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How To: Polka Dot Nails

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Polka dot nails are super fun and easy to do. Moms can impress their little girls with these, teens and tweens love trying new nail art and if you're going for a retro look to go with your dress, these can totally put your look together. The best part? They couldn't be easier.

Before you get to the painting part, it is important to take some time to make sure your nails are cut down to size, even, filed and buffed. We recommend doing a full manicure and soak if you have the time. And of course, a hand exfoliation is a great way to make your entire hands look groomed.

What You Need

  • Base coat
  • Polish in any color for entire nails
  • Polish for polka dots
  • Top coat
  • Saran wrap
  • Toothpick

Each image will enlarge when you click on it.

1. Step One: Base Coat

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Photo: Jen Adkins - Click to Enlarge

Before you polish your nails, you should put on a base coat. This helps fill in the ridges, provide a smooth surface for your polish and helps the manicure last longer. We always use OPI's Nail Strengthener as our base coat because it helps keep our nails from breaking.

Apply a thin coat to each nail and let dry fully before you move to the next step. Start in the middle base of your nail and swipe up, then once on each side. Polish should not be pooling up, but should be thin enough to cover the nail without excess.

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2. Step Two: Polish

Photo: Jen Adkins - Click to Enlarge

Once your base coat is dry, it's time to polish your nails. It's important to apply a thin coat to each nail. When people complain that they can't make their polish look like the salon's polish, it's mostly because they apply too much. Start at the base of your nail in the center and polish up to the top of the nail. Then move to the right and left. Three swipes of polish should be able to fill your entire nail.

If you get any excess on the edges on the skin on the sides of your nails, cleanup will be much easier if you do it while it is wet. (How to whiten nails)

Apply two coats of polish making sure you let them dry completely in between each coat. We are using Revlon: Top Speed Fast Dry in Orchid 555. (compare prices)

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3. Step Three: Polka Dot Polish Color

Photo: Jen Adkins - Click to Enlarge

This is the step that turns your boring polish into darling nail art. There are a few ways you can achieve the polka dots, (we saw someone using a nail on pintrest!) but we find the easiest way is by using a tooth pick. Start with a little piece of saran wrap and pour out a tiny bit of the polish you chose for your polka dots. We just used a cheap-y white polish we found at the grocery store.

4. Step Four: Polka Dot

Photo: Jen Adkins - Click to Enlarge

Take your toothpick and press the tip down into the table to flatten it. This is the most important step because if you don't, the sharp tip will dent your polish and the dots will be too tiny. By pressing it down to flatten it, you are giving your polish a round flat base to rest on and be transferred to your nails.

Dot the toothpick into the polish and gently tap it onto the nail bed. Be creative in application and apply as many or as few dots as you'd like. It's fun to go off the rim of your nail to make a half of a dot.

5. A Closer Look at the Dots

Image: Jen Adkins - Click to Enlarge
You can see here we put on eight dots per nail. To make it even, start by placing a dot somewhere in the center of the nail and work out to the edges. By putting a dot half off the top, it makes it look more professional.

6. Step Five: Top Coat

Image: Jen Adkins - Click to Enlarge

A top coat is always a good idea when you paint your nails, but we'd say mandatory when doing nail art on top of your polish color. This is because it will be very easy for the dots to chip off seeing they are resting on top of the polish. A top coat will protect the entire nail and cover the dots with a protective layer.

Because theses dots are so fun, try using a glossing top coat for extra shine. Here we are using Orly's Glosser. (compare prices)

7. More Nail Tips

  • 5 Nail Care Tips: Well manicured fingernails always make you look put together, but it takes a lot of work (or a lot of money!) to keep them looking perfectly manicured all of the time. Check out these easy nail care tips that don't take much work or time. Your nails really can look great!
  • Shellac Nails: FAQ: Are you looking for information on Shellac Nails? We've got it! Here is a FAQ written by nail artist, Hillary Fry. She answers some of the most frequently asked Shellac questions.
  • DIY Shellac: In most of the reviews I've read about not being able to apply Shellac yourself. Honestly it is just polishing your nails. The CND site gives direction and updates on the best practices to the product. It's easy and so incredibly inexpensive to purchase it yourself vs. paying per visit.
  • Ridges in Fingernails: One of the most common fingernail complaints is ridges. There are so many speculations on why people get them, from aging to nutritional deficiencies. But what is the real answer? Why are you getting those ridges? Are they something to worry about? Can you stop them from growing? And most importantly, can you hide them?
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