Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Nails?

Can you use acrylic paint on nails? It’s a question many people ask themselves. After all, acrylic paint is available in a variety of colors. Plus, it may be cheaper per ounce than many nail polishes.

Yes, you can use acrylic paint on nails. However, you have to choose the proper type and use the right process. Acrylic paint can be toxic, so selecting a non-toxic version is a must. Additionally, you typically want to apply a clear base coat to protect nail surfaces.

If you’d like to find out more about using acrylic paint on nails, including natural nails, press-ons, and acrylics, here’s what you need to know.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Nails

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Nails?

Technically, you can use acrylic paint on nails. The paint will stick to a wide range of surfaces, including natural fingernails, plastic-based press-ons, and acrylic nails that you usually get at a salon.

However, acrylic paint isn’t designed to be put on nails. Some formulas may not go on as smoothly or thinly as you may prefer for nails.

Additionally, not all acrylic paints are non-toxic, even though they are water-based. Applying toxic acrylic paint to your nails could be dangerous.

Is Acrylic Paint Toxic on Nails?

Some acrylic paints contain toxic or dangerous ingredients. Generally, these take the form of various heavy metals, many of which are used as colorants in certain paints.

Introducing heavy metals into the body is dangerous. As they move through the body, they tend to build up. In time, and with the right quantities, accumulation damages organs like the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and skin. When enough damage occurs, serious complications can arise, including organ failure that can lead to death.

Lead, cobalt, copper, chromium, zinc, and strontium all make appearances in some acrylic paints. Cadmium, a colorant found in some red-toned paints, isn’t just heavy metal. It is also listed as a probable carcinogen. That means exposure to cadmium may have the ability to cause cancer. Plus, it carries the organ-damaging potential of other heavy metals, including possibly leading to organ failure.

Manganese is also used as a colorant. While having some manganese in your diet is a good thing, if manganese is inhaled, it can harm the nervous system.

Placing any toxic substance on your body comes with a risk. Since some acrylic paint is toxic, you don’t want to use those versions on nails.

However, non-toxic varieties of acrylic paint are designed not to be harmful. Putting it on your nails shouldn’t cause an issue unless you happen to be allergic to one of the paint’s ingredients. If you want to put acrylic paint on your nails, read the label to ensure that no toxic ingredients are present.

It is important to note that genuine nail polishes can contain toxic ingredients. Polishes that use dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, or toluene are technically toxic. Additionally, triphenyl phosphate, which is also found in many nail polishes, may be harmful.

However, nail technicians are primarily the ones thought to be at risk. They spend their days constantly breathing in nail polish fumes and coming in contact with the polishes, so their exposure level is much greater.

As with acrylic paints, there are non-toxic nail polish variants. Some have labels touting them as non-toxic. For others, you would need to read the ingredients list to determine if there’s any risk.

Can Acrylic Paint Damage Your Nails?

Whether acrylic paint will damage your nails depends on the ingredients. Generally, non-toxic acrylic paint won’t harm the surface of your nails. The ingredients were chosen because they are considered safe. Additionally, acrylic paint is water-based, so you can remove it reasonably easily.

Now, toxic acrylic paint should never be used on nails. Even if it doesn’t harm the nail’s surface, it could increase your odds of heavy metal poisoning. When certain heavy metals build up in the body, they can impact nail growth and health.

Will Acrylic Paint Stain Nails?

Yes, acrylic paint can stain your nails. The pigments in the paint may absorb into the nail surface, leaving behind a trace of the paint’s color.

Usually, your best defense against staining is a clear base coat. Not only does this prime the nail for color, but it also acts as a shield, preventing the pigment from touching the nail surface. This reduces the odds of staining, ensuring your nails are their typical color when you remove the polish and paint.

It’s important to note that traditional nail polishes can stain nails, too. Without a base coat, the pigments make leech into the nail, causing discoloration.

Can You Make Nail Art with Acrylic Paint?

Acrylic nails paint

Yes, you can make nail art with acrylic paint. In fact, it’s the preferred paint for many nail technicians who create nail art. It is easier to work with when you’re creating designs than many traditional polishes, particularly versions that are thicker than average.

Additionally, acrylic paint can dry faster than nail polish. This is ideal if the nail art features fine lines, as slower drying times could cause the paint to spread or smug, ruining the design.

Plus, acrylic paint is water-based, which can make it easier to clean up than nail polishes. As long as it’s hydrated, you can get acrylic paint out of brushes and off of skin with just water.

Typically, nail polishes are solvent-based. It features a polymer that’s dissolved in volatile organic solvents, in many cases, allowing it to create a film that bonds to nails. It can’t be cleaned up with just water in most cases, even when still wet.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint on Fake or Acrylic Nails?

Yes, you can use acrylic paint on various kinds of fake nails, including press-on and acrylic nails. Acrylic paint can bond with a range of materials, including the plastic that is usually in press-ons and the polymers you find in acrylic nails.

However, if you use acrylic paint on acrylic nails, you usually paint on a base coat of traditional nail polish first. This creates a smooth surface to work with and also seals the acrylic nail material, protecting it.

You can also use acrylic paint on gel nails. Like acrylic nails, a base coat of polish is usually painted first, creating a viable surface for nail art made with acrylic paint.

Can You Use Acrylic Paint for Stamp Nail Art?

Yes, you can use acrylic paint for stamp nail art. Stamping is just another approach for getting a design onto a nail. Instead of using a brush, it relies on a small design engraved into a plate. By applying paint to the engraving, you can transfer the design onto a surface with a quick press.

Generally, you need fast-drying paint when using stamps. That ensures the design doesn’t spread or bleed before it dries in place. Since acrylic paint is typically fast drying, it can be a suitable option.

Can You Mix Acrylic Paint with Nail Polish?

While you can use acrylic paint on top of nail polish, you can’t mix acrylic paint and nail polish. The two substances have very different compositions, leading to different chemical structures.

If you try to combine them, they won’t blend. Instead, the nail polish tends to clump, creating globules in the acrylic paint.

However, you can mix two nail polishes for custom colors. Similarly, you can mix two acrylic paints to craft unique hues. When you combine two of the same kinds of paint or polish, their composition is similar enough to allow the shades to fully blend, leading to a final paint that’s as smooth as the two original colors.

Can You Seal Acrylic Paint on Nails with Clear Polish?

Yes, you can seal acrylic paint on nails by applying a layer of clear polish. Once the acrylic paint dries, the clear coat will bond just as it would with dry nail polish. This protects the underlying color and designs from damage.

In fact, many people prefer to use a clear polish over acrylic nail art or paint. Acrylic paint typically has a very matte finish. If you prefer a nice shine or a glossier look, the clear polish can help you achieve that. Otherwise, acrylic paint alone tends to look a bit flat.

What Kind of Acrylic Paint to Use on Nails?

If you are going to use acrylic paint on your nails, stick with non-toxic varieties. This ensures that no potentially harmful ingredients are coming in contact with your skin or nails. Plus, it reduces inhalation-based risks, such as the breathing in harmful heavy metals that can happen with toxic acrylic paints.

However, even with non-toxic acrylic paint, it’s wise to use a base coat nail polish before applying the color. This seals the nail, creating a protective layer. Plus, it reduces the chances of staining, ensuring your nails are their usual color when you remove the paint.

How to Get Acrylic Paint Off of Your Nails

How you get acrylic paint off of your nails depends on whether it is wet or dry. If you want to remove wet paint, you can usually wash it off with warm water.

For very small amounts of non-toxic paint, you may be able to use your sink. However, acrylic paint can build up in plumbing pipes, causing blockages. As a result, you may want to use a rinse bucket. Then, when the water evaporates, you can take the paint residue and throw it away.

But if the paint is toxic, don’t wash the acrylic paint off in the sink. If you do, that allows the harmful ingredients to enter the environment, which can be dangerous. Instead, use a rinse bucket. Once your hand is clean, set the bucket aside and let the water evaporate. Then, you can remove the paint residue and take it to your local hazardous waste collection site.

If you want to remove dry acrylic paint from your nails, a traditional nail polish remover will usually do the trick. You can choose acetone or acetone-free variety, depending on your preferences.

Once you have the remover, soak a cotton ball, cotton pad, or similar item. Next, press it against the nail and let it sit for a moment or two. This allows the remover to start breaking down the polish.

Then, start wiping the paint off. It will bond with the cotton ball, removing it from your nails. Finally, if the paint is non-toxic, you can throw the cotton balls in the garbage. If it’s toxic acrylic paint, you need to take the cotton balls to a hazardous waste disposal site instead.


Ultimately, if you’re wondering, “Can you use acrylic paint on nails?” the answer is usually “yes.” Just make sure the version you choose is non-toxic, and consider using a base coat nail polish to seal your nail and prevent staining.

However, it’s never a good idea to use toxic acrylic paint on your nails, regardless of whether you use a base coat. Those ingredients shouldn’t contact any part of your body, as they can be dangerous. If you aren’t sure if acrylic paint is toxic, look at the label carefully.

Many non-toxic versions say they aren’t toxic on the label, though you can also review the ingredients list to look for dangerous substances. If you have any doubts, play it safe and don’t use that acrylic paint on your nails.