Wanna do amazing acrylic nails at home?
Then you need the right brush.
But buying acrylic nail brushes can be confusing 😕.
So I’m gonna walk you through everything you need to know before you buy.
We’ll talk size, shape, and technique to help you find the best acrylic brush.
To make it easy for you, I’ll recommend my top 8 acrylic nail art brushes too!
Can’t wait? Here’s a link to 8 amazing acrylic nail art brushes you can pick up right now!
Table of contents:
Let’s talk brush shapes.
There are a few shapes you could go with, but oval is the one that most nail experts (and enthusiasts like me) recommend.
Round brushes are old skool. They were originally used by painters.
A lot of nail techs use round brushes because that’s what they learned with when acrylics first came out.
Round brushes work really well for acrylic nails because they are great for blending and getting into corners.
There are some great round brushes on the market. But nowadays we have more tailored brushes that are perfect for acrylic nails.
Flat or square brushes are the easiest brushes to use. But I don’t recommend them for doing acrylics because they don’t hold much liquid monomer.
I find that a flat brush makes my nails super thick and I have to do a ton of filing to get them looking right.
Also, flat brushes aren’t great for sculpting.
The best shape brush for acrylic nails is an oval brush.
An oval acrylic nail brush gives you the best of both worlds.
Oval brushes are fully rounded at the middle (aka the belly).
They are also slightly crimped (squashed into an oval shape) at the ferrule or base.
The tip of an oval brush curves and has a pointed end.
Here’s what it looks like:
Because of its rounded middle, an oval brush holds just the right amount of liquid monomer. So you can make a perfect bead.
The pointed tip means that you can also easily get in close to the cuticle. You can also get right up to sidewalls without getting product on your skin.
Many nail techs will only use oval brushes. Because the shape makes it easier to create a flat surface to pick up powder and get the perfect bead.
Another reason nail techs love an oval brush is because of the rounded tip.
The tip shape means you can twirl the brush to get a nice thin tip for getting right to the edges and doing fine details.
Brush sizing works by number.
The bigger the number, the wider the belly of the brush will be.
Yes, nail brushes have bellies! It’s actually a technical term.
The belly is the thickest part of the brush (the diameter of the bristles).
Smaller brushes (sizes 6 to 9) are the easiest to work with and are often recommended for beginners.
Bigger brushes need more experience and a little practice to master but can save time.
For beginners, a small brush is better because smaller brushes give you more control.
A size 6 to 9 is perfect for when you are starting out (I’d recommend a size 8).
Most nail techs start out training with a size 8 brush.
This is a great size to start with.
A size 8 brush gives you a lot of control, so it’s easier to use, especially when you’re starting out.
Some nail technicians and DIY’ers stay with a small brush throughout their career. That’s totally fine.
But please bare in mind that the smaller the brush, the more beads you will need to complete each nail.
If you are using a smaller brush, you should opt for a 3 (or more) bead application method.
If someone is doing a 1 or 2 bead method, they are likely using a bigger brush.
As your technique improves you may want to upgrade to a size 10 or 12 so you can use less beads.
I’ll explain why in the next section, but first, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of using a bigger-bellied brush.
One of the major benefits of using bigger brushes is quick application.
Bigger brushes (in the 12 to 16 size range) allow you to get bigger pearls (aka balls or beads). So with a big brush, you can cover a wider surface area.
Most salons train their nail technicians to work with bigger brushes. This saves time and maximizes profits.
You don’t need to make as many beads with a big brush. So bigger brushes mean that you can do fewer pearls and can work more quickly.
It does take experience to master a bigger brush though.
With a large brush, you don’t have as much control.
If you’re not careful, you could end up with product on the skin. This can lead to allergies and nasty-looking cuticles.
Bigger brushes mean you can do nails quicker. So many nail techs (who need to be fast to make money) will upgrade to a larger brush.
Whether you are looking to take on clients or not, most nail experts suggest that you start with a size 6 or an 8.
Then move up from there as you get more confident in your application technique.
So far, we’ve talked a lot about the size of brush you’re going to need.
But how important is brush size really?
The truth is that you don’t need to worry too much about getting the perfect size brush.
Because the amount of liquid you put on your brush plays a huge role in the size of the bead you’ll create.
You can actually use a smaller brush to pick up bigger beads if you saturate the brush in enough monomer.
For example – If you use enough liquid, you can get the same size beads with a size 8 or a size 12 brush.
The reverse is also true, less monomer on a big brush will create a smaller bead.
Here’s a great youtube video that explains what I mean:
As the video explains, the amount of liquid is what determines the bead size.
With a little practice, you can actually pick up small beads with a large brush and vice versa.
With experience, you should be able to control the size of your beads (to a certain extent) no matter what brush size you are using.
Most acrylic nail brushes are made from either sable or nylon.
Sable is a catch-all term that includes brushes that are made from weasel, mink or ferret hair.
The best acrylic nail art brushes are made of Kolinsky sable.
Kolinsky sable is made from the tail of the Kolinsky – a species of weasel from Siberia.
Kolinsky sable is also used in fine art/watercolor brushes.
Kolinsky sable brushes are among the best quality brushes in the world. If you care for them well, they can last a lifetime.
Natural bristle brushes like kolinsky sable ones don’t clump. The product should glide on smoothly and easily.
Obviously, there is an animal cruelty issue here.
If animal hair brushes are not for you – don’t worry. I have included a high-quality synthetic brush in my top recommendations below.
You might be tempted, especially when you’re just starting out – to go for a budget-friendly brush or brush set.
But you could end up wasting your money and getting frustrated with bad results.
If you buy a poor-quality brush, you will never know if your nails are looking dodgy because of your technique or bad tools.
The quality of your nail brush is very important. It makes the application process easier and less stressful.
If your brush isn’t up to scratch, you won’t be able to get a tight, flat surface.
Poor quality brushes will separate (split apart while you’re painting on the acrylic). Bad brushes leave your nails looking uneven and lumpy.
If you’re looking for a good quality brush with a low price tag – I’d recommend this one from Modelones.
Modelones is a well known and trusted brand with nail DIY’ers, (more than one of their brushes made it into my top 8).
This acrylic nail brush is made from 100% Kolinsky sable and it has a liquid glitter handle!
This one definitely gets bonus points for being shiny 😍
This brush is perfect for beginners because it’s flexible and easy to use.
You can also do long nails with this.
It’s available in 4 different sizes (8, 10, 12 and 14). The link above will take you to the size 8 which is the best size for beginners.
It’s lightweight, feels comfortable in the hand and doesn’t split apart like cheaper brushes on the market.
It also doesn’t shed too much like cheaper brushes sometimes do.
- Super cute liquid glitter handle!
- Doesn’t break the bank
- Good quality for the price
- Good for doing long nails
- Easy to hold and use
- Doesn’t shed
- Easy to clean
- Makes a nice gift
- Does not have a cap to protect the bristles when not in use
- The Kolinsky bristles are not the highest quality available
- Acrylic can sometimes get stuck between the bristles
Looking for a long-lasting premium quality brush that you can count on? Then you can’t go wrong with this beautiful brush from Pana.
Pana is an extremely popular brand with both DIY’ers and professional nail techs.
Their brushes always get rave reviews. They are excellent quality and silky soft, so they’re a real pleasure to use.
This oval brush comes in 3 colors (clear, mahogany, and teal) and you can get it in sizes 6 to 22.
This brush has a hardwood handle and the weighting is just perfect. It’s very comfortable to hold and feels great in your hand.
This is a salon-quality brush made from the finest Kolinsky sable. This brush is flexible, durable and a dream to work with.
It absorbs monomer well. This means you can create beautiful beads that have the perfect liquid to powder ratio.
If you want a smooth, even and seamless application with no visible brush strokes – this is great.
Please note that there are some negative reviews of this brush! BUT they are mostly from people who failed to care for the brush properly!
So please make sure you clean it well before the first use!
To clean – give it a few gentle flicks to get rid of the starch (they put starch in to hold the shape).
Then dip in warm water and wipe on a paper towel.
Reshape and leave to air dry then it’s ready to use!
I like that you can see a complete size comparison and length chart before you buy.
- Premium quality
- Nice design
- Super soft bristles
- No shedding or clumping
- Nice hand feel
- Easy to work with
- Very fine tip point (great for getting to edges)
- Holds its shape well
- Glides on smoothly
- Good absorption
- Easy to pick up beads
- You can use the packaging for storage
- Easy to clean – even if you forget and have to go back later!
- Not the cheapest
- Requires proper care
This oval-shaped brush from Modelones has fantastic reviews.
It’s beginner-friendly and great value for money. Like most of the brushes in this line up, it has 100% Kolinsky sable bristles.
I really like the shape of the tip on this brush. It makes it so much easier to do sculpting and fine detailing.
This brush works as well as some of the more expensive ones I’ve tried.
It didn’t last as long as some of my more expensive brushes though…
I still think that for the price, this is a great brush for beginners and intermediates.
The handle is hardwood so it’s very sturdy and easy to work with.
Having a wooden handle also means you won’t slip if your hands get sweaty.
This Modelones brush cleans up well, picks up acrylic easily, and doesn’t split or shed.
- Works as well as more expensive brushes
- Keeps it shape after many uses
- Does not fan out or split
- Picks up acrylic well
- Nicely shaped tip
- Works as well as more expensive brushes but doesn’t last as long.
Do you want to keep your brush in a case or a drawer, or take it on the road with you? Then you’ll need a brush that comes with a protective cap.
Protective cases are great if, like me, you have a tendency to leave your brushes lying around.
I’ve ruined too many brushes by shoving them away in a cupboard. They bump up against all sorts of odds and ends and get bent out of shape.
This oval nail extension brush from NMKL has a hard plastic case. It also has a rhinestone handle for that extra bling!
Its Kolinsky sable, comes in sizes 6 to 12, and is great for beginners and professionals.
It goes on smoothly, holds just the right amount of liquid and is easy to master.
If you’re looking for a brush that works like a charm, can be shoved away without worry, and doesn’t cost the earth, this is a great one to go for.
- Protective cap
- Cute sparkly design
- Good price
- Comfortable to use
- Easy to clean
- Smooth application
- Nicely weighted
- Easy to use
- Holds its shape
- Doesn’t melt!
- The handle is a little short
- Not firm enough for some
- Doesn’t last as long as some of the other brushes on this list
This is a great little brush from Aokitec that comes in 9 different sizes.
You can get any size you like from a tiny 6 right up to a chunky size 22.
This isn’t the prettiest brush on the market. But the price is good and it does the job well.
There are 3 different color options for the wooden handle.
You can choose either:
- A plain black handle
- a gold sparkle handle
- or a multicolored crystal glitter handle.
The description on this one says oval/round which is a bit confusing. But the brush itself is more round than oval-shaped.
All in all this is a nice, soft Kolinsky sable brush that works pretty well.
At this price point, you can’t expect to get the finest quality bristles. But this brush does stay soft after use and it holds the monomer well.
It also comes in a plastic tube – you can store the brush in this to protect the bristles when you’re not using it.
It’s easy to use – so beginners and intermediates will be happy with this one.
- Comes in a protective tube that you can use for storage
- Stays soft after use
- Good value for money
- Acrylic doesn’t stick to the bristles
- Easy to get to the nail bed area
- Holds product well
- Not too heavy in the hand
- Easy to clean
- Good for polygel as well as acrylic
- Not the cutest brush design
- Tip shape can be a bit awkward for some
- Bristles are not the best quality out there
- Some people received an empty tube!!!
Pana has an amazing reputation in the nail world for making top-quality brushes.
Professional nail techs swear by them.
Their brushes are not only fantastic to work with, but they also look super stylish.
This salon-grade round Pana brush is a dream to use and it comes in 5 different designs!
All the brush designs are available in sizes 6 to 22.
Here are your color options:
- White handle with a blue swirl and pink ferrule (the ferrule is the metal part).
- Beige handle with a purple ferrule.
- White handle with a silver ferrule.
- Mahogany with silver ferrule
- Purple handle with a black ferrule.
This brush is suitable for anyone from a complete beginner to an advanced nail tech.
If you are a beginner, a great brush like this can make all the difference to how good your nails look!
It holds a lot of liquid so you can make nice large beads. It blends effortlessly which means less filing.
It’s also easy to get right down to the cuticle area.
This brush certainly isn’t cheap.
But Pana brushes are the best you can buy and with proper care, this one will last you for ages.
- Stylish designs with good color choices available
- High-quality Kolinsky bristles – soft and strong
- Great for everyone from beginners to professionals
- Extremely long-lasting (with proper care)
- Comfortable to hold
- Nice weight to it
- Easy to get into the cuticle area
- Holds its shape well
- Easy to clean
- No clogging, splitting or excessive shedding
- Requires proper maintenance. You need to know how to clean and prep your brush well before using if you don’t want to ruin it!
If you’re a complete beginner and you’re looking for a good brush set to start out with, this one from Kalolary is great value.
It comes with 2 mini glass cups (with lids) for storing your monomer and brush cleaner – which is really useful.
You also get 6 different brushes in sizes 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12.
Everyone’s nail beds are different. So having a few different sizes means you can play around and see what works best for you.
Or you can start small and work your way up to a bigger brush as you get more experienced.
The brushes in this set are of decent quality. They’re nice and soft, hold their shape well, and don’t shed too much.
- Good variety of brush sizes
- Good value for money
- Soft brushes
- Keep their shape well
- Good for beginners
- Comes with 2 glass cups for holding monomer and brush cleaning
- The lids don’t fit the containers very well (tops are a bit big and can fall off)
- The cups are not quite big enough for a full set (you’ll need to add more monomer as you go)
Vegan or feel strongly about not supporting animal cruelty? Then you’ll need an acrylic nail brush that lines up with your ethics.
This faux-Kolinsky brush is a high-quality synthetic option. It won’t weigh heavy on your conscience.
It’s a salon-quality brush (available in round or oval depending on the size) with a natural bamboo handle.
The bristles are synthetic nanofiber that does a pretty good job of imitating the real thing.
It’s easy to use, even for beginners – and it comes in a good variety of sizes (8, 10, 12, 16, 18, and 20 are available at time of writing).
- Vegan friendly
- Nice soft brush
- Keeps its shape well
- Good for doing long nails
- Easy to work with
- Doesn’t hold liquid quite as well as sable brushes
- Takes some getting used to after using real sable
Unfortunately, there are a lot of crappy nail brushes on the market.
Hopefully, this guide can help you to avoid them.
Although you do need a good-quality brush to complete an amazing set. You don’t need to spend too much to get a decent brush.
If you do go for a cheaper brush, then don’t expect it to last forever.
Cheaper brushes will usually need replacing more often.
There’s nothing worse than splashing out on a super fancy brush. Only to find you ruined it after the first couple of uses!
If you do decide to go for one of the more expensive brushes, it pays to learn how to prepare and clean your brush.
A great quality brush is a good investment, but only if you look after it.
I hope you found this guide useful.
Thanks for reading 🙂
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