DIY Nail Art Tutorial: Loose Glitter

Discover how to use loose glitter on your nails with our easy, step by step nail glitter manicure tutorial!

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Glitter nails on Emily of Cupcakes and Cashmere
{Photo Credit: Emily of Cupcakes and Cashmere}

One of the major trends in nail art right now – and one that I myself happen to love – is using materials other than nail polish to create unique, textured designs.

Over the months ahead, I’ll be writing a series of articles covering some of the practically endless nail art possibilities and showing you how to achieve them yourself. First, I want to start with one of the more straightforward options: loose glitter.

Techniques for Applying Nail Glitter:

There are two main techniques for applying nail glitter, and I’m going to demonstrate both. The first results in a nail that is completely sheathed in sparkle, and is perfect for special occasions or just a more daring statement. The second technique ends in glitter that’s more sparse, and creates a really cool effect when used over color for a more wearable, everyday look.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Base coat
  • Nail polish
  • Top coat
  • Loose glitter

One quick note on the glitter: I used Sephora by OPI Nail Glitter for this tutorial, but I don’t see a reason why any other loose glitter wouldn’t work just as well (although the super sweet Sephora checkout girl did say she swears by this stuff and that it lasts forever). The Sephora glitter is also cheap, at just $5 a pot. But no matter what brand you choose, go with a fine glitter, so that it will adhere easily and lay flat on the nail.

Before you start, you may want to put something down on your work area – I used printer paper – so you can easily clean up the excess glitter and funnel it back into the pot. As with any manicure, remove any nail polish you’re currently wearing and wash your hands. Now it’s time for the fun part!

Technique #1: All-Over Glitter

First glitter technique: All over glitter
{Photos by me}
  1. Apply a clear base coat. Make sure to apply it evenly so that the glitter will stick to the entire nail!
  2. Dip your nail in the pot of glitter, laying it flat over the surface and rolling it back and forth a bit to cover the sides.
  3. Tap your finger to remove any extra glitter. If you find that the glitter seems chunky or not completely even, you can press it on with your fingers.
  4. As you can see in the picture of my nails above, glitter will probably get on your cuticles. Be sure to wipe it off so the finished product looks precise. I found that an eyeshadow brush is perfect for this, because it dusts all the glitter off without getting it on the fingers of your other hand or messing up your nails.

Technique #2: A Sprinkle of Glitter

Second glitter technique: Sparse glitter
  1. Apply a clear base coat and color, as you would with a normal manicure. I used a very pale pink, but colors that are darker or more vibrant would also look awesome.
  2. While the polish is still wet, take a pinch of glitter with your other hand and sprinkle it over the nail.
  3. Tap off the excess and wipe your cuticles clean.
  4. Make sure the nails on one hand are completely dry before doing nails on the other hand. If they’re still wet, they will pick up more glitter than you intended to put on them when you go to sprinkle your other nails, and they may start to look messy.

Finishing Up

Repeat these steps on the rest of your nails. Or don’t, and have just a few nails that glimmer. The choice is yours!

After applying glitter, I would recommend at least two top coats to ensure that you get a really good seal and a smooth texture. I used three or four – I like my nails glossy! Be sure to do this gently in order to avoid wiping off chunks of glitter as you go.

After trying these two methods, I decided to give some fun designs like these a go:

Glitter nail designs

To make the polka dots, I just dabbed little dots of top coat onto my nail and pressed my nail into the glitter. I then used my eyeshadow brush to clean up extra glitter between the dots.

The other patterns were a little easier – for the stripe on my middle finger, I put scotch tape on either side of my nail, leaving a gap between the two pieces where I put on some top coat. Then I dipped my nail in the glitter as I normally would and gently peeled off the tape to reveal a clean stripe. On my index and pinkie fingers, I just put top coat on half the nail and then used my brush to get the glitter where I wanted it to go.

Your thoughts?

Would you try out ultra-sparkly nails? How would you wear them? Have you come up with any cool glitter designs of your own? Leave your ideas and questions in the comments section below.

30 thoughts on “DIY Nail Art Tutorial: Loose Glitter”

  1. I especially like the pattern of glitter on your index finger! I think if I were going to do the one on the ring finger though that I would just use several coats of a glitter nail polish instead. Still a helpful post!

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  2. I love glitter HOWEVER- $5 for that tiny pot of sephora glitter is insane. You can go to Michaels, JoAnne’s or AC Moore and get a full 1.5 ounces of extra fine glitter for under $5. And they have a huge selection. With that much glitter you can bedazzle an entire pair of shoes and still have more than that sephora pot leftover to do your nails- just a friendly heads-up ๐Ÿ™‚ plus, it comes with a sprinkle top so you don’t have to roll your nails in it and risk gunking up the glitter still in the pot.

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  3. Thanks for the comments, guys! Emma, to answer your question, it does. I had no problems taking it off with nail polish remover. I would even say it was easier to take off than my glitter polish. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Also- a tip I learned to do just the French tip like your index finger is to paint your nails, and while they’re still wet, dip a fan brush ($2 at Michael’s,) into the pot of glitter and lightly roll it over the tips of your nails. Mizzchevious on YouTube does a great tutorial.

    And yes, it comes off with regular polish remover, but I highly recommend the 100% acetone kind or you will be scrubbing for hours with the cotton pad- you can also use felt if you’d like- it holds up better for removing glitter and glitter polish.

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  5. Beth – what you said about getting glitter from a craft store is completely true. Like I said in the article, any type of fine, loose glitter should work splendidly! I also realized that your concern about glitter in the pot getting gunked up might be a concern other readers had as well, so I just wanted to address that by saying dipping your nails shouldn’t mess up the rest of the glitter, because everything that touches the polish will adhere to it, so no polish or chunks of glitter will be left behind, if that makes sense. Hope this clarifies things!

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  6. This is such a good tutorial! I’ve actually been curious about how to apply glitter. Now I feel stupid that I spent $10 on glittery nail polish. Oh well. So purrty!

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  7. Cute look, but I just do not have the patience to wait while one hand completely dries, then do the other hand, then apply and wait for two or three topcoats to dry – especially for it all to stay on for only a couple of days. I’d maybe try this for a special event on a weekend, but that’s the limit of my patience for something this finicky and complicated. I know with glitter polish, the removal bites, but all told it seems like this would take even more time. Great look, but not for me.

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  8. I recently got obsessed with this trend. I don’t usally like glittery nails but I love silver glitter over black nailpolish, perfect for a going out look ๐Ÿ™‚

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  9. I really like this DIY. I just found a Sally Hansen glitter polish but I think it’s not glittery enough. I really like the coral-y color at the top and the blue nail. I think I might find some colors like that and do this! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for the d.i.y.!

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  10. What I love love love love LOVE is Wet N Wild’s Wild Shine in Sparked. It gives FULL glitter coverage in 3 coats with the texture of loose glitter… and lasts foreeeever without chipping. Loose glitter terrifies me- that alternative is much less scary. BUT, this tutorial makes me want to try it in other shades… I may just do so.

    Reply
  11. I will be trying this. Thinks for the tips about how you did the designs ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve always had problems taking off glitter so I stopped using it. Thats the only part I dont like about glitter. I love the stripe in the middle. I will be trying this soon though! Thanks again!

    Reply
  12. I recently chipped my pointer fingers on both nails (I’m such a spaz), but the rest of my mani still looked good. I used OPI Rainbow Connection (from their Muppets Collection) on both fingers and it looked SO GOOD! Inspired by this article and the first picture, but faster than loose glitter ๐Ÿ™‚

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  13. I have some pink craft glitter from Michael’s, and I just used it for tips ๐Ÿ™‚ Light pink polish, white polish over the tips like a French, then dipped in hot pink glitter. ‘m considering applying a top coat of the base to keep the glitter on. Pretty!

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  14. this was very helpful and cute! Great ideas for applying the glitter and perfect, detailed directions! I appreciate the no nonsense

    Reply

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