Glitter Polish 101: How to Apply Glitter Polish Without a Sponge.

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Love shiny things? Want sparkly nails but don’t have a sponge handy? I hear ya. Don’t panic. Whether you want a subtle summer sparkle or a full-on festive look, we’ve got you covered. No sponges required. Let’s dive in and figure out how to apply glitter nail polish without a sponge.

How to apply glitter nail polish using a brush.

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Applying glitter to your nails with a brush is quicker, easier, less messy, and more environmentally friendly than using a sponge.

But the downside is that’s is more difficult to get flawless even coverage.

A lot of times, the glitter gets wiped off by the brush and you end up with patches where there’s no glitter.

This may be ok with you if the subtle sparkle is a look you’re going for.

But it just won’t cut it for those times when you need a full-on festive sparkle.

If you don’t want to deal with bald patches or uneven coverage, here are a few ways you can apply glitter polish using a brush the right way.

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Method 1 – the dunk and scoop.

  1. To get a nice even coat of glitter when you’re using a brush, the first thing you’re going to need to do is apply a basecoat, and color if your design has a base color.
  2. Next, dunk and wipe off the brush as you normally would.
  3. Right after you wipe, quickly position the brush on the inside of the bottleneck to catch the glitter as the clear polish dribbles back down into the bottle.
  4. Once you have scooped up all the glitter, apply it to the nail, and gently dab over any bald patches.
  5. Repeat as needed and finish with a topcoat.
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Method 2 – The dunk and dry.

  1. For this method, first, apply a base coat and an (optional) color.
  2. Then, dunk the brush into the glitter polish.
  3. Dab the brush gently with a paper towel to soak up the excess polish. (You’ll lose a bit of glitter, but you’ll still have enough left on the brush to put on the nail).
  4. Next, apply the glitter to the nail using the brush and repeat until you have a full, even coverage.
  5. Finish off with a topcoat.

How to apply nail polish using a Q-tip/cotton swab or toothpick.

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You may not have a sponge handy, but I’m guessing you probably have a pack of Q-tips in the bathroom, right?

Great, then you can try out this next method, I call it the Q-tip dip.

What a great tip for how to apply glitter nail polish without a sponge (see what I did there?)

Method 3 – The Q-tip dip.


This third method will give you a precise result and is the next best thing to using a sponge.

It’s quicker than using a sponge, but it might take a bit longer than just using a brush.

Here’s what to do:

  1. First, apply the base coat and color if you’re using color.
  2. Now, take a Q-tip and dampen it ever so slightly (use water or your mouth – whatever works for you).
  3. This will stop fibers from coming free and sticking to your nails.
  4. Next, use your nail polish brush to dab your glitter polish onto the Q-tip.
  5. Stipple the polish onto your nails until you are happy with the results.
  6. Seal with one or 2 coats of topcoat.

Method 4 – The toothpick stick.

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Warning! This method is extremely time-consuming!

It is also very precise.

So, if your chosen design requires perfect placement, or you want tidy gradients and clean-looking french glitter tips, you might want to give this a try.

The next method for how to apply glitter nail polish without a sponge is to use a toothpick.

  1. Prep your nails by applying basecoat (and optional color polish).
  2. Paint some glitter polish onto a piece of baking or wax-proof paper (you can use regular paper, but wax-proof is way better).
  3. Use the toothpick (you can also use a dotting tool for this if you don’t have a toothpick) to transfer individual pieces of glitter onto the nail – one at a time.
  4. Repeat until the sun goes down or comes back up again!

How to apply glitter nail polish without a sponge: apply loose glitter to nails.

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Buying an expensive glitter polish isn’t your only path to glamourous nails.

You can totally use any loose glitter you like to add some sparkle and shine to your manicure.

Which glitter should I use?

There are plenty of options when it comes to choosing which glitter to use.

You can either buy cosmetic glitters that are marketed specifically for nail or beauty purposes, or you can use craft store glitters.

Both works equally well and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

You can get very finely milled glitters (sometimes called glitter powders or glitter dust) on one side of the scale, and glitters with big chunky pieces on the other.

You can also get mixed glitters, which have a combination of smaller and larger pieces in the same or complimentary colors.

You should know that the cosmetic glitters (those designed specifically for use on nails) may keep their shine and color a little bit better than craft store glitters.

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This is because unlike craft store glitters, nail glitters have been designed not to lose any shine or color when a topcoat is applied.

The colors from some craft store glitters can also bleed into the nail.

The difference is minimal, but if you’re a stickler for maximum vibrancy and shine then there’s a small chance you might be disappointed with the result if you opt for craft glitter.

Once you have chosen the perfect glitter it’s time to start applying it to the nails!

The method that you use to apply the loose glitter to your nails is going to depend on firstly, your preference and what tools you have available.

It may also depend on the size of the glitter that you are working with.

Here are some techniques for applying loose glitter to your nails.

Method 1: Wet, scoop and brush.


This method works for any type of glitter but is especially good for applying fine to very finely milled glitters, powders or nail dusts.

If the glitter you are working with is very finely milled, the best way to apply it to your nails is to apply it over colored or clear wet nail polish.

Here are the steps:

  • Put something underneath your nails (like the lid from the glitter or a piece of paper) to catch any loose glitter.
  • Apply a thin layer of clear or colored polish as you normally would.
  • While the polish is still wet, use a metal cuticle pusher (these are the ideal shape for applying glitter in this way) to scoop up the glitter from the pot and drop it onto the nail.

You may need to scoop and drop several times, angling the nail for full coverage.

You should make sure that you get the glitter right up to the edges of your nail.

  • Once you’ve covered the whole nail, tap the side of the nail with the cuticle pusher to get rid of most of the excess glitter.
  • Use a soft brush to remove any remaining glitter from the cuticles and from around your nails.
  • Running a soft nail art or makeup brush over the surface of the nail will also help to smooth out any rough spots.
  • Check your handiwork.
  • If you are happy with the result, go ahead and put on a topcoat.
  • If not, you can do a second layer of glitter (using a clear polish) to even out the finish.

Method 2: The topcoat drop.

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This second method is similar to the first.

Except for this time, you are going to apply the glitter on top of a layer of topcoat.

  • Paint your nails as normal then when it’s time for topcoat, scoop on a layer of glitter using a metal cuticle pusher, the back end of a spoon, or any small implement that will get the job done.
  • Immediately after you put on the glitter, go over the nail patting down (gently) with a soft flat brush.

This will help the glitter to stick better so that you don’t get too many patches.

  • Add another layer of topcoat and more glitter if needed.
  • Use a small soft-bristled brush to get rid of any excess glitter.

Any type of small nail art brush, lip brush, etc will do as long as it has soft bristles.

  • Apply a final layer of glossy topcoat to seal and you’re done.

Method 3: The foil glue method.

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This method uses foil glue, which is nail glue that’s used to stick on foil stickers.

You can buy foil glue easily and cheaply online, it usually comes in a bottle with an application brush, just like regular polish.

Here’s what you need to do.

  • Apply a very thin layer of foil glue to the nail – you don’t need a lot!
  • Give it a little time (a few seconds) to become very tacky – check your manufacturer’s guidelines for how long you should wait.

Some nail foil glues are designed to change color, starting off white and drying opaque for example, and this can be a sign that it’s time to apply the glitter.

  • As with the previous methods, you’ll need to use a metal cuticle pusher or some other kind of small scoop to get the glitter onto your nails.
  • Gently press or pat the glitter down with your finger.
  • Wait for the glue to completely dry.
  • Tap off any excess and go over the whole nail with a soft brush.
  • Add one or two layers of topcoat for a smooth sealed finish.

Method 4: The nail dot spot.

This final method for applying loose glitter to your nails works best for big chunky pieces of glitter.

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It’s also a lot less messy than the other 3 methods.

If you need precise placement and a clean working space, then this is the method for you!

  • Paint on a regular topcoat.

If the topcoat you generally use is a fast drying one, you might wanna switch that out and use a regular one for this method.

  • Take a dotting tool, the kind you use for nail art, and dab it onto the individual pieces of glitter.

You shouldn’t need anything to help the pieces of glitter to stick to the dotting tool, they should just kinda stick on their own.

  • Transfer the glitter pieces to your nails, one by one, carefully placing them exactly where you want them.
  • You can always add a tiny bit more topcoat if it dries too quickly.
  • Finish as always, with a glossy topcoat.

How to do glitter nails at home.

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In addition to the four techniques for applying loose glitter listed above, there are also a couple of other ways that you can do glitter nails at home.

Let’s look at those techniques now.

For this method you will need:

  • A paper towel or some kitchen roll.
  • Clear nail polish, or a colored nail polish
  • Base and topcoat.
  • A soft-bristled brush like a nail art or make up brush.
  • Lots of shiny craft store or cosmetic grade glitter!
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Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Apply base coat.
  2. Take the paper towel and put it down on the surface where you will be applying the glitter.
  3. Paint either a layer of colored polish or clear polish and wait a few seconds until it gets tacky.
  4. Gently dip your nail into the pot of glitter. Roll the nail around to ensure complete coverage.
  5. Pat the glitter down gently with either a flat nail art brush or the tip of your finger.
  6. Use the soft brush to remove any excess glitter from your cuticles and the area around the nails.
  7. Once fully dry, apply a topcoat to seal and finish.

For this next method you are going to make your own glitter nail polish!

You will need:

  • A paper towel or some kitchen roll.
  • Clear nail polish, or a colored nail polish
  • Base and topcoat.
  • A mixing palette (or whatever works).
  • A toothpick or dotting tool for mixing.
  • A soft-bristled brush like a nail art or make up brush.
  • Lots of shiny craft store or cosmetic grade glitter!
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Here are the steps.

  1. As always, start by applying basecoat to create a good foundation and avoid staining.
  2. Paint your color on as normal and let it dry fully.
  3. Put down the paper towel to catch any mess.
  4. Take your topcoat and put a small amount (a big blob) onto the mixing dish or palette.
  5. Add a good chunk of glitter and using a toothpick or dotting tool, mix the glitter and the topcoat together.
  6. Apply the “glitter polish” to your nail and wait for it to dry.
  7. Finish with topcoat and that’s it!

Final thoughts and a couple of tips.

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So, there you have it folks, everything you need to know about how to apply glitter nail polish without a sponge!

Who knew that there were so many ways to do this!?!

I’d like to finish off by giving you a couple of tips.

  • First, make sure that you roll the glitter polish around in your hands before you use it. This helps to distribute the glitter throughout the polish more evenly.
  • Second, use a latex glue to get a clean finish around your cuticles.
  • And finally, don’t be afraid to mix 2 or more cosmetic or craft store glitters together. Get creative and experiment, who knows what masterpieces you can create!

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this article and that you found the information in it useful.

Now that you know how to apply glitter nail polish without a sponge, what are you waiting for? Go get glittery!


  • Phoebe Meadows

    Phoebe Meadows is a self-proclaimed nail addict, always on the lookout for the latest trends and techniques. When she's not creating stunning nail designs, you can find her researching the latest nail care products or experimenting with new techniques.