Nail art is a big, gigantic universe of possibilities on a very tiny surface area that happens to exist at the tips of your fingers (both literally and figuratively). Unfortunately, it can be INCREDIBLY intimidating when you’re just starting out, which is why I’ve put together this handy little buyers guide to the beginner’s nail art kit!
First is Striping Tape
Striping tape is great for making a perfect French tip, geometric nail art, stripes (I mean, it’s in the name), and a slew of other fantastic nail art styles.
The nice thing about striping tape is that you can use it, leave it, and paint your topcoat over it OR you can use it to make a design with negative space (basically, you place striping tape over your dry, finished base in the design you want, paint over it with another color, then remove the tape to leave only the design). It’s incredibly versatile, which is why I love it so much!
Now in a pinch, Scotch tape works fine as well, but it’s harder to cut it down in narrow strips if you want a particularly skinny line. Additionally, the adhesives are stronger, so if you plan to pull it back off after painting over it, you’ll have to be much more careful not to pull your base off with it (OR you’ll just have to wait a little longer to work with it – think 24 hours after painting your base).
Next up: Dotting Tools
Another essential, dotting tools are great for making flowers, polka dots (obvs), clouds, drips, eyes, hearts, I could keep going but AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FO’ DAT.
Okay, maybe I do.
Anyway, dotting tools are also way cheap, and not too hard to use with a little practice. The key is controlled movements and not applying too much pressure. That and you want to make sure your base layer has dried sufficiently so you don’t smear or lift it (but again, you’re not applying too much pressure, so this shouldn’t be a problem. Right? Right.).
In a pinch, tapped out ballpoint pens, small knitting needles, sewing pins, and toothpicks will work just fine for you, but the benefit of dotting tools is that their ends are spherical, so no matter what angle you hold the tool, you have an equal chance of getting a perfectly round circle. Unless you somehow manage to get the stick itself in there, and at that point, I don’t know what to tell you.
Our most fickle friends, Fine Tip Nail Art Brushes
Nail art brushes are great for free form lines, shapes, swirls, delicate designs like antique roses & chrysanthemums, etc and so forth.
I’ll be totally honest – art brushes are probably the one tool I struggle most with, because it takes an incredibly steady hand to maintain enough control to achieve consistent lines with polish. I see a lot of people who use acrylic paint instead, which I will say is MUCH much easier (AND if you mess it up, you don’t have to start completely over from scratch – it’s water soluble, so you can wash it off and try again). BUT the key here is, again, to practice practice practice (and I’d say to start by practicing on paper).
Last, but certainly not least,The Clean-up Brush
No matter where you are as a nail artiste, the clean-up brush is going to be your BFF because it’s going to make you look SO LEGIT! You’re going to use this to – yep, you guessed it – clean up the polish you will inevitably get all around your nails because no one’s perfect. I like using nail polish thinner for this, and you just have to give it a swipe around the border of your nails (and you can even smooth out the edges on the nail bed).
There are lots of options for tip shapes, like the rounded one as pictured above, a chiseled/angled brush, or the squared end. Your preference is your preference, but my sole recommendation is that its base is flat and thin.
And that’s the kit! What nail art tools did you start with?