Can You Use Acrylic Paint As Nail Polish?

Yes, you can use acrylic paint as nail polish as long as it’s non-toxic. Acrylic paints are water-based and can be applied to both porous and non-porous surfaces. However, you must apply an undercoat to make the paint adhere to the nails. 

Also, a top coat is required to hold the paint for a long time. So that was a short answer to “can you use acrylic paint as nail polish”? Let’s get into the details and find out what makes nail polish and acrylic paints different. We will also discuss how to apply acrylic paint to your nails and make the color last for weeks.

What Happens If You Use Acrylic Paint As Nail Polish?

The next sections will discuss the consequences of using acrylic paint as nail polish.

Natural Nails

Acrylic paint doesn’t contain any toxic chemicals to harm your natural nails severely. But letting acrylic paint get ingested never was an option. 

If applied on skin or mouth, acrylic paint can be harmful (if the user is allergic to any of the chemical or ingredient). Plus, using big drops of acrylic paint on nails won’t give desired outcomes or matte finish. 

Other than that there’s no harm in using acrylic paint on your nails. It dries quickly as well.

Gel Nails

Nothing will happen. For creating beautiful designs and a wide range of shades, professionals love to use acrylic paint on gel nails. Just make sure you use a top coat over the paint.

Acrylic Nails

You can apply acrylic paint as nail polish over acrylic paint; just be sure that the acrylic paint you choose is not toxic. And, before applying acrylic paint on the nails, it’s better to apply a traditional nail polish as a base coat; you’ll get a smoother surface to work with.

Acrylic Paint Vs. Nail Polish: A Brief Comparison 

Let’s compare the two products to see how they are different and what features the two paints share.

Comparison FactorAcrylic Paint Nail Polish
Drying Time20-30 minutes on average (depending on thickness it can go up to 2 hours)15 minutes 
Durability Up to three weeks A few days
Shades rangeDefinitely larger than nail polishes, you can mix acrylic paints to come up with different shadesMixing nail polishes isn’t a convenient option, obviously smaller than acrylic paints

Chemical Composition 

The chemical composition of almost all nail polishes consists of three main ingredients: a polymer (typically nitrocellulose), a solvent (ethyl or butyl acetate), and dyes.

Here, the polymer is a thin film that stays on your nails once the solvent evaporates. As for the dyes, they add colors to the nail polish.

On the other hand, the three main ingredients of acrylic paint include a vehicle/base (typically water), polymer binders, and pigments. Have you noticed the difference yet? Acrylic paint is water-based and doesn’t contain any solvents.

Nail polish requires solvents for fast drying and dissolving the polymer and dyes so they mix evenly.

Also, in most cases, the color of nail polishes comes from dyes, whereas acrylics contain pigments. 

Finish Type 

Most acrylic paints provide a matte finish when fully dried. On a canvas, the paint might survive a few months without a sealant or top coat. However, on your nails, it will only last a few days as long as it doesn’t come in contact with water.

Many different types of acrylics are available on the market nowadays, offering a satin, gloss, semi-gloss, high-gloss, shimmery, or metallic finish. As nail polish contains nitrocellulose, it dries to a shiny film. And it can last for a week or two without chipping.


As you’ve noticed, nail polishes are thin and somewhat runny. Typically, you need to apply multiple layers to keep nail polish from chipping.

The liquid solvent is responsible for its consistency and low viscosity. We consider the low viscosity an advantage since it allows nail polish to dry only within 15 minutes!

As for acrylics, most of them are thick and opaque. It offers greater coverage than nail polish, even if you apply only a single layer. However, soft-body and liquid acrylic paints of lesser viscosity are also available.

How many layers you’re using is always important when working with acrylic paint. Different surfaces may require a different number of layering. Here’s how many layers of acrylic you need on canvas.

You can change the thickness of acrylic paint by mixing water or an acrylic-compatible medium. Due to its thickness, acrylic paint can take 30 minutes to 2 hours to dry.

Required Removers 

As nail polishes contain alcohol, you can easily remove them from your nails with alcohol-based removers. Acetone, rubbing alcohol, spirits, and even a mixture of lemon and vinegar can be used to remove nail polish.

Acrylic paint is water-soluble, so you can wash it away with water if it’s wet. Once the paint has dried, it becomes water-resistant. In that case, you can use denatured alcohol to break the polymer chains and wipe off the paint from any surface.


Acrylic paint and nail polish have different physical and chemical properties. Nail polish contains solvents like alcohol, whereas acrylics are water-based. Nail polishes are thin and they dry fast, taking only 15 minutes. Acrylics are thicker, non-toxic, and fast-drying takes 30 minutes or more.

What Does Toxic Acrylic Paint Do to Your Nails?

Although all acrylic paints aren’t toxic, there are some. Toxic acrylic paints contain extremely harmful heavy metals like cobalt, zinc, manganese, camphor, and more. 

These little components not only can damage your nails but also can enter your body and build up heavy layers which are extremely dangerous for your heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs. Your skin would be in the most crucial phase in this case (can cause rashes, irritation and can even burn your skin).

How to Apply Acrylic Paint to Your Nails 

Now it’s time to learn the easiest and most effective way of decorating your nails with acrylics. Here are the steps you must follow-

Step One – Prepare Your Nails

First, clean your nails with an alcohol pad to remove dirt, grease, or oil.

Take a sanding band with fine or medium grit to remove the natural shine of the nails and prepare the surface. Sanding is a crucial step while working with acrylic paint. Here you’ll find the details about sanding acrylic paint.

Step Two – Apply Dehydrator and Primer 

Dehydrators contain alcohol and isopropyl acetate that removes all excess oil from your nails. Primers are used to increase adhesion and ensure a smooth finish and even coverage. So, you must use both these products as acrylics aren’t necessarily made for non-absorbent surfaces like our nails.

Remember, the dehydrator and primer must be clear and fast-drying. Let the products dry completely before you apply the paint.

Step Three – Prepare and Apply Acrylic Paint 

You can find acrylic paints of many different types in different forms, such as spray, liquid, and powder. You can choose any as per your needs, but we recommend the liquid form for easier application and more detailed artwork. 

Mix 30% water or an acrylic-friendly medium like airbrush medium or gloss to get a perfect consistency. Use a small brush to apply the paint on your nails.

Start from the top of your nails and slowly cover the bottom. If you want to apply multiple layers of different colors, let the first layer completely dry before applying another.

A hair dryer or heat lamp will help you make the paint dry faster. And that’s pretty much all you need to do. For a more professional approach, you can follow this video.

How to Seal Acrylic Paint on Nails?

Acrylic paint is highly versatile and can be easily sealed with products available at home. Here’s how to seal acrylic paint on your nails-

Using Nail Polish Coat 

Although acrylic paint and nail polish have different chemical properties, a top coat of clear nail polish won’t damage dried and cured acrylic paint. For this method, it’s recommended to leave the paint to cure for 24 hours. 

However, you can apply clear nail polish as soon as the paint dries on your nails. Again, use a small brush and apply multiple coats of nail polish to protect the underlying acrylic paint for a long time.

Using Hair Spray 

When you have nothing in hand, your hair spray can seal the paint for you. Although it’s not a durable option, it can protect for a week or more. Besides, hair spray is easier to apply than liquid sealants.

Make sure you spray the product from 8 to 10 inches away from your nails. Otherwise, the paint might melt or create lumps. 

How Long Does Acrylic Paint Last on Your Nails?

If you seal the acrylic paint on your nails, it may last for a few days. Otherwise, the paint will last at most a day or two if you don’t seal it properly. If you expose the unsealed/unprotected nails to water frequently in a day, the paint might last for a couple of hours only.

Remember that it’s not ‘acrylic nails’ that lasts as long as 6-8 weeks. The painting on your nails doesn’t last that long.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I mix acrylic paint and nail polish?

No, you can’t mix regular nail polish with acrylic paint, as the products have different bases. While the water in acrylic paint might coagulate nail polish, the alcohol base of nail polish breaks the acrylic polymer. 

Either way, one of the products will lose its chemical and physical structure, making it impossible to use the mixture on a surface. However, some gel nail polishes with acrylic-based formulas can be used with acrylics.

How to remove acrylic paint from nails?

You can use alcohol pads or acetone to remove acrylic paint from your nails. Let the alcohol pad sit on your nails for a while, and gently rub your nails with it. The pigments should break and wash off your nails instantly.

Similarly, soak a small cotton ball in acetone and place the wet cotton on your nails. For easy removal, you can wrap your nails using foils. Wait 15 minutes and take out the cotton, foil, and acrylic paint.

Is acrylic paint safe for the skin?

Almost all acrylic paints are marketed as non-toxic, so it’s safe for your skin. However, you should always wear hand gloves and wash off the paint on your skin to keep things completely safe.

Regarding the toxicity of acrylic paint, it’s worth mentioning that some acrylic paints might contain heavy metals and lead. Also, metallic and alcohol-based acrylics can cause skin irritation.

Wrapping Up! 

So, can you use acrylic paint as nail polish? There you got the answer. While choosing a paint brand, see if it contains any harmful chemicals. Also, you can ask the manufacturer if the paint is suitable for nail art.

Before you go ahead and use acrylic paint on your nails, do a compatibility test. Apply a small amount of paint on your nails to see if it adheres or causes irritation. If not, you can decorate your nails with all those vibrant colors.

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