These Nail Art Tools Are Life-Changing

by Teresa Newsome

If you're not someone who regularly does nail art, you probably see all those tutorials online and think "what wizardry is this?" But in reality, nail art is pretty simple. It's even more simple when you have the right nail art tools to make your life easier. Now, when I say simple, I mean they are more like a collection of easy steps, rather than one complicated design. That's not the same as saying easy. Nail art, even the most basic designs, take practice.

The following nail art tools are staples in any nail artist's bag of tricks, but they're also cheap, easy to use, and more common in drugstores and online shops (like Amazon and eBay) than ever before. So you get a little tape, a few vinyls, maybe a pack of Sharpies, and before you know it, your friends will be looking at you and thinking "what wizardry is this?" This list of tools isn't exhaustive, but it aims to solve some of the most common problems or most difficult techniques people encounter while creating nail art.

Be careful, though. Once you start to realize how simple using some of these products to make really stunning nail designs can be, you might be hooked. I discovered striping brushes years ago, and now my nail stuff needs its own room. Don't say I didn't warn you!

1. Nail Polish Holder

Tweexy, $10, Amazon

A nail polish holder is like a barrier between nail polish and all your clothes/furniture/flooring/pets. They hold your polish steady in one place, so you don't have to do that awkward dance of trying to find the right fingers to wedge your bottles in between, only to end up dropping them anyway.

2. Vaseline

Vaseline, $4, Amazon

Sometimes nail art is messy; I'm looking at you, water marbles and gradients. Liquid latex is all the rage for protecting the skin of your fingers from polish, but it's expensive. And you have to wait for it to dry. Those facts plus my latex allergy lead me to experimentation with alternatives — which is how I discovered that if you put a nice, thick coating of Vaseline around your nails before you do nail art, then the polish can't stick to your skin and it just wipes off.

3. School Glue

Elmer's Glue, $2, Amazon

If you love using liquid latex but you don't have any, or you're looking for a cheaper alternative, you can just paint some plain old school glue, or Elmer's glue, as it's commonly called, around your nails and it works the same way. You need to hit it with a hair dryer, though, or you'll be waiting for it to dry for as long as ten minutes. Then, after your nail art is finished, you just peel it off and all the mess is gone. It's not always a time saver, but it's almost always a frustration saver because manual cleanup of lots of polish mess with just a cotton swab or brush is tedious and messy.

4. Toothpick

I have dozens upon dozens of dotting tools and nail art brushes (some that were pretty expensive) and half of the time, I just use a toothpick for nail art. It's true. There are few nail art tools more useful that the humble wooden toothpick. I use it for dots, drawings, lines, and even clean up. It gets that polish stuck under the ridge of your cuticle. So if you're not sure nail art is something you want to invest money in, but you want to try it, toothpicks are your BFF.

5. Striping Brush

Winstonia Professional Nail Art Set Liner, $8, Amazon

Sometimes you want lines thinner than your polish brush will allow, and longer than you could comfortably make with a toothpick. That''s where striping brushes come in. They're just really long, thin brushes that do the work of making straight lines for you. They're a lifesaver when you just want an accent color line between your color, and your French tip. So handy.

6. Striping Tape

Striping Tape, $2, Amazon

Painstaking attention to detail and an abnormally steady hand are no longer needed to make crisp, super straight lines, thanks to striping tape. It costs pennies per roll on Amazon, it's easy to use, and makes everything look so much cleaner and more professional.

7. Sharpies

Sharpies, $12, Amazon

Sharpies are a great way to make art on your nails if you're just not good at painting with those little brushes. You can write just about anything on your nails with these markers — and you probably did in high school. But what you might not know is that you can make inks from Sharpies and rubbing alcohol that will give you a beautiful watercolor effect, like in the video above.

8. An Angled Brush

How do nail bloggers get those perfect paint jobs with crisp lines at the cuticle? Are they wizards? Is it magic? The truth is, they make messes just like the rest of us — they're just really good at clean up. Dip any brush you like, such as a paint brush or old makeup brush in acetone polish remover and you're ready to do cleanup magic.

9. A Silicone Mat

Nail Silicone Mat, $13, Amazon

Nail mats are crazy useful. You can paint and stamp on the mat, which lets you create nail stickers that peel right off once they're dry. This matters if you've ever tried to paint, say, a heart, on your nails, and had to repaint your whole nail four times because you messed it up. With the mat, you paint your heart on it, cover it with top coat, and when it dries, you have a perfect nail sticker. Mats also protect your work surface, obvi.

10. Press-On Nails

Press-on nails get a bad rap but they're a really useful nail art tool that can save you a lot of time in the future. The technology for press-ons has gotten way better since the '90s, so they actually look like your natural nails. You can buy pre-decorated nails with really cute and trendy nail art already on them, or you can buy plain ones, do your own nail art, and re-wear them as many times as you want. Some people even decorate and trade them like baseball cards.

11. Peel Off Base Coat

This tip will change your life, especially if you love glitter. A peel off base coat goes on before your nail polish, and then, when you want to take the polish off, you don't have to use remover! You just peel your polish off. And it's so satisfying. You'll love it. Trust me.

12. Nail Vinyls

I saved my favorite tip for last. Back in the day, when I first started doing nail art, and dinosaurs also roamed the earth (OK, so really, just like four years ago) nail vinyls weren't all the rage. If you wanted a complicated design or crisp shape, you had to make it by hand. Now there are vinyls, which are stickers/stencils that come in a ridiculous number of shapes and sizes. Here are a bunch of links to different nail vinyls so you can check them out.

The best part is, you probably have many of these items on hand already. So go forth, raid your junk drawer, and mani your heart out.

Images: Nails By Jema