails, don’t forget your cuticles. Apply cuticle oil to ensure they remain moisturized and do not sustain any damage from the acrylic application process.
My favorite cuticle oil is the OPI ProSpa Cuticle Oil.
Paint your nails
Finish by picking your favorite nail polish color and painting your newly installed acrylics. You can experiment with different nail art designs and land on one you love. The possibilities are endless.
One of my favorite looks is French nail tips, for inspiration check out my article on 58 French Tip Nails.
Acrylic nails care
Just as you have installed your acrylic nails, you must ensure they maintain their elegant look for as long as possible. I don’t know about you, but walking around with worn-out acrylic nails would be a shame.
Your nails may experience some wear and tear around 2-3 weeks after doing them. In such a scenario, it is up to you to either remove or fill them.
Either way, your acrylic nails will last longer if you moisturize and care for them. Avoid using your acrylics as tools to open things like soda cans, etc.
Key takeaways on doing acrylic nails at home
If you love having acrylic nails on, you don’t have to visit a nail parlor and beauty shop all the time. You can do them on your own in the comfort of your home.
You can even remove them yourself, check out my article on How To Take Off Acrylic Nails.
Make sure you have all the cosmetic supplies before you start and follow the guidelines for perfect professional-level acrylic nails with an original personal design.
Kim is an expert, with over 7 years in the nail art and makeup industry. She is an avid DIY nail artist and now contributing writer at BeautyStack.