Using Nail Polish as Paint

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I have always been a fan of nail art, but I didn’t realize how versatile nail polish was until recently when I was trying to figure out how to paint a vintage glass bottle for a project. While researching and prepping for my project, I came across a webpage that mentioned using nail polish on glass. It got me thinking about what else I could paint with nail polish. I have quite the collection of nail polish, so I was excited to find some new uses for it! I put together this article in case any of my fellow crafters were in the mood to break out some nail polish and start crafting! 

Can you use nail polish as regular paint? You can use nail polish to paint fabric, wood, plastic, metal, canvas, glass, ceramic, and paper or cardstock. 

There are some things to be aware of before you start putting nail polish on everything, so I hope this post is helpful.

Is Nail Polish Paint?

Nail polish is a lacquer solution that dries to form a protective layer. Nail polish recipes vary depending on manufacturer and types, but, in general, they are made of organic polymer along with a variety of other ingredients. More nail polishes recently have been changing their formulas to do away with toxic ingredients, which is awesome. I just got a bunch of the Defy & Inspire line from Target to use with my toddler. 

Painting Fabric with Nail Polish

You can use nail polish to add embellishments and designs to fabric! You might be wondering why you would use nail polish instead of fabric paint for this. I have so many fun and unique shades of nail polish that just don’t come in a fabric paint. This allows me more creative freedom in my color selection. Also, many of my nail polishes have a glitter or shimmer to them, which could be a fun option for fabric crafts. 

If you want to paint a large area, I suggest using a paint brush dipped into the nail polish bottle, or even pouring some nail polish out onto a small plate and using a stippling brush to cover larger areas. You’ll need to work fast because nail polish dries quickly. 

To make sure the nail polish bonds to the fabric, use a hair dryer or heat gun on the paint for a few minutes. This will help to ensure that there is no peeling, cracking, or fading of the polish over time. 

You can wash your nail polish-painted fabric projects in the washer, but you may want to use the delicate cycle or hand-wash depending on the material. 

Painting Wood with Nail Polish 

Nail polish can be used on wood. In fact, nail polish is perfect for disguising scrapes and scratches in wood. I have used it on my kitchen cabinets, which are a dark cherry finish, and it does much better than the little scratch filler crayon or marker that the contractor gave me. Nail polish, once dry, will stick very well to the wood. You can even use a top coat on top to seal it in and give it a shiny look. 

I am not sure how nail polish on wood would hold up with regular cleaning with harsh chemicals like disinfectant. If it needs to be cleaned, perhaps try a wood soap and soft cloth. I have cleaned my cabinets with wood oils and soaps a few times a year, and so far, the nail polish has held up. 

Painting Plastic with Nail Polish

Here’s the tricky thing about using nail polish on plastic. Some nail polish can be used on some plastics. There are so many types of plastics out there. Think about all the plastic in your house: plastic bags, plastic toys, heat-safe plastic, plastic bottles, plastic wrap, flexible plastic, hard plastic, etc. Because there are so many variables when it comes to plastic, if you want to paint it with nail polish, it may involve some trial and error. Some plastics will work really well with nail polish, while others will melt or weaken when nail polish is painted on. 

The best way to find out if nail polish will work for your plastic painting project is to do a small tester spot. 

With that said, I heard from many model car builders that nail polish worked really well for their model builds! They appreciated the variety of colors to choose from, and found it very easy to work with. They liked that it provided a hard, fast-drying finish. For best results, model car builders primed their projects with a lacquer-based primer and thinned the nail polish with lacquer thinner. 

Painting Metal with Nail Polish

Nail polish works well when painting metal. I’ve seen some pretty creative metal crafts, decorated with nail polish. Jennifer at Smart Fun DIY used nail polish to paint her DIY washer coasters. They look perfect for summer! 

I have also used nail polish to paint the heads of keys to help me distinguish between them. Just be sure to not paint any part of the key that goes into the lock. 

For best results, before painting, clean the metal with acetone or nail polish remover. Do not attempt painting until the metal dries completely. If you try to paint too soon, the acetone will make it hard for the nail polish to stick to the metal, and it will steak and chip off very easily. 

Painting Canvas with Nail Polish

Nail polish works well on canvas. It shouldn’t need any priming or fixative for most decorative pieces. If you are covering a large area, it would be helpful to use a different brush to transfer your paint to the canvas as the brush that nail polish comes with is pretty small and hard to hold after awhile. 

One really fun way to use nail polish on canvas is to do a water marbling technique. There are some great tutorial videos out there, but all you need is cold water, a canvas, and your nail polish to create beautiful and unique masterpieces. What I love about this is that with so many colors of nail polish to choose from, you can create a piece to work in any space. 

Painting Glass with Nail Polish

Nail polish can be used to paint on glass, including mirrors. If you would like your design to be permanent, after it is completely dry, use a waterproof sealer over the design to protect it. Your project should be ready after 24 hours of dry time. I would also suggest cleaning your glass before painting and allowing it to completely dry. Any grease left on the glass might prevent the nail polish from sticking. 

You can use this technique to personalize so many things like drinking glasses, mason jars, or vases. I’ve seen some really creative glass window and mirror seating charts for weddings. Nail polish is a good option for decorating these. 

Painting Ceramic with Nail Polish 

Painting on ceramic with nail polish is very similar to painting on glass with nail polish. Brooklyn Craft Company has a great tutorial for doing the water marbling technique on ceramic mugs and planters.

They recommend sealing your project with dishwasher-safe Mod Podge. The pictures on this site show how dang cute this craft can be! I can’t wait to try it on some mini planters. 

Painting Paper and Card Stock with Nail Polish

Yes, you can use nail polish on paper and to add embellishments to your card stock crafts, but some nail polishes work better than others. It’s Me JD did some great tests with different nail polishes like confetti, holographic, and regular polish on paper and card stock. Her pictures really show how beautiful it can be, and which nail polishes work best. 

Nail Polish As Paint 

In this article, we covered many different different surfaces that you can paint with nail polish. We also talked about the popular water marbling technique on canvas and ceramic. Beautiful! That is probably my favorite use of nail polish on a surface other than nails. I bet you could even do it on candles, but I wouldn’t burn that section of candle in case of any toxic fumes. And, now we all know that model car builders love nail polish for their projects! I hope this inspires you to go out and be creative! Get crafting!