Follow College Fashion on Twitter!

DIY Nail Art Tutorial: Rhinestones


Sparkling rhinestones
{All photos by me}

For the second article in my series about three-dimensional nail embellishments (in case you missed it, see the first one, DIY Nail Art: Loose Glitter), I’m going to to cover rhinestones.

One of the things I love about rhinestone nail art is that you can create so many different looks, from super-glamorous to girly to a little bit tough, depending on the size, color and shape of the stones. I know this may seem intimidating, but it’s easier than it looks!

There’s one thing I want to address before getting started: Yes, stick-on nail jewels that are made specifically for this purpose do exist, and may seem like they would be easier to use. However, there are several reasons why I recommend you use loose rhinestones bought from a fabric or craft store instead:

  • First, you can get at least five times more jewels for a fraction of the cost. (I paid $2-3 per pack, as opposed to paying $5 for a small sheet of stick-ons from Sephora.)
  • Second, there is a greater variety of loose rhinestones then there is of stick-ons made specifically for nail art. The options are endless!
  • Third, I would argue that putting rhinestones on this way will give you a longer-lasting manicure than stick-ons will. Think about it: If they are made so you can pull them off a sheet of paper in order to stick them on, you can accidentally pull them off your nails just as easily.

Bejeweling Your Nails, Step by Step:

{Polish: It’s Hippo To Be Square by Sephora by OPI}

Let’s get started! Here’s everything you need to know to give yourself a rhinestone manicure like the one above.

What You Need:

  • Base coat – I used Orly Bonder Rubberized Base Coat (both under the polish and to place the jewels on the nail).
  • Nail polish
  • Top coat – I used Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Top Coat.
  • Some type of small stick – This could be an actual orange stick for manicures or it could be something as simple as a toothpick. Anything around that size should do the job.
  • Pack of jewels with flat backings – I got mine at a fabric store for $1-3/pack. I wanted a variety of different gems to make some cool designs, so I bought several packs, but one pack would be more than enough to cover your nails.

What To Do:

Before you begin, make sure that the rhinestones you’re using are set out, right-side up, on a flat surface. This will make them easier to pick up later. Now it’s time to bejewel your nails:

  1. Put on you base coat and nail polish as you normally would.
  2. After your polish has dried, take your stick and dab a bit of base coat on it, then use the part of the stick with the base coat on it to pick up a rhinestone from the top (i.e. the flat back should not be touching the stick, so that you can place it directly on the nail).
  3. Dab some base coat on the flat back of the rhinestone. You should be able to see that there is base coat on the backing, but don’t use a ton – if it looks like there’s a little bit much, you can use a finger to gently wipe some off.
  4. Place the rhinestone on your nail. Do this gently. You don’t want to dig the stone into the polish and risk messing it up.
  5. Repeat these steps until you’re happy with them!

Once you’ve finished, put on a generous amount of top coat to really seal the stones onto the nail. This step is really important! I actually tried doing two of my friends’ nails, one with top coat and one without, to compare the durability of the two manicures. The friend who had top coat on her nails didn’t lose a single stone until 4 days after I did them, even though she abused them with baking, writing and wearing gloves constantly. On the other hand (haha), my friend who didn’t have top coat started losing hers in a matter of hours. So if you want to ensure that your beautiful handiwork stays put, make sure you put a top coat on!

Some More Design Ideas:

{Polish: Hey! Get in Lime! by OPI}

Rhinestones on burgundy nail polish
{Polish: Carry On by Essie}

I had a ton of fun trying out different designs on my friends! In the top picture I was going for a stud-inspired look, so I used black stones and made sure the rows were straight so the result was nice and uniform. The bottom look was actually inspired by this lovely tutorial from Honestly, WTF – I loved the use of differently-shaped gems, and this is how I translated it into nail art.

What Do You Think?

Now that you know how to do these nails, I want to hear your thoughts! Would you rock rhinestone nails? How would you wear them? Tell us in the comments section below, and be sure to let us know how the tutorial works for you if you try it!

Posted on on January 20, 2012 / Filed Under: Beauty & Hair / Tags: , , , ,

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

22 Responses to “DIY Nail Art Tutorial: Rhinestones”

  1. 1
    January 20th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I like the idea of limiting the rhinestones to one nail to make it a little unexpected. I’m not sure if I would add something as chunky to my nails, but I like the clustered look of the last example.

  2. 2
    January 20th, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    I love this, but am I the only one that has problems making the rhinestones stay on? Even if I use nail glue they seem to fall off, or get caught in my hair… boo!

  3. 3
    January 20th, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Soo cute! And surprising easy, thanks great post! :) will deff be trying this soon!

  4. 4
    January 20th, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    ADORABLE! And that last one was insaaannee!! Very luxe and rock-and-roll-ish!

  5. 5
    January 20th, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    I love the images you used with this DIY nail tutorial! This home beauty project looks like something I could definitely do!

    I type all day, do you think these rhinestones would stay on? Also, do you feel like rhinestones are appropriate in the workplace, or best saved for a weekend out on the town?

  6. 6
    January 20th, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Chloe and Kelsey – as far as getting the rhinestones to stay on goes, I probably should have been a bit more clear about this in the tutorial, but this is what I did on my roommate’s nails (and hers lasted forever):

    After putting all the rhinestones on, I allowed them to set for a bit, then slapped on a lot of top coat – a LOT – all at once over the entire nail. The point of this is to give the nail a bit of a smoother surface so that nothing can get under the rhinestones or make them lift. Essentially, you’re creating a seal that goes over the rhinestones and the polish to make sure they can’t be separated. If you do that, it should help the rhinestones stay put even when you’re using your hands all day. That being said, this isn’t going to be the longest lasting of manicures simply because it’s attaching objects to your nails that really aren’t meant to be there.

    And Kelsey, about whether or not these are appropriate for the workplace, that depends on how conservative your workplace is and what type of rhinestones you put on. If you want a lot of big/colored stones, like the first and last pictures, I would suggest saving it for the weekend. But something that commands a bit less attention, like the second-to-last picture, would probably be fine for all but the most conservative workplaces.

    Hope this helps:)

  7. 7
    January 20th, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    I love that you only put the rhinestones on one nail! I think that makes the look more grown-up.

  8. 8
    January 20th, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    Love love love!!definitely gonna do this!!thanks!!:)

  9. 9
    January 21st, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Definitely LOVE the last example & will be trying it as my next mani idea. Maybe even that same color since I’m in Love with it<3

  10. 10
    January 22nd, 2012 at 5:17 am

    beautiful! definately going to try that on!! :)

  11. 11
    February 8th, 2012 at 8:57 am

    very simple and easy manicure, super love!

  12. 12
    April 20th, 2012 at 10:16 am

    It’s so pretty. i have to try it…

  13. 13
    June 25th, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    When I apply topcoat to my clear rignstones it turns them white?!

  14. 14
    July 19th, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    FYI to the last poster. If you use acrylic rhinestones then they can turn cloudy and dull when a topcoat is used over them. Same thing was happening to me, even with an expensive top coat! I personally tested this by buying the glass/crystal ones at Michael’s. They did NOT turn cloudy and white and retained their “bling” factor.

  15. 15
    September 16th, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Gorgeous. Have seen kids in school using the ‘one nail’ style, thought i’d give it a go. Just finished my nails and they look fab! Thanks a bunch :)

  16. 16
    April 4th, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    Super cute! I will try this on me any my daughter! Cant wait to use spring colors. Thank you for sharing :)

  17. 17
    May 12th, 2014 at 8:28 am

    This is so chic! Love the style of having rhinestones on just one finger, it looks different and outstanding of doing this nail art design.

Links to This Article

Leave a Reply


* Comment Rules: CF is a positive place and our comments section is no different. Constructive criticism is fine, but if you're rude, we'll delete your comment. Please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name and do not put your website in the comment text, as both come off like spam. For more info, see our Comment Policy. Have fun & thanks for adding to the conversation!


* Want a custom avatar to show up next to your comments? Sign up for a free Gravatar.