How to make nail polish

How to make nail polish

What is nail polish made of?

Nail polish is basically a mixture of various pigments and often textures in a volatile solvent, along with added film formers that aid in the durability and quality of its appearance. Lately, there have been many advances in nail polish, including the use of Teflon and quick-dry materials.


  • PRIMARY FILM FORMER-like nitrocellulose
  • SECONDARY FILM-FORMING RESIN-like formaldehyde
  • PLASTICIZERS-like dioctyl phthalate
  • SOLVENTS AND DILUENTS- like acetates or alcohols
  • COLORANTS- like organic D&C; pigments
  • SPECIAL FILLERS-like titanium dioxide coated mica flakes


Nitrocellulose is typically formed the primary agent in many nail polishes. It creates a nontoxic film that creates a shiny and strong material that’s used as the primary film-forming agent. It allows the polish to stick well to the nail.

Special additives create various effects in combination with the pigments. Chopped aluminum, gold, and silver are added to many of today’s polishes for a metallic, even neon, shine. Rayon and nylon also can be added for nail-strengthening purposes, though many companies are now leaning towards Teflon.

How can I make my own nail polish just for fun?

Recently, many crafting companies for children and adults provide kits that enable you to mix and match your own creations. Online you can find a variety of companies who will specially mix colors and types of polish for you based on your looks and your personality, as well as health concerns. This option attracts many women and the prices are reasonable.

Using colors that you already have in reserve and mixing them with a more neutral base, such as a shimmer or metallic pearl, creates a new shade for your enjoyment. Many glitter shades are available now in stores, as well as lighter, more natural shades. Mixing these with a vibrant color can create many different options for your polish. Use the basic color wheel properties to guide you in your choices. Always test the polish first on one nail to see its durability and the drying color.

I can no longer find my favorite polish in stores. Is there a way I can find it or make it myself?

Many online cosmetic companies offer a variety of options for personal expression. By sending in a sample of that favorite polish, the company will work to recreate it for you. A process like this will cost more than you normally pay for nail polish, but if it is THE color, it may be worth it!

If money is a concern, there is a more cost-effective way to go. As mentioned above, finding a base color will help you in the creation of your own shade. Find a base that closely resembles your favorite, and then add lights or darks to enhance the shade. Adding a pearl or nude color will lighten the base while adding a maroon or deep red will darken it. Refer to your color wheel again for help and inspiration.

How can I mix my own custom nail polish, but with polishes I already have?

Mixing what you already have is a great way to create that jazzy new color you’ve been looking for. The best way is to wait until your bottle only has about a quarter of polish left. Then you can mix outside the bottle until you figure out the shade you want. After deducing the ingredients, you can add the color directly to the bottle without having to worry about storage. Use another brush specifically for mixing, even a watercolor brush will work, or add tiny bits of color with a toothpick.

Be sure to always test-paint your new mixture on a nail to see the dry color. Sometimes polishes dry differently than what they appear in the bottle, especially those with added elements like shimmer or glitter.

One other option to create a new shade is by illusion. By first applying a dark matte base, you establish a strong foundation. At least two coats of the base are recommended, though adding more may enhance the darker tone in your polish. Make sure that the base coat is COMPLETELY dry before adding any other color. Otherwise, you will get a streaky effect that will spoil your brush.

Then add a shimmery, glittery, or two-tone topcoat layer by layer. Usually, two layers do the trick, but it depends on the type of polish. Experimentation is the key…you have to be willing to try out several shades and combinations before finding the right one. Luckily, you’ve got five fingers and ten toes in addition to your “writing hand”!

How can I do custom nail designs myself?

The simplest way to create intricate designs is by first practicing on paper. Using a fine-tip permanent marker works for the darker shades, but you will want to try out polish options as well. There is no specific tool that you must use; I recommend trying a variety of different items until you find one that works for your design. I’ve found that toothpicks or the top of a watercolor brushwork is the best for smaller dots and other related designs.

Many beauty supply shops offer a variety of different choices for nail artists. There are even stencils available for quick designs! If you’re looking for more than a subtle design, nail jewels are a great way to go. From gems to gold accents, these are sure to make your nails the hit of the day! Lately, there have even been charms added to the nail by piercing it.

I would assume that this would damage the nail, but if you use acrylic or tips, it may be an option. Check with your local manicurist to be sure. Always apply a clear top coat when you’re finished designing – it will help keep the art from chipping and protect the time spent creating it.

There are many options for nail polish and it’s up to you to take the leap and experiment. Unless you’ve got loads to spend on personal creations, it will benefit you to try out different techniques yourself. Then you can brag to all of your friends that you don’t need a professional…maybe they’ll even pay YOU to do THEIR nails! Have fun!

NOTE: When working with nail polish or other types of odorous paints, it is always important to wear a mask so you aren’t inhaling the fumes. Although you many not be concerned for simple nail painting, becoming a design creator requires more time with many open bottles. Running a fan that directs fumes away from you is also a smart idea. Have fun, but be careful!


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