Nail Art Tutorial: Hand Painted Roses (Text and Photographs)

Hello gentle readers.

I hope that all of my fellow American Americans had a great Fourth of July Weekend. And that you aren't too sunburned.

I recently showed a nail art look that featured hand painted roses on the accent nail. One of my readers, Savannah was interested in a tutorial. I kind of promised it a little sooner than this, I'm sorry that it took me so long to get it up but here it is. At last. I hope that it is helpful to anyone who has ever wanted to try painting roses on their nails.

Hand painted roses are actually very simple. When I say this, I am not just blowing smoke up your skirt. I mean it. I have very little true artistic talent. I am creative but I can't draw or paint to save my life! So trust me, with a little patience and a little practice, you will soon be painting pretty roses all over your nails, even if you have never painted a flower in your life.

Before we get started, you will need some supplies. A nail wheel or some scrap paper for practicing, a couple of fine artist's brushes, one a little shorter and much finer than the other, a little acetone, a palette (I use a bit of foil, just use whatever you can drop polish out on to) and of course, polish.

When painting roses, I like the keep the colour palette fairly simple. Three colours for the flowers, two for the leaves. When it comes to colours, let your imagination run the show. Pinks, reds, yellows, creams and white, black and greys, blues, purples, lavenders... Three colours are plenty to create the dimension and form you want.


The supplies I used for this tutorial. I chose Be Happy, a soft sage green for the base. For the roses, Dark to light pinks in: Be Great, Pink Forever and Easy Going and for the leaves I used Athens and Greek Isles. 


First, paint your practice nail (s) or some swatches on scratch paper, your base colour and let it dry a bit. Next, put out a nice, fat drop of polish in your darkest rose colour and grab your larger of your two fine paint brushes.



Paint round-ish irregular blobs on the surface. This is not the time to get precise, the more irregular and imperfect the shapes, the better. Remember, flowers in nature are not perfect shapes, they are organic, living things and are irregular. Make sure that you fill in the blobs so that they are solid.



Don't forget to have a little acetone at the ready to clean up your brushes! This is my usual cleanup cup that I use all of the time when I do my nails. It is a cap salvaged from an old acetone bottle. Clean your brush for the next step in between each colour and any time you feel that the polish on your brush is getting gloopy or dry.



Put out another big drop of polish onto your palette. This should be the next lighter colour that you chose for your roses. Pick up a little of the polish on your brush and stroke it along the outer edges of the blob, starting from a "bottom" point (that can be anywhere, as you can see from the photograph) and up and around stopping short of meeting at the "top". Then you can do a little stroke then another little stroke, slightly curving, in the center of the blob, as you can see in the photo. Again, don't worry about these strokes being precise, let them be imperfect and look organic. You can go back over them, if you want to make them more prominent, you can make more strokes or fewer. These are your flowers, just feel it out, do what works, depending on the size of the flower and how much detail you want. Once you finish this step, don't forget to clean your brush.

Tinier flowers will require finer brushes and fewer strokes, larger flowers, larger brushes, more strokes.



Time to highlight! Put a small drop of your lightest colour out on your palette and grab your tiniest, finest brush and pick up a little of the lightest polish, drag some off on the palette surface so that there isn't a blob of colour on your brush, then, using a light touch, stroke the lightest colour along one side of the middle shade stroke lines like in the photograph, above. You can also go a little on the outside to further enhance the shape and make it look even more like a flower. If you need a little more polish at any time, just pick up a little more. Remember, don't go too heavy with highlight... It is meant to give light to some areas while the deeper tones make shadows that together create the dimension that make the eyes think they are seeing flowers. (At least, I think that is how it works.)



Once your roses are done, it's time for leaves. Put some of your darker green out on your palette and grab your larger brush, again and pick up a little of the deeper green then carefully paint roughly teardrop shaped leaves out from each blossom. Try not to overlap the flowers with the leaves. You can do as few or as many leaves as you like. As in nature, leaf size varies so don't get too hung up on size, just let it flow. With practice, you'll develop a feel for what suits you.



Now put out a tiny drop of your lighter green on your palette and using your finest brush, once again pick up a tiny bit and use it to crate a little highlight on the leaves you just created.



Let your creation dry for a few minutes to avoid smearing all of your hard work then gently float a coat of your favorite top coat on over your roses (I used Seche Vite, of course.). Let dry and there you have it.

Some things to remember:

You can do nail art with polish or with acrylic paint. I have never worked with the latter, I always use polish but a lot of people use acrylic paint. If you use paint, you just need water, not acetone for cleaning your brushes.

Practice, practice, practice! Painting roses is not difficult, it just takes a little practice! Once your fingers learn the moves, it is super easy. To avoid disappointment, don't paint on your nails until you have the technique done on your practice surfaces. Oh! And don't forget to practice painting with your non dominant hand, too! You are going to want roses on both hands, aren't you? I am VERY right handed and this technique allows me to paint pretty flowers with my left hand, light tremor and all!

Relax and enjoy yourself! Don't get all caught up in being "perfect!" Don't worry about painting photo-real flowers. This technique isn't going to produce those results. This technique will give you loose, pretty, soft, Monet-ish roses.

Clean your brush often and work with fluid, fresh polish. Polish in small quantities on a fine brush can dry quickly and get gunked up and it can drag, clot and be a problem. So, if it feels as if the polish is beginning to dry or feel slightly thicker, just stop, clean your brush in acetone, blot the brush and pick up more polish and continue. If the drop on your palette from which you are working is getting dry or thick, go ahead and put out fresh polish. You will get much better results from a clean brush and fluid, fresh polish.

Nail art should be fun! Don't tie yourself up in knots over it. If it doesn't come together for you on one day, clean up, put your things away and just do something else with your nails. Then, on another day, when you feel refreshed and inspired to try again, pull out your supplies and... Try again! That may be the day it all comes together. I have had that happen with roses, dots, glitter gradients... I just didn't give up.

I hope that this tutorial was detailed and clear enough to be helpful and that it will inspire you to try painting roses on your own nails.

If anything in this tutorial is unclear, if you feel that I left anything out or if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask, I'll try to help in any way I can. If you are an expert painter of nails and roses and have any helpful tips, tricks and techniques you would like to share, please feel free to do so. I am always open to learning something new that can make my limited nail art abilities better.

If you try this technique and do roses, please put a link in your comment, I'd love to see. I think that Disqus allows you to put a picture in your comment, or you can leave a pic on my Facebook page, the button to take you there is at the top of my right column.

Thank you so much for popping in and reading. Have a great day and stay cool, out there.

8 comments

  1. Awesome tutorial on this! I actually did a rose manicure before but its was neat seeing how you do them! :)

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  2. Greta tutorial! I'll try it soon :)

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  3. This is really cool!

    Also, quick question:

    You are American but you spell color as colour; are you originally from somewhere else, such as Canada or England? or is that just a personal preference?

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  4. Thank you.


    I am American. Californian, born and raised, now living in Arizona. Spelling colour that way began as an act of defiance when I was a kid. I was just getting in to reading English novels and fell in love with the way certain words were spelled by the Brits and decided to have a little fun with it when writing essays in school. One teacher, in particular took issue with it, marking me down on spelling, in spite of my assertions that I was spelling the words correctly. We went back and forth the entire school year and some of my grades suffered a bit thanks to my refusal to bend to her will to make me change my evil ways. LOL I decided to hang on to the spelling of "colour" because I like it and it is my little defiance. And, it's fun. :D

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