What is 3d Nail Art?

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  • Written By: Jessica Reed
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Images By: Neil Milne, Cisek Ciesielski,, Sakura
  • Last Modified Date: 31 December 2019
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3D nail art is three-dimensional artwork created on the fingernails. Typically, the design is created on acrylic, or fake, nails, which are then applied over the wearer’s natural fingernails. To create the designs, the artist adds colored acrylic to a mold using a paintbrush and waits for it to harden. Once the material is ready, the artist removes it from the mold and glues it to the fake fingernails. Non-acrylic options include gemstones and other materials small enough to glue onto the nails.

Flowers are one of the most common 3D nail art creations, and the petals and leaves stick up from the surface of the nail for a dramatic look. Many people choose to wear nail art simply because it looks different and attractive, although many use it for special formal occasions, like a wedding.

When designing the 3D piece, the artist starts with a colored background on the nail itself. This can be as simple as a clear coating for shine or a colorful coating with glitter for extra sparkle. The piece is added on top using a small amount of clear adhesive. Often, the 3D art is colorful and can be painted over with a clear or glitter top-coat of nail polish.


Nail art requires extra caution and care to avoid breaking the 3D creations off. While the pieces can be applied to real nails, they are often better suited to acrylics because the nails are stronger and longer, providing more room for the piece. When the wearer wants to apply the art herself, fake nails are much easier to work with than are her own fingernails. Nails can be pre-designed and sold to a customer, or the customer can pick the design before the nails are created.

Customers can receive 3D nail art treatments at professional nail salons or may choose to try the process at home. Treatment at a salon is typically more expensive than a standard manicure, and it be quite pricey, depending on the salon. The at-home cost varies widely depending on the cost of the chosen molds, acrylic material and supplies, and the fake nails. Nail art lessons and designs are available online for people who want to try this technique on their own.


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Post 9

@MikeMason-- You can use nail glue to apply 3D nail art. The important part is to never apply it directly on the nail. You need to apply at least one coat of nail polish first.

Also, make sure to apply the larger 3D pieces on the bigger fingers and the smaller ones on the smaller fingers. This will make the pieces longer lasting, they won't fall off as quickly.

I also apply clear nail polish on top of the 3D nail art. Clear nail polish can work as nail glue for smaller pieces as well. You can look at some nail art tutorials if you have trouble.

Post 8

My aunt went to Japan and brought back a Japanese 3D nail art set for me. It's really cute but it's in Japanese and I have no idea how to apply it. Can anyone help?

Post 7

I've been interested in 3D gel nail art for a while. I think some of them are really cute but others are kind of crazy. I don't like the ones that are cluttered with all sorts of beads, bows and glitter.

I like the simple ones with just one 3D piece on each nail or perhaps on one nail on each hand. Too much 3D stuff doesn't look good.

Post 6

@shell4life – I'm extra careful with my hands when I'm wearing 3D nail art. I do wear gloves when cleaning the bathroom or washing dishes, just to be on the safe side.

Whether I'm wearing 3D nail art stickers or specially molded flowers, I apply several layers of topcoat. I keep applying it until I can no longer feel any rough spots. Generally, three coats is enough.

If I'm wearing it for a special occasion, I wait until the day before the event to do my nails or have them done. I don't want to take any chances of ruining the art.

Post 5

I've read several 3D nail art how to guides, but none of them mention how long the nail art lasts. I've had problems in the past with my 2D painted nail designs chipping off before a week goes by, even when I have applied a top coat, so this makes me wonder how quickly something that sticks up above the surface would chip off.

Does the art tend to get snagged on things and ripped off, or is it fairly secure? Can you wash dishes with the nail art on, or do you have to wear gloves to protect it?

Post 4

@otatop – That sounds like a beautiful 3D nail art design! I saw a similar one online that reminded me of wedding décor.

The majority of the nail was painted light pink, but the tips were painted magenta. On a diagonal line across from one side of the tip of the nail to about a quarter of the way down the other side of the nail, 3D hibiscus flowers of various sizes had been attached. They were white with pink details on the petals.

Around the flowers, silver and white pearls and gemstones were attached. This nail art looked like something that belonged on the cake instead of the hands!

Post 3

I didn't know that 3D nail art supplies included an acrylic mold. I had no idea the process was so complicated!

I just always assumed that the art was backed with some sort of peel and stick adhesive. I've always admired 3D nail art, but I've never had any on my nails, because I like the feeling of smooth nails. Nail art is way too rough and bumpy for me, but it looks amazing.

Post 2

I want to learn how to do 3d nail art. Does anyone know where I can find a step by step nail art guide or DVD?

Post 1

For my sister's wedding I gave her the gift of 3d acrylic nail art. The base was light pink and the design was all in white. The nail artist created an effect of pearls and lace on each of her nails. They were absolutely stunning.

Our other sister thought it was a waste of money until she saw the wedding photos. The pictures of the cake cutting and toasting showed her nails off like they were works of art.

For anyone that needs bridal gift ideas, 3d nails are a perfect choice.

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