DIY Acrylic Nails – Here’s What You Need

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Acrylic nails look fabulous and posh. That’s why many of us love them. However, in order to make your acrylic nails always look amazing, you need to have them filled regularly –usually every two weeks. Given the cost, hassles, and timing necessary to visit your local nail therapist, many are thinking twice about getting this done.

You don’t have to sacrifice your love of acrylic nails just because they are expensive and may take time to get done. With practice and persistence, you can enjoy the benefits of DIY acrylic nails at home!

Let’s get started by first identifying what you’ll need for the different steps in having acrylic nails, and then we’ll detail the process of getting the perfect look.

Steps And Materials For Applying DIY Acrylic Nails

In this article, we’ll break down the process of prepping and applying DIY Acrylic Nails. Keep in mind that applying nail tips is an optional step, but can really amp up the overall look when done properly.

Fingernails Donut

Step 1: Preparing The Nail

The first thing that you need to do before you apply acrylic nails is to prepare the nail. This essential step should not be skipped to make sure your acrylic nails stick to your natural nails. This helps avoid them from lifting so that your fabulous manicure lasts and remains healthy.

If water gets between your acrylic and natural nails, you can get a breeding ground for bacteria.

With this step, you’ll be dealing with your cuticles, either cut or push them, shape or cut your nails and buff the nail bed. Make sure all of the tools you use are clean and sanitize to avoid infection of the nails.

For this step you will need the following:

1. Cuticle remover or softener

California Mango Cuticle Softener 1 Fl Oz/ 30 Ml, 1.0 Oz
  • Breaks down hardened, thick skin patches
  • Made with Aloe leaf juice, Acai and extracts of Mango.
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  • Extracts of Mango, Acai, Aloe and Vitamin E

These solutions, like the California Mango Cuticle Softener shown above are applied to the cuticles to help soften the dead and dry cuticles so they can easily be removed.

2. Cuticle pusher or stick, and cuticle trimmer

Cuticle Trimmer with Cuticle Pusher - Ejiubas Cuticle Remover Cuticle Nipper Professional Stainless Steel Cuticle Cutter Clipper Durable Pedicure Manicure Tools for Fingernails and Toenails Black
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Cuticle pushers like this set by Ejiubas are made of stainless steel but there are also disposable wooden ones like these from Beauticom. Either can be used to push or trim the cuticles.

Some people prefer to cut their cuticles while others just want to push them. Either way, this exposes the nail underneath so that the acrylic can stick to it.

The goal here is to attach the acrylic to the nails rather than the skin to avoid lifting.

3. Nail clippers and file

Nail files and nail clippers will be used to shape your nails. Use nail clippers first then fine-tune the shape using the nail file. Of course, an electric nail file will make this job quicker and more fun.

4. Buffing block

Thes are used on the nail surface and it removes the shine on the nails. This also ensures that the acrylic adheres properly to the natural nail.

5. Brush or a lint-free cloth

This is used to remove the dust produced when filing or buffing the nail.

Step 2: Apply Tips (Optional)

If your nails are short and you want longer ones, you can choose to use nail tips. If not, you can proceed to the next step. Nail tips are very beginner-friendly but you have to find the right size for your fingernails for them to look natural.  For this step, you’ll need the following materials:

1. Nail tips

AORAEM 500pcs Lady White French Acrylic Style Artificial False Nails Half Tips & Box
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Nail tips like the Lady French False Nails shown here are sold as a set and each set contains different sizes. They also come in different shapes. If you don’t like the shape or length, they can also be or filed depending on your preference.

2. Nail glue

This is the adhesive used to attach the nail tip to your natural nails. Only use a small amount of this glue so that it doesn’t get to your skin. Stick with nail glue, and avoid household glues like Elmers and Krazy glue. These can lead to gaps in between your tip and real nail, which can cause infection. Bad smell is a common sign of this.

3. Nail tip cutters

These are specially designed to cut nail tips. It snips the nail tips in just one motion to the desired length.

4. Nail file

Like in the previous step, the nail file will help you shape the nail tip. Nail files can be manual electric nail drills.

5. Buffing block

Like your natural nails, the nail buff should also be used on the nail tips to remove the shine and make it a better surface for the acrylic nails you are going to use.

6. Brush or a lint-free cloth

Used to remove dust.

Step 3: Acrylic Nail Application

US Seller ~ 6 in 1 Nail Art Kit Acrylic Liquid Powder Pen Dappen dish set #46 (A) by WindMax
  • Package Contents: 1 x Acrylic powder (Clear), 1 x Acrylic powder (White), 1...

Acrylic nail kits will vary from one brand to another. Some will include only the basic materials you’ll need, like the WindMax 6 in 1 Nail Art Kit Set,  while others have added materials that you can use to further decorate your nails according to your preference.

The COSCELIA Acrylic Nail Art Kit is a great example of a more extensive kit.

Regardless, the acrylic nails from various providers are all essentially applied in a similar manner.

The materials needed for that are as follows:

1. Nail Dehydrator

This usually comes in the kit, but not always. If your kit doesn’t have one, it is likely you don’t need one for your particular setup.

Some nail dehydrators may also be labeled as “nail prep”.

This dries quickly, so make sure to always keep it covered. Also, you should only apply this to the natural nail. If you are using tips or just filling your nails, don’t use it on the tips and acrylic.

2. Nail Primer

Nail primers, on the other hand, are mostly used on nail tips and not on natural nails or acrylic nails. Some can be in acid form while others are non-acid.

The acid primers are the harsher and than non-acid primers. However, you should still use them infrequently on natural nails.

3. Dappen dish

4 Pcs Acrylic Dappen Dish Nail Dapping Dish Nail Powder and Liquid Holder Glass Bowl Crystal Cup Nail Supplies
  • 4 X Glass Dappen Dishes, Size:1.25" x 1.2"
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  • Easy to use and clean, work for both professional nail salon and home use
  • Great for mixing all acrylic liquid and powder for applying acrylic nails
  • Also great for putting alcohol in for gel polish clean up to remove gel...

This is a glass container that holds the liquid acrylic. There are many options available, such at the 4-piece set shown above by BYTMS. If you want to heat up the dappen dish to speed the curing process, you can soak it in hot water.

4. Acrylic liquid monomer

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The acrylic nails are created when two components namely, the acrylic powder and the liquid monomer, are mixed. They form the acrylic bead that goes over the nail.

5. Acrylic powder

This is the second ingredient in making the acrylic bead. It can come in a variety of colors. Some even have glitters and other decorative pieces in them. See some ideas for powder kits here.

6. Acrylic brush

This is the primary tool in applying the acrylic nail over your natural nail or over the nail tips. It is dipped into the liquid acrylic to get it wet and absorb some of the liquid acrylics. The excess can be removed by swiping the brush on the edge of the dappen dish. Then, it is dipped in the acrylic powder.

The bead consistency is very important and an excess of the liquid can damage the cuticle area when it pools there. It takes practice to get the right consistency.

If you develop a reaction to acrylics, it is probably because there is too much liquid in your mixture. A proper bead consistency has a ratio of liquid to powder at about 1 ½:1 up to 2:1. Also, remember to be extra careful when applying the acrylic bead near the cuticle area.

7. Nail forms

Ahier Nail Forms, 200PCS Acrylic Nail Forms, Gold Horseshoe Nail Extension Tips, Nail Forms for Acrylic Nails, Acrylic Nail/UV Gel Nail Extension Forms Guide Stickers
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These are stickers that you fit on the nail to give you a guide. They help you extend your acrylic nail and form the proper shape. They act as an extension of your nail to support the acrylic nail during formation.

Using this is an alternative way of lengthening your nails without using nail tips.

8. Pinching tool

Kalolary 8Pcs Curve C Nail Curvature Pinching Clips Multi Function Acrylic Nails Pinchers Tool Set for Fiberglass Nail Extension(Multicolor)
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While the acrylic nail is drying, you can use pinching tools like the Kalolary C Nail Curvature Pinching Clips to improve the curvature of the nail. The pinching tool helps for the C curve of the acrylic nails to improve the strength and appearance. The pinching tool is left in place for about 3 minutes.

When it’s dry, the pinching tool can be removed. Using a pinching tool is an optional procedure.

9. Nail File

The nail file will be used again in this step. It will help smooth the acrylic nail. The file can also be used to round the edges and improve the shape of the nail. This also helps easily attach other decorations to the nail such as rhinestones, if preferred.

10. Top Coat

Once the design is made, the last thing that goes over the acrylic nail is the topcoat. It seals the acrylic nail and makes it more durable and long-lasting. Some topcoats dry on their own after a couple of minutes like the Mia Secret Top Coat shown above.As an alternative, there are also others need to be cured under a nail lamp like the Beetles Gel Top Coat.

11. Cuticle Oil

This is another optional product that you can apply to your cuticles after the procedure. It helps moisturize the cuticles and make it look healthy.

12. Hand Cream

Using any and cream after the procedure is another bonus. Acrylic nails can improve the appearance of your nails but a hand cream is what you used to make the rest of your hand more beautiful. Moisturizing hand creams will also help prevent signs of aging from appearing on your hands.


Many of the items you need for DIY acrylic nails are found in your manicure kit. Acrylic nail preparation is not dissimilar to nail polish prep, and is pretty similar to Fiberglass nails. But there are some specific items, as detailed above.

Remember, you don’t need to buy each one separately. They are often sold in kits. You just have to figure out which kit will best suit your preference. If it is your first time to purchase a kit and is unsure if you would love the acrylic nails, getting a complete kit with the essentials, like the Coscelia kit, is your best bet.

Good luck on your beautiful nails!

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