Basic nail art tools for DIY beginners

So you want to try your hand at nail art, but where do you start? The first thing you need to do is get your hands on some basic nail art tools. This is a list of my 5 essential nail art tools.

1) nail polish

The essentials are: a base coat (to prevent nail discoloration and allow nail polish to glide on smoothly), nail polish, and a top coat (to ensure your manicure lasts more than a day). I like to use a quick dry top coat because it saves a lot of time and is very convenient to use, but it is also good to have a regular top coat or clear polish on hand for certain more complex nail designs.

After trying many different brands, I discovered that it is very important to invest in good quality nail polish. These are more expensive but are worth it because they last longer, dry faster and don’t get clumpy. I’ve had such bad experiences with cheap nail polish that I now only stick with brands I’ve used before (and like) and reputable brands. Orly, OPI, China Glaze, Sally Hansen and Essie are some of the good ones. It’s also a good idea to try polish from a brand you haven’t tried before you buy it.

2) nail points

Nail punches help create patterns of dots and circles. I use them all the time to create simple polka dot designs. They come in a variety of sizes. To begin with, it will be good to get your hands on one that has a medium-sized round tip on one end and a small one on the other so you can choose the size of the dots you want to create.

HOW TO USE: Find a plastic sheet and drop a few drops of nail polish on it. I like to use ID cards that are hard and feel a bit sticky because they are small and disposable. Dip the round tip of your dotter into the polish. Try to dot a few dots on the ID sheet/card until you get the right size and consistency you want. Do the same on the surface of your nail. Be careful not to apply too much pressure as it can make the stitches look warped. Remember to clean them after use and dry them well. These tools are made of metal and are susceptible to rust.

DO YOURS: It’s also easy to create your own nail punch using things you have around the house. Bobby pins are an economical and convenient alternative. Just fold them straight across and use the round tips at the end as normal stitches. Since all you need is a round end, you can use anything that resembles a dot, like the back of an eyeliner pencil cap, for example.

3) Nail remover

These, to me, are absolutely essential. They are nail polishes that come with a long and thin brush instead of the usual flat and wide ones. I use them to paint lines and add random splashes of color. They are very easy to use and very versatile. I recommend getting two colors, black and white, when you first start. Brands like LA Colors have a wide range of colors and are pretty cheap, so have fun with them!

If you don’t want to have to buy a new polish every time you want to try another color, you can also get a nail brush. However, not all brushes are good for nail polish. I tried nail polish on a few and they totally ruined the brush hairs. Use water-based nail polish if necessary. This makes it much easier to clean the brushes. If you have used nail polish, use acetone, some soapy water, and a paper towel to clean your brush.

4) Stationery tape

Ever wonder how DIY nail artists create super clean and straight lines and stripes? Using tape you can create many different geometric and striped designs.

Stationery tape is one of the best nail art tools. Any type of regular duct tape is fine, but you can experiment and see which one gives you the best results. They are great for creating neat lines and geometric shapes. Simply cut the tape into the desired strip/shape, stick it on the nail and paint over it. That easy!


  • However, always make sure your base nail polish is completely dry. Use a fast drying top coat like Seche Vite if you don’t want to wait.
  • Cut the tape before you start painting your nails to prevent staining when you try to cut it with wet nails.
  • Stick the tape somewhere where it can be easily removed so it won’t get stuck when you want to stick it on your nails.
  • Use tweezers to remove the tape to avoid accidentally messing up your nails.
  • If you make a mistake, you don’t have to start from scratch again. Use a nail brush and touch up where necessary. This usually does the trick.

5) Nail brushes

If you’re really serious about nail art, you might want to consider investing in a good set of nail brushes. The main types of nail art brushes are fan brushes, flat brushes, angled flat brushes, fine brushes (for details) and long brushes. These brushes can be conveniently (and quite affordably) purchased in a set. Amazon’s Monster New Pro 20pc Nail Art Design Brushes Pack is a pretty good bargain and comes with a dotter.

DO YOURS: You don’t need to use nail art brushes for nail art, you could even use your regular brush. Just cut it to the shape you want and use it as a nail brush! It is convenient and cheaper to start with a brush.

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