How to draw detailed designs on nails: Shading Technique

Here’s a tutorial on how to draw detailed designs on nails using the shading technique.

from Nail Up! March 2012.

Part 2: Line & Lace Patterns
Part 3: Flower Patterns
Part 4: Special Designs


Get these basics right to ensure top-quality shading designs later on!!


Basic Drawing Techniques!

Step 1: Dip a flat brush in water. Dab off any excess water using a paper towel.

Step 2: Results would be best if the entire end of your brush is evenly coated with water.

Step 3: Use your fingertips to press down the tip of the brush to flatten and spread out the brush hairs. A gentle squeeze will do.

Step 4: This is how your brush should look like after squeezing. As you paint and change colors and wash your brush, repeat these steps each time to prepare your brush.

Step 5: Take up a small amount of the acrylic paint on one corner of your brush.

Step 6: Slide your brush against a paper towel to blend the color evenly onto your brush tip.

Step 7: To draw a line, slide your brush along the surface multiple times, always going in the same direction. Keep going over the line until you get your desired gradient.

The 3 important points to note are: (1) spreading out the brush hairs, (2) blending the paint on your brush tip, and (3) drawing multiple layers onto each line. Let’s try out these techniques on paper first!!


Using 2 Colors!

Step 1: Take up 2 separate colors on different corners of your brush, and slide against a paper towel to blend the paint onto your brush tip.

Step 2: To draw, press down firmly onto the surface. Decrease the pressure as you move along, and gently lift the brush off to end your stroke.

Blending the colors on paper towels first helps you to create natural shading lines. Also, try varying the pressure you apply when you draw ♪


Drawing curves!

Step 1: Spread out your brush tip and take up some paint on one corner. Slide the brush against a paper towel to blend the paint onto your brush tip.

Step 2: Move your brush in a semicircle. Go over the same line repeatedly to create a gradient effect as shown.

Step 3: Continue drawing more curves. Make sure you take up the same amount of paint to draw each curve, so the color gradient of each is similar.

If the gradient created is not strong enough, go over the area with your brush very gently to add color.


Using multiple colors!

Step 1: Take up a good amount of paint onto a thin brush, and draw 4 flower petals as shown. Fill up the center of each petal with color.

Step 2: After the petals in Step 1 have dried, take up some paint on a flat brush and apply shading onto the center portion of each petal.

Step 3: Take up some paint of another shade onto your flat brush, and continue to shade.

Complete shading on all 4 petals. Using multiple colors of different shades helps to make the flower look 3D and life-like. (Blue, dark blue and purple were used here)


Creating edges!

Step 1: Take up a some paint onto a corner of your flat brush, and draw a heart. Go over any thin places repeatedly to create a solid gradient line.

Step 2: Take up some paint of another color, this time on the opposite corner of your brush, and paint around the outer edge of your heart. Lay your brush as parallel to the paper as possible as you draw.

Step 3: Paint the line as close to the outer line of your heart as possible.

Go over the outer line (blue) repeatedly to create a blended gradient. This technique of adding edges is good when you want to emphasize any lines!


Using gel to paint!

Step 1: Take up some colored gel onto a flat brush and draw some random shapes onto a nail coated with base polish. Allow to dry.

Step 2: Take up some colored gel on a corner of a French manicure brush, and draw curved shapes around the colored section to create petals.

Step 3: Continue drawing semicircles while moving in towards the center of the colored section to create whorls of petals. Allow each whorl to dry before starting work on the next whorl.

You can also create flowers like this by taking both colors onto a flat brush at the same time and drawing semicircles. Be sure to use a gentle pressure when drawing.