What is Nail Art Polish?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Nail art polish is a kind of polish that is used to create designs or accents on fingernails or toenails after a base coat of polish has been applied. In many cases, this kind of polish is used to create shapes such as hearts, stars, or flowers. It is also sometimes used to create seasonal motifs. For example, dark green nail art polish may be used to paint a Christmas tree on top of base coat of red polish. The same color may be used to paint a shamrock on top of a lighter green base coat of polish in celebration of St. Patrick's Day.

Artificial fingernails with nail art.
Artificial fingernails with nail art.

Although the formulas of nail art polish and regular nail polish are often similar, the major differences have to do with the available colors and the brushes that are used to apply them. As nail art polish is used to create accents and designs, it often comes in colors such as hot pink, orange, grass green, and electric blue that are less frequently used as base coats for the entire fingernail or toenail. Also, regular nail polish is applied with a brush that can cover the entire fingernail in color in just a few strokes. The brushes that are used to apply nail art polish are much thinner so that they can be used to create very small, specific brush strokes.

While nail polish is normally sold by the individual bottle — with some exceptions for gift packages of polish and travel sizes — it is very common for nail art polish to be sold in sets. These sets may include just a small variety of polishes or may include dozens of colors. These larger packages are often used by salons that offer nail art services as part of their manicure and pedicure menus. They are also sometimes purchased by people who enjoy doing their own nail art at home.

People who are just learning to use nail art polish can begin by painting basic shapes on top of base coats. There are also web newsletters, sites, and pamphlets on how to create many kinds of nail art. With practice, it is possible to create a great variety of designs. Some people like to include decals, stickers, and even rhinestones in their designs. For example, a rhinestone could be featured at the center of a flower, the petals of which are created with nail art polish.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


@indigomoth - It depends on what the person wants to achieve though. Some people want their nails to look good, other people really want to create art and aren't worried about what other people think.

I mean, it seems like it's becoming fashionable to paint the fingers up to the first knuckle now, rather than just the nail. That isn't a subtle hint at color or an attempt to assert femininity. That's art.


@KoiwiGal - Yeah, you can get nail art polish pens and special brushes that are very thin and I think that nail polish that's designed to be used in art is a bit thinner than normal polish.

But even with an ordinary brush and polish, people do some pretty extraordinary little pictures. And it doesn't actually have to be intricate to be striking.

I mean, in some ways you don't actually want it to be too intricate, because most people aren't going to get close enough to see all the detail. You want it to look good from afar.


There are some incredible websites out there which feature nail art polish. It is really amazing the kinds of designs that people come up with. Although I suspect they must have special tools to make some of the very intricate designs. Normal nail colors and brushes just wouldn't be capable of such fine work.

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