Can you use acrylic paint as nail polish?

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Have you ever looked at the vast rainbow of acrylic paint colors at a craft store and thought how amazing would look acrylic paint as nail polish?

Or have you been at home and gotten the itch to paint your nails, and then sadly realized you don’t have the color you want. But…you remember that you do have some acrylic paint in that very shade.

You start to think, why can’t I paint my nails with my acrylic paint? Is it possible? Is it safe?

Can you use acrylic paint as nail polish?

Can you use acrylic paint instead of nail polish?  

You can use acrylic paint in place of nail polish. It is great choice if you want a vibrant color.  It also dries really fast, so it can be very convenient if you’re in a hurry.  Acrylic paints can also be very affordable!  You can get individual bottles at the craft store that cost far less than a bottle of good nail polish, and is bigger, too.

There are some guidelines you should follow:

  • Make sure it is non-toxic acrylic paint so that it is safe to apply on your nails (and your skin in case you are a little messy with your nail painting).  This set of non-toxic acrylics comes in a great selection of vivid, rich colors. This collection is made up of 24 shades in small tubes – perfect for experimenting and getting creative.
  • Always make sure you apply a clear base coat like this one from Essie on your fingernails prior to using the acrylic paint so you do not stain your nails, particularly if you prefer to use dark colors.  

Steps for Painting Your Nails with Acrylic Paints

  1. Choose your color. Or colors! Or make your own custom shade by mixing multiple colors together!
  2. Make sure your nails are clean and free from any oils by wiping then down with nail polish remover or an alcohol pad.
  3. Apply your base coat and allow it to thoroughly dry.
  4. Apply your first coat of non-toxic acrylic paint to your nails. I say first because since the acrylic is water-soluble, it doesn’t have the same leveling properties that regular nail polish has and can look streaky with only one coat. Applying , two coats (or more depending on the look you are going for) will provide more strength.
  5. Allow the acrylic paint to dry. This won’t take long at all, but don’t rush this step.
  6. Optional: at this point, you can add some nail art if you want!
  7. Finally, apply your top coat to seal in the acrylic paint and to add shine!

Can You Mix Acrylic Paint with Nail Polish?  

Mixing nail polish and acrylic paint together is not recommended. Due to the different chemical structures of acrylic paint and nail polish and the water in the paint, mixing the two together will thicken and “curdle” the nail polish. Don’t even bother!

For custom shades, you can combine different colors of nail polish.  You can mix different shades of acrylic paints for a custom color. But remember –  not the two together! 

You can put your custom shade of acrylic on top of a nail polish base (and don’t forget to paint on the clear base coat before on color polish) and then seal it with a clear top coat. Let your creativity take over!

Tip:  Once you create your custom color from your non-toxic acrylic paints, you can store it in a small container to keep for next time you paint your nails. 

How long does acrylic paint last on nails?

Non-toxic acrylic paint is water-based so one its own, it’s not very durable.  A top coat is the answer when trying to prolong the life of any manicure, but it is imperative when using acrylic paints.

Unless you seal your nails with a good top coat like this one from OPI, your manicure will not last long at all, maybe only a day or two.  And if your hands are in water a lot, well you may only have those pretty painted nails for a few hours. Protection is the key to longevity. 

NOTE: Painting your nails with acrylic paints is not the same thing as “acrylic nails” which can last around 6-8 weeks.  Acrylic nails are done at a salon and require touch-ups approximately every 2-3 weeks.

Does acrylic paint ruin your nails? 

Non-toxic acrylic paint is water-based and will not damage your nails. Again, remember to make sure to apply a clear base coat on your nails to avoid unsightly stains.

Otherwise you can safely use acrylic paint on your nails, whether to cover the entire nail or to use for a fun design, either over a base of acrylic paint or regular nail polish.

To remove your acrylic paint nail color, use regular nail polish remover or acetone.  If you haven’t yet applied the top coat, you can even use an alcohol prep pad or possibly even water to remove it.

Can I use clear nail polish to seal acrylic paint?

Can I use clear nail polish to seal acrylic paint?

Applying clear nail polish to seal acrylic paint is the best and easiest method for keeping your nails protected and shiny. If you can find a non-toxic topcoat, that’s even better.

Remember, acrylic paint is water-based so without a top coat your acrylic nail paint will come off super quickly. Never skip the final and essential step of sealing the nails.

In addition to the protection a top coat will bring to your manicure, it will bring a glamorous shine to the acrylic paint as it dries matte on its own.

Another way to seal acrylic paint on nails  

If you’re out of your all-important clear top coat, is there something else you can use to seal your nails after applying acrylic paint? 

Yes, it’s something you probably already have and – surprise – it’s hairspray!  

  1. Apply two coats of acrylic paint to your nails (after the base coat).
  2. Allow it to set (which won’t take long since acrylics dry quickly).
  3. Shake the hairspray can.  Use an aerosol hairspray.
  4. Hold it approx. 8 to 10 inches away from your nails and spray.
  5. Spray with a light mist. You can follow with a second spray if necessary. Less is more in this case.
  6. Allow your nails to dry completely.
NOTE:  The spray distance of 8 to 10 inches is really important because if you spray your nails too closely you will end up with lots of tiny air bubbles on your fingernails. 

Your nails should be completely dry in 5-10 minutes. Use soap and water to wash your hands and remove any excess hairspray from your fingers.

You will need to be more careful with using hairspray as a top coat and it is not as strong as a clear nail polish but is a good holdover until you pick up some more top coat!

What Are Differences Between Acrylic Nail Paints and Nail Polish?

Non-toxic acrylic paint contains no solvents, unlike nail polish which does. These solvents cause regular nail polish to take longer to dry. Nail polish must be removed with acetone or nail polish remover. 

You can thin out acrylic paint with water or even wash off the design if it  doesn’t come out the way you envisioned. 

Acrylic paints dry with a matte finish instead of the typical shiny, glossy finish of a nail polish.  Another good reason to seal your nails with a top coat is to get that attractive, shiny look on your fingernails.

How else can you use acrylic paint on nails?

These most common use for acrylic paints when it comes to fingernails is beautiful and creative nail art.  Acrylic paint is much easier to work with when it comes to details, such as fine lines, tiny dots and any design you draw by handed.

In addition, acrylics are really easy to clean from your brushes so it won’t ruin them. Trying to clean a brush with nail polish remover will result in stiff, clumpy bristles and you’ll need to purchase a new brush. With acrylic paint, you can use a brush over and over. 

nail art with acrylic paint

An easy way to try your hand at nail art is with acrylic paint pens.  Try and find pens with an extra fine tip.  Since you’re working with a small canvas (your fingernails) you need a small tip to keep your details distinct.

A tip that is too big will cause your design elements to flow into one another. These fine-tip acrylic art pens made by ZEYAR will make nail decorating a breeze. With paint pens like these you can make those fine lines and teeny, tiny dots some designs have very easily.

Can you use acrylic paint on gel nails?

You can use acrylic paint on gel nails once the gel polish is completely cured.  Paint over the gel nail and, again, be sure to apply your top coat otherwise the acrylic color will come off fairly quickly.

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