Hand Painted Tropical Print Manicure – Tutorial



Summer is here, in name if not in theory! All the shops are filled with summer prints and bright colours inline with our change in season. Along that theme and inspired by some of the bright and tropical themes cropping up in the high street fashion stores, we have a tutorial on a tropical print.

Many people fancy trying their hand painting nail art but find it difficult to do so directly onto their nails, or are set back by their troublesome “wrong hand”. Here is a technique to get around those issues and allow you to experiment with hand painting your nails without the usual drawbacks.

First follow a standard manicure, base coat and two layers of colour allowing to dry completely, here we have gone for an off cream Barry M Coconut. When you are sure its dry we are going to do a gradient, but this is optional it is quite fine to place the painted films over a one colour base.

The gradient is created on the flat end of a wedged make up sponge using the same colour as the base and here slightly overlapping it with a pink called Dragon also from Barry M. Then roll the sponge over the nail once and move onto the next nail, by the time you have gone over all ten, the first will be dry enough to start going over one more time. Rolling and not dabbing is simpler as dabbing can cause crumbs of the sponge to attach to the polish.


tropical2When you have completed this process your nails will probably look a little messy, but its simple to clean away the polish from around the nail and finger with a cotton bud with nail polish remover and if you want to get super neat a small nail art detail brush and nail polish remover will get right in round the cuticles.

Then we have a clipboard with a piece of cardboard under it and a template of squares has been drawn on the the cardboard (a piece of paper is fine too) you need to make the squares big enough so that they would cover your largest nail, the thumb nail. Now this is where it will start to sound a little strange and you may think… what am I doing? But over that a sandwich bag is placed, not one of the thin ones with the sticky seal but the thicker reusable ones with the ziplock closure, these can be found cheaply in most pound shops. This is clipped over securely over the template.

In each square you fill it in by painting one layer coat of top coat, basically you are colouring in the square with see through top coat! A standard top coat not a fast dry like Seche Vite.

You allow the squares of top coat to dry, then you can begin your hand painted creation.

Use water based acrylic paint, its non toxic and works well on the nails. One thing to know first is that each colour you paint first will be at the front when you come to peel off later.

The first thing we did was to paint the black detail and allow it to dry, knowing that any colours painted over that would not come tropical3through it once it was peeled and turned over.

So have a try painting a tropical design, flowers of all varieties, leaves. Anything can go on here. A good thing to remember in painting is the varying size of the nails, the little finger has a much smaller nail surface then the thumb, so we don’t do all the flowers and leaves the same size. You will find this gives an even spread of the pattern, however some people do prefer to keep it all a uniform size, it’s a matter of taste.


You then leave the paint to dry and then cover each square again in one layer of top coat. Leave to dry thoroughly again. Once dry you will be able to peel off each square of film, start in the corner we use the other end on a Metal cuticle pusher gently to start the edge up, then you can very gently and carefully peel it away from the bag. Take care remember this is just a very very thin film your hard work is painted on. Turn it over and a much cleaner image will appear as what you have painted is layered, the flowers painted first are clear and the leaves painted after appear behind them.


Then look at the nail you are placing the film on and work out how you are positioning it, before you actually do it. Then paint the chosen nail with a thin layer of top coat carefully place the film on the nail good side up and smooth out from the centre of the nail, as you will see in the picture there should be a fair bit of surplus left around the actual nail this is normal. If you have acrylic, gels or as we have here and overlay on the nail, remember to put a thin coat of the top coat on the top edge of the nail as it will bring the pattern over and make the manicure last longer.


Then you need to remove the excess, this can be done carefully with the opposite end of a metal cuticle pusher called a cuticle knife, these are not normally sharp but you should still take great care doing it this way, with light pressure we have gone around the excess on top around the nail, the film sticks where the top coat is and not unduly where the excess falls so it can be teased away with ease if done slowly and with care. The other way is to use cotton buds with nail polish remover, it’s a bit more messy and will take a bit longer but is easier if you less confident. Repeat on all fingers.



When the films are on you should have great hand painted nail art on your nails. Now to fuse it all together paint each nail with another coat of top coat, normal is fine but a fast dry like Seche Vite will obviously dry quicker but often gives a more high gloss finish. On artificial or overlaid nails some people prefer to wait 10 minute then paint a second coat of fast dry top coat to finish. Remember to cap the edge of the nail with top coat too, to extend wear.


As always with nail art its good to manage your expectations, these skills improve with practice. If you don’t get it spot on first time please don’t give up! Give it another try. Also nail art like this on acrylic, gel, overlays and even done over a gel polish can really last a long time. On something like acrylic if done correctly a couple of weeks later it’s only where it starts to grow out it will look like it time for a new manicure. On natural nails it’s not going to hold out a long time, if you’re going for a night out, do it in the daytime before you go, natural nails even if prepared well and done correctly can just pick the worst times to chip or peel. So know what you’re getting.


Most of all have fun experimenting with what you paint, you can do anything, not just a tropical print!




About Author

Thirty something lover of brightly coloured hair and passionate about all things nails and beauty. Blogs at Beauty and The Beck Slayer.

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