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How To Airbrush Nails In Quick, Easy Steps

Last Updated on June 25, 2022
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written by nail expert Jess Rowley

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How To Airbrush Nails: Step By Step Guide

Looking for more ways to spice up your manicure? Looking to up your nail art designs game while adding a bit of fun to the mix?

Well, you’re at the right place!

I have researched and studying the technique to build a step-by-step guide to how to create the more intricate and beautiful airbrushed nails.

Airbrushing is a brilliant way to add fun designs and spice up your plain manicure, airbrushed nails are not painted like ordinary nails but rather sprayed instead.


Whether you want to spice up your next manicure, bored at home, and want to try out new nail designs then you have to stay tuned for this guide.

All you need is an airbrush nail gun, this guide, and a bit of practice.

Let’s jump in!


Firstly what are airbrush nails? 

With an airbrushed manicure, nails are not painted on with a brush but rather sprayed on using an airbrusher gun. Airbrushing nails allow your imagination to go wild, from french tips to intricate details or nail art designs.

This is the technique that involves spraying paint on the nails, using a hand-held airbrusher gun. It can be used for nail art designs or adding fun nail designs to spice up a plain and boring manicure.

These nail designs are built up with the right airbrush equipment and a little practice!

Learning how to use an airbrush gun:

Before we get started you will want to familiarize yourself with the airbrusher gun, if you haven’t used one before.

The airbrushing gun lets air in when the trigger is pressed and then the nozzle releases the paint in tiny drops once the trigger is pulled backward.

When the paint lands on a surface it creates a dot and the size of that dot is down to how far you pulled the trigger or how far it has to reach the nails.

More air pressure makes smaller paint drops and low air pressure makes larger drops, smaller drops also make a rougher surface, whereas larger drops make a smoother, wet surface.

The further away you are from the surface, the lighter the coverage. I would recommend trying this on a piece of paper until you get to grips with pulling the trigger and achieving the right coverage.

Remember practice makes perfect!

What is the best airbrush gun for nails?

If you’re a beginner, I would recommend getting a single-action airbrush kit. They are very easy to operate, all you need to do is press a button and it will release the paint.

They are ideal for beginners as they are extremely affordable and they still give excellent paint coverage on your nail.

They are ideal for doing the basic airbrush paints but they aren’t the best for intricate details if you want more detail I would recommend investing in a dual-action airbrush.

A dual-action airbrush kit was designed for precision and intricate detailing. They are better for more experienced nail technicians, as you have to control both the air pressure and paint flow during application.

They are ideal for fine details, precise lines, or extensively detailed nail art.

Step by step guide to doing your nails with an airbrush kit: 

Here’s what you’ll need: 

  • – An airbrush gun
  • – An air compressor
  • – A stencil of your choice
  • – Your desired topcoat
  • – Water-based paint
  • – Cleaning supplies and cleaning equipment like a cotton swab

Once you’ve got this kit ready to go, then let’s get to the fun bit.

Step One: Prepare the airbrush gun:

Once you’ve decided on an airbrush kit, you need to make sure that the kit has an air compressor, air stylist, and air hose.

The air hose is a long pipe that connects the airbrush stylus to the air compressor machine. Air travels from the air compressor to the stylus, mixing with the paint.

At each end of the hose, there is a screw-on connector, you can twist the screws and attach one end to the compressor and the other to the gun.

Before you start, make sure everything is clean and each part is connected tightly.

Step Two: Add the paint 

Once your airbrush gun is ready, select a water-based paint you want to use on your nails (don’t use regular nail polish as the formula is too thick and will clog the airbrush gun).

Some airbrush kits that are designed for nail art may come with nail paint, if not purchase some water-based paint from the store.

Once you’ve selected the paint you want to use, drop 4-6 drops of paint in the cup-shaped hole on top of the gun (most airbrush guns will have this) or the container at the bottom of the airbrush gun.

Step Three: Spray your nails

Before you get started it is good to get a bit of practice on some paper until you’re confident to do your nails.

Some airbrushes will have a rounded trigger whereas others will have a pointed one at the bottom, whatever one you have just hold the handle like a pencil and spray. 

For a dual-action airbrush, you will need to first release the air by pressing down on the trigger, then pull the trigger back to release the paint. A dual-action gun makes more detailed designs.

Keep the brush steady and spray the paint on, you can use different angles to give your nails different nail designs and effects.

You can also use stencils when you get to grips with the gun a bit more, to vary your nail designs and nail art.

To top it all off, use a top coat to seal in your nail art, so it will last longer.

nail polish pink

How to create nail art designs using an airbrush gun and stencils: 

You can also use stencils to create a gorgeous nail design with your airbrush kit and here’s how:

Step One: Protect the area:

Now airbrushing your nails is a fun but messy job, before you do your nails you need to make sure you have properly prepped the workspace you’re going to be working on.

You can use a newspaper or an old cloth to protect the space you’re working on, also be mindful of the walls.

Step Two: Choose your stencil:

When it comes to stencil designs for airbrushed nails the options are endless, you can use abstract patterns or even add shapes to your nails.

Stencils are super versatile and reusable, plastic stencils are better for being reused. You can even create your own nail design with a craft knife or hole punch.

Step Three: Apply a base coat to your nails:

First things first we need to apply a base coat, this will allow for a sticky surface for the paint to adhere to. Apply it as you would to your natural nails, applying a thin coat and letting it dry.

Make sure you check with the manufacturer of the airbrush kit, as some base coats may not adhere to the paint.

You can even apply a layer of white nail polish on top of your base coat, this will really make the colors and designs stand out.

I would also recommend applying either tape, a peel-off base coat, or liquid latex on the skin around your nail, this will keep your fingers clear of any paint.

A peel-off base coat may be best for this as it is non-invasive and easy to peel off, bringing the paint with it.

Step Four: Place the stencil on your nail:

Once you’ve chosen, place it on top of your finger and reposition it to the area you want the design. Some stencils will have a sticky side to make it easier when keeping them in place.

Make sure your base coat and white nail polish layer (if you’ve added one) is completely dry before placing the stencil on the nail as otherwise, it may smudge.

You can create cool designs by adding multiple stencils at different angles.

Step Five: Spray the design 

Once you’re happy with the positioning, then spray the water-based paint over the stencil to create the design.

I would recommend spraying on a paper until you have a good flow going, then spray on your fingernail, spray gently until all the stencil holes are covered.

Move your airbrush in a fluid motion to ensure even results. Once you’re happy with the design then move the airbrush away, while the stream is still flowing to prevent any uneven paint.

Repeat this on all your nails.

Step Six: Remove the stencil and apply a topcoat:

After you’ve finished all your nails and you are happy with the design then wait a few minutes and remove the stencil.

Wait until the paint has completely dried and then apply a thin layer of topcoat to your nails, I would apply two coats for extra protection.

The top coat seals in the paint and adds longevity to your manicure. You can purchase top coats specifically for airbrushed nail art, they add extra durability against chipping and fading.

Tips for cleaning your airbrush gun:

Cleaning your airbrush gun is super important after use as it can lead to clogging and other problems. There are lots of small spaces for the paint to stick to and dry which will affect the performance of the gun as a whole.

Washing after every use is a must, it will prevent the paint from drying in awkward places that we struggle to get to.

Here are some tips to help with the cleaning process. 

  • – I would recommend getting yourself a cotton swab, wire brush, or spoolie to clean the paint from the carbine drip bits and get into all the nooks and crannies.
  • – Use a squeeze top for the cleaner bottle, proxy brushes in different and a small cup,
  • – Don’t soak the whole gun in the cleanser, only wash the parts to brush off the excess paint.
  • – Set an hour after you’ve done your nails to clean the airbrush gun, it will make it perform better for longer.


Learning to do airbrush nails and designs is a skill that takes practice, precision, and creativity. After a manicure or two, you will become more familiar with the gun and that’s when the exciting designs come in.

From classic designs to a detailed, intricate nail art design, such as flowers, precise lines, and much more. 

It is definitely worth trying out, you may not get it right the first time but you’ll be spraying like a pro in no time! 

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[Review] in 2022  written by nail expert Jess RowleyCheck out the results fast - here are our review winners[dica_divi_carousel item_width_tablet="400px" item_width_phone="345px"...

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