Can I Use a Paint Brush For Acrylic Nails?

Selecting a good brush is critical to having that perfect acrylic manicure. But what if you don’t have an excellent acrylic brush? Can a paintbrush work?

From a professional perspective, we wouldn’t recommend a paintbrush for acrylic nails. And since we know this is different from the answer you were looking forward to, let’s explain.

Can I Use a Paintbrush for Acrylic Nails?

Our go-to answer for this question? You can use a paintbrush for acrylic nails if the worst comes to the worst. But we don’t recommend it as it will give inferior results.

Paintbrushes are hard to control. So, you’ll end up with bumpy, uneven nails. And your nails will be popping off and lifting a few days in.

Instead of using a paintbrush, consider using an acrylic nail brush. It has the perfect size, shape, and bristles to ensure your acrylic nails stay in place for longer. A dotting tool or a toothpick would also work better than a paintbrush.

Tip: If you have to use a paintbrush, clean it thoroughly to eliminate any oils or turpentine.

Why Can’t I use a Paintbrush for Acrylic Nails?

Why do we, professionals, discourage using paint brushes for acrylic nails?

First, the type of hair used in making paint brushes won’t favor acrylic nails application. Often paint brushes will be made from either natural or synthetic fibers.

Paint brushes made from natural hairs tend to be too absorbent. As a result, they tend to quickly soak up the acrylic paint making it difficult to control your acrylic application. The result? Bumpy and unevenly painted nails are a recipe for nail lifting and pop-offs.

Synthetic paint brushes barely have an absorption problem. They could be a better choice if you use a paintbrush. But they won’t work well with acrylic powder and monomer. They won’t spread the paint as well as acrylic brushes, leaving you with an uneven manicure.

Secondly, paintbrushes will leave streaks and brush marks on your acrylic nails. So, in the end, you’ll have a raggedy-looking manicure. And trust me; your nails will pop off before the two-week mark when you’d predicted a fill-in.

You’ll also want to avoid a paintbrush due to its size. Paint brushes will often be bigger than acrylic brushes. This makes it impossible to achieve the precision you would with acrylic brushes. You’ll be left with an untidy-looking manicure.

What Kind of Brush can I use to do Acrylic Nails?

When this question comes up, we always like to pose a question back. What kind of effect do you intend to achieve on your acrylic nails?

A thin round brush will work perfectly if you want thin and clear-cut lines in your manicure. However, a flat brush will work best for thicker or broader strokes of color.

Brushes with round-shaped bristles will create soft edges. Flat bristle brushes, on the other hand, will create sharp lines.

You should also consider the surface area of the nail you are painting. If it’s a smaller nail, you’ll need a smaller brush and a larger brush for larger areas.

Another thing to note is the bristles used to make the brush. You should use a brush made from synthetic bristles. Such brushes are durable, and you won’t have to deal with a shedding problem when painting your nails.

You can also consider getting an acrylic nail kit with acrylic brushes. It will save you time, and you’ll have the right brushes for the set of nails you got.

If your nail kit doesn’t come with brushes, get an acrylic brush from the same brand of nails you’ll be using. A brush from the same brand has been created with the particular product in mind. So, you’ll never go wrong.

Acrylic Nail Brush Options 

You’ll be spoilt for choice when you go acrylic brush shopping. And this can be overwhelming.

But remember, getting the best acrylic nail brushes for your needs should be a priority. To help you achieve this, let’s look at the two main acrylic brush options.

1. Natural Acrylic Nail Brush

Natural acrylic brushes are made from soft bristles, mostly from animals. The softness of these bristles ensures no streaks or brush marks are left on your nails. So, you’ll have a polished manicure in the end.

We often get questions on the best natural acrylic nail brush. And from our years of experience, we recommend getting kolinsky acrylic brushes made from kolinsky sable hair.

They are easier to work with and are of superior quality. The kolinsky sable hair can hold acrylic liquid more effectively by allowing the product to collect in the brush’s belly.

Strong and flexible, kolinsky hair brushes retain their shape even when wet and can mimic how real hair behaves. Thus, they’ll help you achieve a more realistic manicure.

If you opt for these brushes, be strict with a cleaning routine. Otherwise, the brush may become stiff, rendering it useless when achieving a smooth manicure.

2. Synthetic Acrylic Nail Brush

Synthetic bristle brushes are mostly made from nylon or polyester. While their functions and way of working are similar to natural brushes, they tend to last longer. Their bristles are strong and durable and can take heavy use, hence their longevity.

Nylon brushes, in particular, are good for beginners since they rarely shed. But, if you are looking for a more flexible acrylic brush, go for a polyester acrylic nail brush. That way, you’ll have an easier time controlling the acrylic application.

Remember: You need to use an acrylic brush, not a paintbrush.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Acrylic Nail Brushes

The market today is flooded with so many nail acrylic brushes. And selecting the right one can get quite confusing.

So, what should you consider when choosing the best acrylic nail brush?

Size of the Brush

You’ll find that acrylic brushes come in different sizes (2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,18,20,22,24). And you are solely responsible for determining the brush size that will suit your needs.

If you are a beginner, you’ll want a medium-sized brush of either size 6 or 8. These sizes will be big enough to cover your nails yet small enough to allow you maximum control as you fix your acrylic nails. You can work up to larger sizes as you gain more experience.

Notably, the size of your nails and nail beds also influences the brush size. A smaller brush will be better for smaller nails to prevent over-painting nails with nail polish.

Form of the Brush

Another important factor to consider is the form or shape of the brush. Flat, oval, and round brushes all work towards that perfect manicure. And you are the only one who can determine which will work best for you.

But if you are confused, you can never go wrong with an oval brush. It will allow you to create intricate designs owed to its pointed tip. And you’ll also be able to close in on the cuticle without messing with the skin surrounding the nail.

We often hear comments on how flat brushes are easy to use. But they aren’t exactly a favorite. They won’t hold that much liquid monomer, which will mean more time spent on your acrylics.

And they are more likely to make your nails thicker. So, you’ll have to file them down to get the right size.

Consider getting a round brush that can blend your acrylics into the corners.

Brush Bristles

Lastly, remember to consider the brush bristles. We recommend getting an acrylic nail brush whose bristles are soft and flexible.

That way, you’ll have greater control while painting. And you’ll create clean and precise lines on your acrylics.

Substitute for Acrylic Nail Brush: What can I Use if I don’t have an Acrylic Brush?

Picture this: you want to fix your acrylics but can’t make it to your regular nail technician appointment. And on top of that, you don’t own the right brushes for acrylic nails. So what can you use as a substitute?

Before we answer this question, we always like to clarify this. Of course, nothing works better than an acrylic nail brush. But with no option left, here’s what you could use.

1. Regular Nail Art Brush

Regular nail art brushes are a good substitute. They are easy to control, allowing you to spread the acrylics quite well. However, the one thing you won’t like about them is their soft hair bristles.

So, you’ll find it hard to accurately paint your nails as you would with an acrylic nail brush.

2. Makeup Brushes

Makeup brushes have soft bristles that allow you to create the perfect strokes during your manicure. However, they are relatively shorter than your average acrylic nail brush.

So, when using a makeup brush, you must occasionally back away from the nail and look at it to compensate for the distance.

Tip: Go for synthetic makeup brushes, as they will be less likely to be affected by the monomer.

3. Natural Hair Brushes

Again, natural hair brushes have soft bristles, which will create a smooth finish on your acrylics. But, they can easily be affected by the liquid monomer, causing them to wear out much faster.

4. Toothbrush

A toothbrush is also a good substitute for an acrylic nail brush. It has soft bristles that allow you to create thick and thin lines during acrylic application. And its softness will keep any damage to your nails at bay.

But, it will be harder to control than an acrylic nail brush. You might end up with a messy-looking manicure.

How to Pinch Acrylic Brush

If you’ve got a round brush and want to reduce its roundness to an oval shape, here’s how you can do it.

You’ll need the following;

  • Plier
  • Round brush
  • Paper towel


  • Start by prepping your brush

Dip your brush in monomer, take it off and try to flatten it in all directions on a paper towel. Your brush is flattened enough when it sits on its most natural look with no split or sawed tooth edges.

Note: If it’s a new brush, remove all its resin as part of the prep.

  • Pick up the plier and set it 2-4 mm from the base of your brush’s bristles.
  • Gently apply pressure on the base and clamp down on the ferrule.
  • Remove the brush from the grip of the plier. Check if it has flattened enough. If not, repeat the process.

How to Clean Acrylic Nail Brushes 

No matter the quality of the acrylic nail brush you get, you’ll need to clean it regularly. Otherwise, it will end up clogged and won’t serve its purpose.

So, to clean your acrylic nail brush, you’ll need the following;

  • Liquid monomer
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Cleaning bowl
  • Your nail brush


  • Wipe down the nail brush using a paper towel and the liquid monomer. Be gentle to avoid damaging the bristles.
  • Fill your cleaning bowl with liquid monomer and soak the bristles. Ensure you place your brush at an angle to avoid messing with the bristle shape. We recommend soaking the bristles for about 24-48 hours, depending on the amount of leftover product.
  • Remove your brush from the cleaning bowl and rinse with hot water. Proceed to air dry it on a paper towel for one hour.
  • Re-soak your brush in fresh liquid monomer for about two hours.
  • Remove the brush from the liquid and air dry it on a paper towel. The brush will be clean and ready to use after about two hours.


So there we have it! You can use a paintbrush for acrylics, but it’s not ideal. With this product, your acrylics won’t adhere properly, and you’ll be dealing with a popped-off nail soon.

For that perfect manicure, invest in the best nail acrylic brushes. And if you don’t have one in reach, the substitutes for acrylic nail brushes can come in handy.

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