Acrylic Paint VS Nail Polish for Nail Art Details

Hello there and welcome to 25 Sweetpeas! Today we are going to explore whether you should use acrylic paint or nail polish for nail art! I feel like when I first started nail art I thought you could only use nail polish but that is not the case, you can use Acrylic Paint!  So lets chat about that, and answer all of the questions!

Most often if you're seeing detailed art on my nails I am using acrylic paint unless I say other wise. Acrylic paint is much easier to work with when it come to fine lines, details, and anything free handed. Also it won't ruin your brushes. If you put nail polish on a regular paint brush most likely your brush will never be the same because of the way you have to clean the brush. Before I realized I could use acrylic paint I went through many brushes and now I know that, I get to use the brushes repeatedly and they are still nice. When you put nail polish remover on a brush it tends to stiffen up and clump together. Now I am sure there are some special bristled brushes that you can get but chances are you will have to pay much more for them. So why not use acrylic paint. 

When you dab out some polish you end up wasting so much. While you are using it, it just sits there and starts to get goopy, and then when you go back to load your brush again it's too goopy. So you pour more out and that whole cycle just starts over. Squirting out some acrylic paint and having it sit there while you are using it you can still go back to load the brush and it will still be useable. Also with acrylic paint if it does start to get goopy you can add water to bring it back to life. Another thing is that if you are using acrylic paint you have more freedom to mix your own colors and or purchase every color imaginable. Another great thing is most often they cost less than a dollar too. Along with that, most craft stores have a coupon you can use as well so it makes it even better. In the drawer next to wear I paint I have my acrylic paints.

Some in bottle and some in little pods. I prefer the bottles now just because they are easier to work with in my opinion although I do have metallic ones in the pods and I love those! I got a full set of your basic colors to get started and I have been adding when I think of something. Really though with a full basic set you can mix what ever color you need. I think my most used colors are black and white! I have 2 of each so I don't run out because they are just so great to detail with.

The above picture is what I use to put what ever paint I am using. If I need a small amount I will use the higher spots and the little bowl like spots for mixing colors. It's pretty to simple to clean. I have found its best to just let the paints/polishes dry and then later pop them off. Doing it with soap and water can make a mess in your sink. :)

Now that you all know why acrylic paint is easier to work with hopefully you understand why many nail artist prefect acrylic paint for details! When using acrylic paint at first you may think it looks too textured or the colors don't flow well. So that is when you must put on your top coat. It will smooth the design out and bring things to life. I still do use nail polish for certain details. For example if you are using it with dotting tool that is fine. Plus if you are doing dots that's pretty quick paced so your polish won't dry up. Another design that can easily be done with polish is Cheetah print. Other than that I prefer acrylic paint. I remember when I first started using acrylic paint for details and oh my, I loved it! It seemed like so many more details were possible. I really feel like it opened me to another level of art. So if you haven't tried it, try it! I will try to make a post about some brushes soon! This past Friday I did show off my newest favorite brushes so if you want to hear a little about them you can here. Otherwise watch out for another Monday about brushes! Remember if you ever have any questions or requests let me know below and I will do my best to get back ASAP! :)

Happy Detailing!

~25 Sweetpeas 


Will it come off when I take my nail polish off with nail polish remover?

Yes, absolutely! Not a problem at all!

Do I need to use a top coat?

Yes! Most acrylic paint will wash off so you need a top coat to lock it it!

Do I need a special top coat? 

Nope, not really. I say not really because all top coats are different, so while it doesn't need to be "special" you will dine that the acrylic paint will really absorb some so you may need a few coats, and or some may be more prone to smearing your art! Its always wise to let your art dry and float your top coat to ensure it doesn't smear. 

How come with top coat its a little bumpy?

As I mentioned in the above questions answer, the acrylic paint tends to "absorb" the top coat. Not always but sometimes. So my best advice to this is to top coat more than once. Or use a "glitter top coat". Painted Phalanges has a Glitter Smoother that helps in this where it smooths out bumps and then you put on your fave top coat. Also before those were a thing I likes to just do a shiny top coat that I knew wouldn't smear, let that dry and soak in and then do a matte top coat which matte helps art show better in photos. 🙂


  1. Good info, thanks.

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! Glad you liked it! :)

  2. What is the brand of paint you find works best for you when painting on the nail?

  3. Have you had any issues with acrylic paint chipping?

    1. I have not! :) As long as you have a top coat on it will just behave like normal polish and just chip with the normal polish if/when it does. Hope thats helpful!

  4. Thank u so much for this info :)! Exactly what I was looking for

  5. Do you think using an acrylic paint varnish would work as well as a topcoat?

    1. I don't know actually. I've not heard of anyone trying that, so sadly I can't say!


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