Shellac Manicure: DIY Directions & Design Inspiration


Beauty bloggers and industry professionals alike have been buzzing for months about an incredible new manicure process with unbelievable benefits. While a Shellac manicure doesn’t look much different than a standard gel manicure, it doesn’t wreak as much havoc on your nails as its counterpart because its formula consists of a patented combination of polishes that are UV-cured and regular. Shellac manicures also have more lasting power than gel manicures because of the fact that the process includes curing and hardening the polish onto your nails under a relatively powerful UV light.

Official Shellac polishes and UV lights are only distributed by CND Cosmetics. Because CND typically only sells Shellac manicure products to licensed cosmetologists and beauty salons, it can be relatively difficult to get your hands on the proper supplies. While you won’t be able to buy official Shellac polishes or lights at beauty supply chains or your local big box stores, you can purchase them on Ebay and Amazon without a license, although polish shade options may be more limited than those offered within the beauty industry. Stores like Ulta, Sephora, and even Wal-Mart do carry other brands of UV lights than can be used in the process; if you decide to buy one that is not officially distributed by CND, make sure that its strength is at least 35W, or the curing/hardening process will not work properly and you’ll be left with a goopy mess on your nails.

While a Shellac manicure looks gorgeous and it can last for weeks, there are a few drawbacks to this type of nail process. For starters, it is undeniably more expensive than other types of manicures, even if you do it yourself, due to the cost of the UV light and special polishes. Because the process is a specialized one that requires certification to be executed in a salon, it’s also easier to botch at home and will likely require a few practice rounds before you perfect it. In addition, this type of manicure is not for those who like to switch designs on a daily or weekly basis, as removing Shellac polishes requires an acetone bath, which can weaken your nails if done too often.

If you’re able to afford it, getting a Shellac manicure in a certified salon (at least for the first time so you can observe the process) is the best route to go. With that said, here are some directions for how to pull off the process on your own and save big bucks:

  1. As with any other type of manicure, preparation is the first step. It’s important to clean, file, and cut your nails before you even think about applying any sort of polish.
  2. Slick your nails with a Shellac base coat of your choice and cure each hand for about 20-30 seconds under a UV light. Make sure to read the directions that came with your light, as it may have slightly different instructions than these, depending on its wattage. Tip: Apply a sunscreen to your hands before turning on the UV light in order to prevent them from getting burned. While CND Cosmetics insists that the UV rays emitted in the curing process are perfectly safe and are not cancer-causing, despite claims made in the media, you can never be too cautious about protecting your skin and nails.
  3. Apply a Shellac nail color of your choice and repeat the curing process, leaving your nails under the light for about two minutes this time.
  4. Apply a Shellac topcoat and repeat the curing process, leaving your nails under the light for about two minutes again.
  5. Wipe your nails thoroughly with a cloth or cotton ball coated in rubbing alcohol.
  6. When the time comes that you want to remove your Shellac manicure, you will need 100% acetone. While regular polish can be easily wiped off your nails, the curing process makes color adhere strongly to your nails, so you will need to soak your fingertips in an acetone bath for approximately 5-10 minutes to fully remove the product from your nails.

A Shellac manicure in a solid color is stunning on its own, but there are also plenty of design ideas that take the process to the next level. Check out these ten beautiful design ideas for inspiration:

Shellac Nails


Image Source: Andrea of Fox and Flats

While Shellac polish can stay put for about a month, your nails will undoubtedly begin to grow within that time, revealing bare cuticles and nail beds. Keep your nails looking polished and pristine by slicking the exposed area with a shimmery, sparkly polish until you have the opportunity to give yourself another Shellac manicure.


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Coating your nails with a soft purple shade of Shellac polish will look fabulously feminine, but you can take the look to the next level by adding purple craft glitter to your nails and sealing with a clear Shellac topcoat.

shellac manicure

Image Source: Shelby of The Apprentice Beauty Blogger

It seems like everyone has been trying out ombre-dyed hair this season, but if you’re looking for a less permanent way to experiment with the trend, try it out on your nails! Shelby of The Apprentice Beauty Blogger used Cakepop Shellac as a base and sponged her tips with Lilac Longing before adding a glitter topcoat to create this fabulous ombre style.

Shellac nails 1

Image Source: Nails Magazine

We have to admit we were a bit intimidated at the appearance of this marbled Shellac manicure, but it’s actually much easier to execute than it appears. Kristin of the Syracuse, Indiana, salon Studio Noveau painted nails in a pale pink hue and allowed them to dry before dotting them with red and white polishes. She then dipped a brush in alcohol and swept it over each nail before the polishes dried, curing them with a UV light to complete the Shellac manicure process.


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The Shellac sheen takes a simple French manicure to the next level, especially when embellished with gemstones on traditional white tips.


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If you’ve already mastered the art of a DIY Shellac manicure, coat one fingertip on each hand with nail glue and top with colorful glass beads for a three-dimensional pop of fun.

shellac french manicure

Image Source: Sue of Creative Nail Designs by Sue

This shiny polka dot design puts a retro-inspired spin on a conventional red Shellac manicure. Simply use red and white Shellac polishes to achieve the look.

shellac manicure at home

Image Source: The Kyiv Post

Get in touch with your dark side with this Shellac-tipped, all-black manicure. First coat your nails with a matte, non-Shellac polish in basic black. Then use a shiny black Shellac shade on your tips and cure them with a UV light to create an edgy contrast between the two lusters.

shellac manicure steps

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Salute your country with this patriotic Shellac design, which features the stars and strips of the U.S. flag. While this manicure could be executed with non-Shellac polishes, the lovely Shellac sheen seals and protects the look. Try it out with key components of your home nation’s flag!


Image Source: Mona of Studio Sparkle Nails & Beauty

While this shimmery charcoal Shellac shade looks incredible on its own, we especially adore the crackle effect shown on the ring finger’s nail. Simply add flecks of foil to the nail before curing with a UV light, as you would any other Shellac manicure.


  1. I was saddened to read this blog post. Shellac is no different to any other gel polish such as Artistic Colour Gloss or Gelish etc. they are all gel polishes cured under a uv light.

    Also acetone is less harmful to the nail bed than actually wearing gel or regular polish as it’s in constant contact with your nail & can weaken the nail. Acetone is fine to use as long as you rehydrate the nail after using it – cuticle oil that is plant & not mineral oil based. Have you not read Diug Schoon’s stance on acetone?

    Number 3 Doug Schoon’s just posted yesterday that any nail tech using craft glitter as nail art glitter is only ruining their client’s nails as the particles are much larger & harsher. And therefore more damaging to the nail plate.

    I don’t know where you were trained as a nail tech but I don’t think you were giving you the proper info to inform your clients with. I don’t mean to be rude but I used to be a teacher & am now a nail tech & believe you can never be given enough information.

    Thank-you for your fun nail art ideas.


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