Getting Started with Airbrushed Nails

By Laura Morgan

Using an airbrush for nail art allows the artist unlimited design potential and custom color-mixing capabilities. Water-based acrylic paints are sprayed from the airbrush gun and sealed between layers of enamel paint-on base coat and enamel paint-on topcoat. When properly applied, the results are dazzling AND durable!


Areas of study:

1. Equipment - How it works and what maintenance is required for long-term service.
2. Designing - Shading, stenciling, and masking combine to create unlimited designs.
3. Durability and Wear Ability - Produce durable artwork with properly prepared nails, precise spray technique, and correct top coating/sealing.


Before you begin...

· Carefully study and keep all owner's manuals, parts diagrams, and videos that come with your equipment. Refer to them often for user tips and warranty information.
· Follow all manufacturer recommendations.
· Have lots of airbrush cleaner on hand. Be generous when using it.
· Never leave paint sitting in your airbrush. When you are finished with a color, immediately flush with cleaner.
· Do not put nail polish, base or topcoat in your airbrush.


Spray Technique...

· Getting a feel for paint flow is vital. It takes practice to get a feel for how far to pull the lever back. If you pull too far back on the lever, your spray will be heavy and wet.
· Mist paint on in light layers, slowly building the color. It should look matte finish during the entire application process. Any wetness or excessive paint build-up during application will compromise retention and design
· If you are having problems with wet or runny paint, you are not ready to move on to advanced work yet. Before moving on, master the dry, light mist by practicing simple color fades.
· After you are able to spray a light dry mist 90% of the time, begin to experiment with stenciling and masking techniques to create imaging.
· Practice regularly.


If you see wet, shiny paint...

· Besides spraying too heavily, you may be too close to the nails. Hold your airbrush 1-2 inches from the surface. As your skills improve you will be able to get closer and still maintain control.
· You may be spraying in the same spot for too long. Keep the airbrush moving.

Allow time and patience to develop skills. Practice on nail tips, friends, and yourself. It generally takes a few weeks of practice to develop control of the paint flow and get a feel for the airbrush. After this is established you are ready to move on to simple designs.


Reprinted with permission of