The Game of Foils – 1: Foil Nails How To

Categories: Nail Art Nail Art Gallery Nail Art Tutorials

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Foil nails look so effortlessly chic in their shining glory. Who knew foil was so tricky to use?! One tiny mistake and your manicure is ruined. The foil can refuse to stick and lift the polish up, and even if you’ve somehow managed to stick it on your nail, a top coat can shrink those gentle foils! It’s a different story if you’re using gel. Once you’ve cured your base layers the process is nice and smooth. But with polish, nail foils can be a total nightmare.

Nevertheless, foil nail art was something I’ve been keen to try for a long time. However, after numerous unsuccessful attempts to stick that foil on my nails, simply getting it to stick to the nail seemed impossible, let alone attempting any nail art pattern. Determined to make the foil work, – after two days of failure, I’ve finally figured it out! Truly, practice makes perfect. So today, I’m sharing my tips with you in this Foil Nails how to! Read on and shine on, my friends!


how to apply nail foils

  1. Paint one coat of black polish. Note, if you’re using foils with polish (not gel) – use dark polish as your base. That way, if your foil bleeds, it won’t be visible.
  2. Paint second coat of polish and let it dry for a few minutes until almost dry but still a bit tacky. A good test is to touch your polish and see if you still can leave finger prints on it. If so, gently press a small piece of foil (cut in advance) on the surface of your nails. Lift to check that it’s attached. If not, press a bit more. If somehow, your nail polish got stuck to the foil and lifts from the nail, press it back down and a wait a few seconds before lifting the foil.
  3. Repeat step 2 on all fingers. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look too perfect or if it lifted the polish in a few spots. Cover those patches with another piece of foil (do a second foil layer) or simply fill in the areas with polish. That’s why it’s better to use dark polish, it covers the flaws. Don’t worry if your nail surface doesn’t look perfect at this stage, top coat will fix it!
  4. Before sealing your foil extravaganza with a top coat, wait at least 5 minutes for it to set. Then, extra carefully glide a top coat* over without touching the surface of your nail with the brush. Once the first layer is dry, apply second layer. This time aiming to even out the bumpy nail surface. Done!

*Note, not all top coats are ‘foil-friendly’, before using your top coat on a finished foil nails look, try different top coats over foil (on a practice wheel) to find out which one works the best**.

foil nailsfoil nailsfoil nails tutorialfoil nails how to

Used: Sea Siren Midnight Moves, SoNailicious Boutique foils (also try this amazing nail foil set!) **Rimmel Finishing Touch top coat (it worked wonders for me!).

So yes, nail foils require some extra effort but the results are totally worth it. It’s a stunning, shining one of a kind nail look!

What about you guys, have you tried foil nails? How did your go with it? Any expert tips to share for working with foils?

– Maria, xx

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  • Veronica

    Dollar nail art has a glue for foils that will probably make using foils so much easier.

    • Yes, but sadly we don’t have these stores in Australia. I’ve heard glue can make application easier but some glues can ruin foils too. These little guys are so tricky! x

  • Gwen

    You MUSTuse an adhesive specifically made for foils. I paint my base coat, let dry. Apply a coat of the foil glue and wait probably 5 full minutes so it gets really tacky and not too gooey. I apply the foil, design up, and use a metal nail file or similar tool to press very firmly the foil onto the nail. That’s it. Now, to find a good topcoat that works with the foil is another challenge. The only ones I have tried actually took the the shine OUT of the foil. I use mostly Sally Henson topcoats. “Hard as Nails” usually. Sadly, the foils only last a few days but I love them.

    • Hi Gwen, you’re absolutely right. And that’s why I was planning to write Part 2 for this article. Using a special glue or adhesive makes working with foils so much easier. And yes, like you said and we said that too in the article not all top coats are ‘foil-friendly’. I tried Sally Hansen Diamond Flash and it’s too rough. But the indie Sea Siren topper was fine (but it’s not fast drying).

  • Silvia


    I know you write this almost a year ago, but I’ve heard that eyelashes adhesive works fine as nail foil glue. A friend of mine use Mia Secret adhesive and it works great but there are lots of brands.

    I will try water-based top coat, hope it works fine with foil.

    My regards from Costa Rica

    • Hi Silvia, thanks for sharing your tips! Yes, it’s been a year since I wrote this post. I’ve tried some other methods since and found that a special nail glue (you can get it from eBay) makes application much easier. They are abut $2-5 per bottle and often free shipping ;) I’ll write an update soon and show the glue that I use now. x

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