Press-on nails 101: How to Measure and Choose the Right Size

Completely confused about press-on nail sizes?

You are not alone!

When I first started buying press-on nails, I was clueless.

But since then I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks to get the perfect size press-on acrylics for my nails.

I’m going to share what I’ve learned in this post.

So let’s get straight to it.

Press on nails are quick, easy, convenient, and stunningly beautiful.

But there’s no way around it, you gotta do a little work to nail down the sizing.

I’ve put together this post to help explain how press-on nail sizing works.

By the time you’re done reading, you should feel super confident about measuring your natural nails and about what size press on nails you need.

Do press-on nails come in different sizes?

Yes, press-on nails do come in different sizes.

Press on nail sizes are measured in millimeters across the widest part.

The difference between the width of individual nail sizes is usually 1 mm.

The thumbnail size is typically 2 mm wider than the next widest nail in the pack.

Press on nails usually have numbers assigned to them.

press on nail size chart

The numbers may be 0-9 or 1-10 for instance.

Each of these 10 numbers corresponds to the size in mm.

So for example, a number 4 nail measures 13 mm at its widest part.

A number 3 nail measures 14 mm, and a number 2 nail measures 15mm.

This is a pretty standardized system but some brands do vary.

What sizes do press on nails come in?

In a pack, you could get up to 12 different press on nail sizes.

Usually, you’ll get more than 1 of the same size in case you have 2 or more nails that measure the same.

The more sizes that come in a pack, the better.

Especially if you don’t know your size and you want to experiment with what works for you.

Typically, press on nails come in packs of 24 to 30 nails in 10 to 12 different widths.

The length and the shape of the nails is not as important as the width when it comes to sizing.

What are the standard sizes for press-on nails?

As we’ve seen, sizing for press on nails is all about the width.

The standard sizing for press on nails is outlined below:

press on nail sizes 1

0 = 18 mm

1 = 16 mm

2 = 15 mm

3 = 14 mm

4 = 13 mm

5 = 12 mm

6 = 11 mm

7 = 10 mm

8 = 9 mm

9 = 8 mm

As you can see, the smallest size is 8 mm and the largest is 18 mm.

If your thumbnail measures 18 mm or less, you will be fine using a standard pack of press-on nails.

Otherwise, you may need to order something custom from a site like Etsy for example.

Don’t worry, most people’s nails fit into this standard sizing system.

These standard sizes can also be broken up into 3 general sizes. They are small, medium, and large.

You will sometimes see nails being sold this way.

As a general rule, packs typically contain sizes organized something like this:

press on nail size guide

 L: 0-4-3-4-7 / 18mm / 13mm / 14mm / 13mm / 10mm

 M: 1-6-4-5-8 / 16mm / 11mm / 13mm / 12mm / 9mm

 S: 2-6-5-6-8 / 15mm / 11mm / 12mm / 11mm / 9mm

You may also see the press on nail sizes broken down like this:

XS – contains sizes 3-6-5-7-9

S – contains sizes 2-6-5-6-9

M – contains sizes 1-5-4-5-8

L – contains sizes 0-4-3-4-7

XL – contains sizes 0-3-2-4-6

What sizes should I use for press-on nails?

You should use the size that is the closest to your own nail when measured at the widest part.

Sometimes, you will find that you are between sizes.

If that’s the case you should always go for the one that’s slightly too big and file it down at the edges.

You may find that 2, 3, or even 4 of your nails are the same size, that’s absolutely fine.

Though you may need to purchase sets with more nails in them to ensure you get enough copies of the size you need.

Press on nail sizing – how to get the right size

There are a few different methods you can use to size up your nails.

Let’s go through them.

Use a sizing kit (or create your own)

There are plenty of different sizing kits available to buy online.

But you don’t really need to spend money on this unless you run a business and you want to hand pretty sizing charts out to your clients.

You can easily create your own sizing chart by following these steps:

1. Cut out a piece of paper or card into a rectangle. Make it big enough for you to write down the numbers of the fake nails that correspond to your thumb, index, middle, ring, and pinky fingers for both hands.

2. Try out the press on nails against your own nails and write the numbers 0-9 (or 0-12) of the ones that are the closest fit to each digit on the card.

That’s it, you now have a record of which press on sizes are right for your nails.

Sizing does vary between shapes, brands, etc so if you are a size 8 in an almond shape you may be a different size in a coffin or square for example.

Nail shape chart
Nail shape chart

Time for my next tip to help you size up your nails perfectly.

Use scotch tape

scotch tape to measure

This is really easy to do and it’s the most accurate method of measuring your own nails.

You’ll need some scotch tape and a pen (biro).

Stick a piece of scotch tape to your nail and push it down firmly so that it shows your nail shape.

Mark the widest part between the sidewalls using a biro or ball point pen.

How to measure nail

Don’t use a marker for this as the lines will be too thick.

Take the tape off and stick the tape with your markings on it to a flat surface (use your record card if you made one).

Measure the distance in mm with a tape measure or a ruler.

You can stick the tape to a card and note down the size and which finger it is so that you have all of your measurements together and you don’t have to do this again!

This is a more useful way to measure because this method works from the measurement of your natural nails and not the measurement of the fake ones.

This allows you to match up a variety of brands and shapes using your measurements.

How to measure press on nails correctly

Sometimes you might want to measure the artificial nail.

The best way to measure a press-on nail is to take your false nail and a tape measure.

Put the tape measure underneath the nail – this is important.

You don’t want to be measuring the top as this will change the measurements and won’t be as accurate.

You want to place the tape measure inside the curve of the nail on the underside and press down as you would to apply.

Then record your measurement in mm.

It’s worth noting that it’s much easier to see what you’re doing if you use a clear false nail for this.

You can then stick some clear tape to your real nail and mark the widest part of the sidewalls with a biro as outlined above.

Take the tape off and measure the distance between your markings with a ruler or tape measure.

Match the false nail size in mm to your natural nails and your nails should last a lot longer.

You don’t need the size to be exact, you can always file them down a little if needed.

Final thoughts:

There are a few different ways to size your nails, but the most accurate is to use scotch tape.

You can buy sizing kits, but it’s easy to make your own.

Press on nails vary in size depending on the shape, so it’s important to measure correctly.

I hope that this article has helped you to understand press-on nail sizes a little better.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. I would love to hear from you.


  • 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.