A Guide to Nail Art Brushes

Creating nail art requires using the correct tools, and a set of nail art brushes is a great place to start. But with a bewildering variety of shapes and sizes available, which brush will help you create your favorite design? This guide explains the types of brushes and the best techniques and designs to create with them, as well as what to consider when buying them.

Detail Brush

Detail brush
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Detail brush

The skills:

  • Small details
  • Shapes and patterns
  • Lettering
  • Outlining
  • Characters
  • Logos

Your bestie: The shorter, stiffer bristles of this brush offer greater control for precise detail work. You’ll be reaching for this great multi-tasker all the time!

Striper Brush

Striper brush
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Striper brush

The skills:

  • Stripes, obviously!
  • Drag marbling
  • Plaid
  • Geometric patterns
  • Animal prints

Get the skinny: The long bristles help mitigate shakiness, creating smooth and straight lines.

Square Brush

Square brush
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Square brush

The skills: 

  • One stroke designs
  • Wide bands of color
  • Dry brushing
  • Color blending for gradients

On the edge: The flat edge of this brush makes it perfect for precise one stroke floral designs.  

Angled Brush

Angled brush
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Angled brush

The skills:

  • Crisp French lines
  • One stroke designs

Double duty:  Use it to clean up excess polish from the cuticles or sidewalls.

Round Brush

Round brush
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Round brush

The skills:

  • Flower petals
  • Covering large areas with color

Petal pusher: Try using this brush to quickly lay down some loose flower petals, and then go back in with a detail brush to outline and give them dimension.
 

Fan Brush

Fan brush
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Fan brush

The skills:

  • Wispy or feathered effects
  • Applying glitter or pigment
  • Brushing away excess glitter or pigment

Time crunch: The fan brush can be used to quickly and easily create horizontal lines across the nail. Just load up the brush, and drag it from one side of the nail to the other.

Pointed Brush

Pointed brush
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Pointed brush

The skills:

  • Wide stripes
  • Petals
  • Baroque-style flourishes

Try this: Start with more pressure on the tip of this brush, and then gently ease up as you move it to create a teardrop shape.
 

Dotting Tool

Dotting tool
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Dotting tool

The skills:

  • Polka dots
  • Leopard print
  • Scalloped edges
  • Fast florals

Ol' Faithful: Everyone loves a good dotting tool! Master this tool first before moving on to more difficult freehand work. 

What to consider when buying nail art brushes: 

Brush Shape

One of the most important things to consider when shopping for a nail art brush is its shape. You can achieve completely different nail art styles just by changing the brush that you use. A striper brush is long and thin, and helps to achieve straight lines, while a short detailer brush allows you to get in and shape the tiniest details with precision. 

Quality

There is a wide range of quality in the nail art brush market. There are sets that include 20 brushes for just a few dollars, while others can cost upwards of $20 for a single brush! When you're just starting out, it's OK to grab one of the value sets — this allows you to experiment and play with the brushes without fear of wasting your investment. However, when you start getting more serious about nail art, it may be worth it to spring for a pricier set. These types of brushes usually offer better control, a more comfortable feel, and longer lasting bristles. 

Bristles 

Nail art brushes can come with either natural or synthetic bristles, and there is a range of quality in both. Many nail art brushes today are produced with high quality synthetic bristles that are considered vegan and cruelty-free, as well as being acetone resistant and durable. 

Extra Details

There are other features to look out for when shopping for nail art brushes. Brushes that come with caps are a luxury that may be worth seeking out — you can store the brushes in an implement box, travel bag, or drawer without fear of damaging the bristles. Some brushes may also come in a carrying case or folded organizer, which can be helpful if you don't have a method in place for storing your brushes. And finally - don't forget about style! Many brushes come color coded to help you distinguish them from one another, while others come embellished with glittery handles or even a mermaid's tail on the end.