Foil Tutorial

A while back, I talked about how to get true metallic nails. Currently, there is no really mirror-like metallic polish on the market. There are some foily shiny polishes, but nothing truly reflective. Maybe in a few years, but nothing at the moment and I haven’t heard of any new polish breakthroughs on that front.

So the best way is to use nail foils. They are thin sheets of foil, almost like a Mylar balloon, that are applied over a layer of sticky nail glue. The foil comes off the backing and sticks to the glue. This manicure is not very long-lasting and will come off when the glue dissolves. It’s best for a party or event, as the foil won’t survive more than a couple hand-washings.

I got my foil from Transdesign, an online nail goods supplier.

Some readers asked for a step-by-step tutorial on the foil, so here goes:

Clean your nails and paint on the glue as you would a normal nail polish. It will be white in color and then turn totally transparent when it is dry.


Let the glue dry completely and do not touch it.

Cut the foil to fit each nail.


Then, lay it on the nail, shiny side up, and press down to smooth it out. You cannot reposition it.



Try to avoid wrinkles, but it will be difficult!

Use a flat-edged tool to smooth down the foil.Β  You can use a credit card or piece of stiff plastic.


Peel off the foil slowly from the bottom.

Then, clean up any mess on your cuticles and fill in any gaps in the foil by placing a fresh foil sheet over the blank area.


I heard from a reader that the special topcoat sold by Transdesign was no good. The foil will flake and sort of crack if any topcoat is added. I tried everything I had and the foil sort of broke up and became dull. I decided to add some Konad to this one to cover the imperfections. The foil is loads of fun, but will show any imperfections in your nails like crazy, since it is so reflective. So give them a buff first, and try to use a patterned foil since they are a little easier to manage than the mirror ones. You can also add some foil accents to nails over polish.

Here’s what I got when I added Konad:



To remove, use nail polish remover or soak in warm soapy water- the glue is very water soluable, so it will come off easily. Have fun!


About nevertoomuchglitter

Nail artist. Wanderer. I'm a color-holic, in fact, it was my love of color that brought me to the nail art world. Well, that, and the fact I was too cheap to pay crazy Japanese prices for nail polish while living in Tokyo, so I had to start mixing my own. That's how NTMG began.
This entry was posted in Konad, Metallic, NTMG Original Nail Art, Tutorials and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to Foil Tutorial

  1. Lucy says:

    These are such a fun looking manicure. Lots or work to do this. Shame it doesn’t last long. It wouldn’t work for me. I pee alot so washing hands so much the manicure would be gone. Too much information I guess!
    It is very pretty though. I like the Konad on it.

  2. Alexlyndra says:

    Good tutorial and nice looking manicure, it’s amazing!

  3. Deez says:

    It’s beautiful with the konad. This is a unique look and i think the konad will mask any sorta imperfections of application.

  4. Kae says:

    Thanks for the tut, the foils look great with that konad!

  5. Violet says:

    That looks fantastic with the Konad, it’s a pity it doesn’t last longer 😦

  6. tartofraises says:

    ooooooowww !! I have some foils me too and all my top coat crackle the foil 😦 …. But if we don’t apply top coat, the foil leave the nail in 2h…..
    I love foils !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    sorry for my english I’m french !

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Hi Tartofraises! My foil lasts about 6 hours, enough for a party or event. Try to keep your hands away from water!

    • Dodie says:

      I used another layer of the adhesive over the foil, let dry well, then an instant dry topcoat sealed it! No cracking or wrinkling!

      • nevertoomuchglitter says:

        Thank you for the tips- next time I foil, I’ll definitely give it a try!

  7. shirls says:

    hey. Thank you for posting this. How long does the foil last?

  8. shirls says:

    it looks like i somehoe missed your rntire first paragraph. Is there any way to use the foil with some other method so it would last longer? how is minx stay on for 1-2 weeks? What is their approach?

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Hi Shirls,
      Minx only lasts 2 or 3 days, from what I’ve read on reviews. They use heat to seal on the foil. It’s about $40 US.

      • kathy says:

        i have been getting the Minx to last up to 3 wks!!!On hands..and 2 months on feet which is to long.
        One secrect is to apply “liguid glass” by galaxy nails over the top before they leave and or tell them to put a top coat on later when they start to feel it get frizzy at the free edge. Give instructions on how to care for their MInx…;)

  9. So, did you put a top coat on it? Did you use Konad top coat?
    They look great in the picture!
    It sounds like foils may not be worth the hassle unless it is just wanted for a few hours (ex. party, special event) and then it starts to get ruined.
    Is that the case with your experience with them?

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Hi there,
      I didn’t use topcoat as it always “cracks” the foil. In my experience, it’s just not that durable and it’s a party-only thing. I’ve tried every topcoat I own to seal them, and nothing’s worked to seal them. The foil always looks antique or crackled after it reacts with the topcoat.

      • So, am I to understand that you did try Konad top coat and it crackled just like all the other top coats?

        Would you list all the topcoats you tried that crackled the foil, so we don’t waste our time and $$$ with them? I know of about three foil top coats that I’ve not heard mentioned in forums, so if we do process of elimination, we may find one that actually works.

  10. I’m wondering if they are so fragile because of the adhesive. Makes me wonder if a stronger adhesive were used if it would last longer.
    But then, it would probably not come off as easily. Too bad because this looks like so much fun for such a small length of time they will last.

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      The adhesive dries very sticky so the foil base will have something to stick to. I think if you added topcoat over it, it would clump because the adhesive wouldn’t stay put. Thee topcoat would probably not bond well with such a sticky surface. It’s worth a try, though, but these particular foils are never going to be durable.

  11. I wonder what would happen if you use the adhesive as a top coat…let it dry, then add a regular top coat. If the sealant doesn’t crack the foil underneath, then it shouldn’t crack it applied on top right?!
    I don’t have any foils, so could somebody try this and report please?!

  12. JS says:

    What about a clear UV sealer? Have you tried anything like that?

    The UV top coat sealers last for a few weeks, but I’m not sure how the foil would react to the sealer,………. and how would the foil react to the curing process…… it might shrink, or “melt” like with a standard top coat.

    I’d love to know how the UV idea works!

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Actually, that’s a great idea. I’ll give it a try. I do think that the solvents in the clear topcoat is what causes the cracking. I’ll give it a whirl and report back soon.

      • Jackie says:

        Please let us know about the UV sealer, if that works I will buy some as I love nail foils. The patterned ones used with the proper sealer dont ruin it is only on holographics that ruins the effect.

      • nevertoomuchglitter says:

        Oh, I forgot to update. The UV sealer worked OK, but not particularly well and caused some shrinkage on a couple nails.

  13. nevertoomuchglitter says:

    Just FYI to try and save some folks some trouble- here are the Topcoats that Damage Foils:
    1. Poshe
    2. Seche Vite
    3. Transdesign foil top coat
    4. Amour Topcoat
    5. Orly Tough Cookie, Sec’ N’ Dry, and a couple others I can’t remember
    6. OPI Nail Envy
    7. Out the Door
    8. Regular old generic clear polish

  14. Blackcat13pr says:

    Hello girls! I’ve been working with foils for years and everybody that sees my nails go insane (even men), they really really like them. Contrary to everybody, my foils last for weeks. Even though nobody else in my city work with foils I don’t tell anybody how I do it. In this case I will make an exception because just like you I spent endless hours trying to figure out a way to make them last longer; until I finally found it. Here it is: Instead of using the tacky glue recomended for the foils you will use a regular clear nail polish diluted with nail remover (acetone). You put it on your nails where you want the foil to go but instead of waiting for it to dry like with the glue, you will count 5 seconds and put the foil on top of the enamel. Also in contradicction with the glue you do not peel the paper inmediatly, you’ll have to wait a couple of minutes for the nail enamel to dry under the foil, then you’ll peel the paper fast. What happens is that as the nail enamel dryes the foil sticks to it. As for the top coat I only have problems with the foils that are AB (Irridiscent). For the rest as long as you apply the top coat in as little strokes as possible and very fast it’s be alright. Also I found out that the nails look better if you first apply a color to the nail to serve as background for the little spots you miss (black always work for me, it makes the metallic foils pop out much more. My last tip is to never apply “fast dry” enamel on top of the foil, put a regular clear nail enamel first and then put an airbrush top coat to seal everything. If you do all this voila! you’ll have to “die for nails” that will last for weeks and that everybody will envy. Well I hope this will help you in your quest for beautiful nails. Good Luck.

  15. Blackcat13pr says:

    Enough to make the consistency of the enamel very liquid but still tacky when wet

    • lgodiva says:

      iI meant to say how much of the remover to you put in? and sorry, but what do you mean by tacky?

      • Blackcat13pr says:

        Igova: by tacky I meant that the paper will still adhere. If it’s too “liquid like” the foil will not stick to it. It’s a trial and error.

  16. kathy says:

    Wow..i just was playing with the foils today and yes the top cots all ruined the designs..thanks for the tips black cat13pr. the foils are beautiful..but if they don’t last …what a waste of my time & the client. has anyone tried Rio foils? they have a 2 n 1 vanish they use from the uk. I don’t know if it works….anyone??? Thanks !

    • Blackcat13pr says:

      Hi Kathy: the “airbrush top coat” preserves the foil very good. For me it last for days and days. Again, it’s important that you put the top coat very fast and only in a few strokes. Also if you want the foil to last long and you don’t have the “airbrush top coat” you can put a very thin coat of acrilyc on it.

  17. kathy says:

    Blackcat13pr thanks for the reply.;) What is airbrush topcoat? Well, I orded the foil from Riobeauty in the UK. they have a topcoat that they say works….I’ll let you all know. I did try other topcoats..and it just melts the
    I will try the quick..few stroke method! Thansk Girls!!!

    • Blackcat13pr says:

      The airbrush technique is made by using an “air gun” with color and templates to make designs on the nail. The “airbrush topcoat” is a clear enamel that it’s used to prevent the “airbrush” designs to be chipped or faded. You wont find it everywhere though, the best bet to get this enamel is in the oriental beauty supplies stores since

  18. Blackcat13pr says:

    The airbrush tecnique is done by using a “air gun” with color and templates to make designs on the nails. The “airbrush topcoat” is a clear enamel that it’s used to preserve the image from fading or chipping. The color that it’s used to make the designs is not nail enamel and it will just wash off if it’s not protected. The airbrush topcoat prevent this. You won’t find it everywhere though, your best bet is on oriental beauty supplies since the technique is mostly done in asian nail salons. Word of advise: don’t use it as a clear top coat on top of dark enamels. It has a brillant hue, almost flourecent that will change the color of your dark polishes if you use it on top. But it’s absolutley beautiful on a french manicure. Anyway, good luck and let me know how the Rio Foils worked out.

  19. kathy says:

    Blackcat, thanks again..I will let you know how it works with Rio..;)

  20. Tripletoe says:

    Medea Brand airbrush varnish in two thin coats preserves the finish with no crackling.

    • Sarah says:

      is it the varnish you use before top coat or the wet gaze top coat? I want this to work!!!

      • nevertoomuchglitter says:

        Sorry, I’m not really clear on your question. First goes the adhesive, then foil, then a topcoat. But we haven’t found a topcoat yet that doesn’t cause the finish to crackle a bit.

      • Tripletoe says:

        I spray the two thin coats of varnish, then apply the topcoat, allowing the varnish to dry first.

  21. Helen says:

    Did anyone try the UV top coat? Did it work???? I love Holographic foils, but all the top coats i have used ‘melt’ the pattern – this is because the chemicals in the top coat react with the foils.

    • Diane says:

      Hi everyone, do not use a conventional top coat on foils, get a water based top coat, Aquarella or Suncoat are a couple of brands, these water based top coats do not make foils crack, crinkle or dull, there are quite a few brands of water based nail polishes, if you are in the US then you can get Aquarella or Suncoat.

      • nevertoomuchglitter says:

        Thanks for the tips- I’m not based in the US but maybe some readers there could give it a try!

  22. Cerise Rowan says:

    I copied this to read on a better back round, thank you for the samples and instructions, can I suggest… the small white fonts on a black background, may look stylish but are really really hard to read on the webpage. It’s a shame to have what looks like such a great informative page, illegible.

    • nevertoomuchglitter says:

      Hmm, this is a standard WordPress template. I’ve actually not gotten any complaints about the formatting before, sorry to hear that!

  23. lacquerish says:

    ok. thanks tripletoe! I’m going to do my first order from transdesign and I think I might get the varnish and the top coat if you’ve had that good of success with them! My BF has an airbrush and compressor. Will he get mad if I use his brush? does it have to be a special set up do you know? thanks for this thread! great comments and advice here ladies! ;0)

    • Tripletoe says:

      I only use my airbrush for nails so I don’t know about other applications. There is an airbrush cleaner product out there but I’ve never used it because I only use water-based paints. The varnish cleans up with water too. You might want to ask for BF’s help with the airbrush because you do have to learn the technique. Start with just water in the cup til you get the hang of it then move on to paint. It doesn’t take long.

  24. Mialana says:

    Hi folks
    Just adding a comment about sealing nail art transfer foils.

    There are a lot of foils on the market- notably holographics and bright metallics which are not really for foil art but being sold as such, and therefore you will get the bad reaction that some of you mention you are getting.

    It is the usual thought to blame the top coat, but it is the foil.
    There is no problem when using the non-metallic types, so there is an issue with the ingredients of these “bling” foils.

    A way around this is to apply a layer of the foil adhesive over the foiled nail, let it set, and then use the top coat.
    You’ve created a barrier. Then the foil will last a lot longer- up to a week unless your hands get excessive use.

    TIP…Make sure you seal over the end of the nail to prevent chipping.
    Hope this helps. πŸ™‚

    • Shwetha says:

      I tried that. It seems fine at first. But as the top coat tried, the adhesive layer cracked underneath. So I had a finish which was muted where the top coat came in contact with the foil and shiny in places with the cracked adhesive.

  25. Kelly Corder says:

    Seche Vite works very well. You just can’t let the brush touch the foil. Thin it with Seche Restore so it’s a bit thinner and use the brush to pull the topcoat around without touching the foil and you’re golden. I wish I could post photos. I don’t have a single crack on my fingers or toes.

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