Nail Equipment List: How To Get Started Doing Acrylic Nails.

So, you have decided to join the beautiful world of nails. First, let me say congratulations! The nail world is one of vibrant colors and anything you can imagine. This great globe is filled with creative nail artists, surely there is room for you!

Nail technology refers to the art and science of beautifying and improving the nails and skin of the hands and feet. In other words, nail techs are sort of like superheroes, and let me tell you, saving the world one hand and foot at a time is no easy task.  Howbeit, with the right, nail equipment list, you will have no problem finding your way into this vast community.

My obsession with nails began about a year ago. Watching countless hours of how-to YouTube videos had me feeling like I could do nails exactly like those nail techs in the videos. Like you, I asked myself, “What do you need to start doing nails?” Without hesitation or answering my question, I went straight to Amazon to find the cheapest acrylic kit they had.

Upon doing my very first set of nails, I was left extremely disappointed and almost discouraged, when my nails did not turn out as I expected. Between fighting to get the acrylic to lay and flow the way I wanted, to removing dried acrylic out of my brush, I had a time and I knew it could not be me. Of course, I watched way too many videos for it be me (it was partially me), but more so, it was the cheap products I was using.

 Having the proper tools makes a world of difference in terms of doing any major project. I do not know much about carpentry, but I doubt the professionals are using tools from Walmart. No offense to Wally World, but we do not want our nail tools from there. Trust me, I know how fun and exciting it is to buy hot pink, green, and purple colored acrylic and glitter. I am a fan of encapsulation myself, I love encapsulating gold charms, butterflies, and fruit slices, they turn out so pretty, but before we can get to do all the fun stuff, we need a thorough understanding of how to do nails. Which will provide us with knowledge of the proper tools needed as well.  

Now before you get all discouraged, I am going to offer, based on my experience, what you will need or a nail equipment list, to help get you started.

We’ll kick this list off with hand files. Hand files are an important tool when doing nails. There are different types and not every type of hand file is used for the same thing. Hand files are categorized by grit. The grit determines how abrasive the file is. The higher the number, the less abrasive. The lower the number the more abrasive. When working on the natural nail, I would suggest using a 180-grit hand file. Most hand files are sold with 100-grit on one side and 180-grit on the other. Look for hand files sold in packs; they are usually less expensive. I order mines from When working with acrylic a 180-grit hand file is not going to do the job. You will need a more abrasive hand file. I like to use an 80-grit hand file when filing down acrylic. I found it more efficient and less strenuous.

Buffers are used to smooth out the natural nail or nail enhancement, to remove any stretches. They have higher grit numbers and you can find these in packs as well. There are many types of buffers, but they all will get the job done if you are buying for quality. The buffers I like to use have two sides, one is more abrasive than the other, but both sides are meant to be used on the nail. For example, buff the nail with the side of the buffer that is more abrasive first (you should be able to feel which side is more abrasive), then flip the buffer over and buff with the less abrasive side. I prefer to get my buffers from

Buffers and 80 grit hand files

You are going to need a good set of stainless steel tools. Nail clippers, nail nippers, a cuticle pusher, and a good pair of scissors (if you plan to use nail tips). There are two types of nail clippers, one for fingernails and one for toenails. Fingernail clippers are small, while toenail clippers are a lot bigger. It is probably best to have both, although I find myself using toenail clippers to get the job done, as they are bigger and enable me to see a lot better. When purchasing these tools, you will want to get them from a reputable nail supply store. Professional tools are made to withstand multiply uses and the harsh conditions of barbicide. and have the quality you are looking for without breaking your wallet.

Cuticle pusher, toenail clippers, nail nippers, scissors, manicuring brush, and e-file bits.

With there being more than one way to achieve nail enhancements, you will need to decide if you are going to use nail tips or nail forms. I prefer to use nail forms, EP Beauty Supply has a good variety of quality nail tips and forms. If you decide to use tips, you will need nail glue as well.

Nail Forms
Clear and natural nail tips. They also come curved or straight.

So far, we have gone over a few details on how to get started doing acrylic nails. I know how much we want to rush to all the different nail colors, nail designs, and shapes, but we must slow down a bit because there is still more that we need.

The next product on our nail equipment list is our main course. This is really what you came for, the acrylic. Becoming a nail master is the goal of every nail tech. To put that acrylic on that nail so nicely it barely needs any filing that is love in the nail world and I’m here to tell you, you will not achieve that with just any old acrylic. Any great nail tech will tell you that without a good foundation, all that glitter and pretty artwork isn’t going to mean a thing, because those nails will not last. We will save that for another post, however.

Today we are getting our supplies together and we need a good core powder to get us started! Core acrylic powder is going to have the strength we need for our nails to last. Core powder is not the same as colored acrylic. That pretty neon orange, luminous yellow, and calming lavender-colored acrylic powder will not have the strength needed to stand on its own. It will need to be encapsulated with clear acrylic. When choosing core powder, I suggest starting with natural pink, white, and clear. Any of the websites mentioned previously will get you in the right direction.

When using acrylic powder, you will need monomer or liquid to go with it as well. I suggest pairing your monomer with its powder counterpart as they will work best together. You have the option of using an odorless monomer. This may be extremely beneficial to the nail tech that is getting started doing nails at home. An odorless monomer is essentially the same as the regular monomer, the difference is oil is added to the monomer preventing it from evaporating, which causes the familiar acrylic smell.

There is so much science and chemistry behind nail enhancements, it will blow your mind. One missed step and your artwork will come flying off your clients’ nails in no time and we do not want that reputation. Dehydrating and priming the nail are steps you do not want to miss. This step is applied before the placing of acrylic and it is especially important!  

Now that we have gotten that out the way, let us talk about brushes. I am sure at some point you have thought, “What kind of brush do you use for acrylic nails?” or “Can I use any brush for acrylic nails?” and I’m sure you are curious about size. Well, these are easy questions and I will be pleased to answer them for you. Nail brushes are either made of sable or kolinsky bristles. I prefer to use a brush that is made with kolinsky bristles. has a great collection of nail brushes. I love the one I got from them. It not only works extremely well it is also very pretty.

Size 10 acrylic brush
Acrylic brush with dappen dish

Nail brushes range in various sizes and deciding which one is best can be confusing. The more experienced nail techs use bigger brushes as they absorb more monomer which allows bigger beads to be picked up for the one bead method. I started off using a size eight brush. I currently use a size ten and it works for me. If you are a beginner, I suggest starting with a size eight until you get comfortable then work your way up.

Various size brushes

Earlier we discussed 80-grit hand files and how they are used to take down bulky acrylic. Thankfully, we have the use of electric files to help with this process. The use of electric files can be terrifying to beginner nail techs. No one wants to be known as the nail tech who cuts their clients. If the use of an electric file scares the daylights out of you, then no worries, you can use the 80-grit hand file to get the job done, but it will be more strenuous for you. The two complement each other well, but one without the other will still get the job done.


There are many styles of electric files, some ranging from inexpensive to expensive, but which ones are best? If you are serious about becoming a nail tech, I would recommend getting one of the more expensive ones, because you want an e-file that is not going to burn out on you. Some of the less expensive ones tend to burn out quicker with continuous use. The Nail Hub does an awesome job at explaining e-files and the bits that go along with them. I purchased mine from, it is very precious to me and I would not be able to perfect my nail shapes without it. The bits I use for my e-file are a diamond bit (natural nail), a fine carbide bit (reducing bulk), a course bit (reducing bulk), and an extra course bit (removing acrylic). All the websites mentioned above have quality bits.

diamond and carbide bits

All right, deep breath, we are almost at the end of our nail equipment list. The final item on our list is a curing lamp. The beauty world has advanced so much that long gone are the days of blowing hot breath on our nails to dry them. Now we have the luxury of popping those bad boys under a curing light, wait thirty seconds to a minute top, and we are dry and ready to go. Now I know we did not go over gel polishes as you do not necessarily need them to get started doing nails. So, why a curing light, well because I know that eventually, you are going to stumble across gel polishes. Even if you are not able to add gel polishes right now, a good shiny topcoat is a must to bring out those beautiful nails you have just finished. I purchased my curing light and few gel polishes from The Nail Hub, their products are quality. I will admit that they are more on the expensive side, but in terms of quality and your business, it is worth it.

There are less expensive curing lights on the market, but that usually means they are not as quality as the expensive ones. The problem with using a lamp of less quality is that your gel polish may not cure properly. The more pigmented gel colors need a stronger light to penetrate them.

Curing lamp

Now I know I said we were at the end of our list, but there are a few miscellaneous items you will need. Cotton balls, 2×2 wipes, alcohol, 100% pure acetone, hand sanitizer, paper towels or mechanic towels (the blue paper towels found in the auto section of Walmart), a manicuring brush, and cuticle oil. Whoa, that was a mouthful. When purchasing your acetone, you will want to check that it is 100% acetone. Most nail removers sold in retail stores claim they are 100% acetone, but they usually have an extra ingredient, denatonium benzoate. From my experience, acetone with denatonium benzoate is diluted and takes longer to break down acrylic. has 100% pure acetone and it works great!

There is no need to buy cuticle oil (unless you want to) when you can make it! Extra virgin olive oil, fractionated coconut oil, castor oil, sweet almond oil, all will make good cuticle oil. You could even come up with a formula and mix them, throw in a little fragrance oil and you’ve got yourself homemade cuticle oil. Imagine how fancy you’ll sound telling your clients you made your cuticle oil.

Finally, we made it to the end of our list. Yay! Now that you have an idea of the necessary nail tools, you are ready to begin your journey. Remember quality over quantity. You want products that will complement your work. Quality products make learning how to do acrylic nails a lot easier. You will be doing nails like a pro in no time!

I am not in affiliation with any of the company’s mentioned above. Everything said is strictly my opinion and I have not been paid for my opinion, nor do I receive any money if you choose to purchase from the above websites.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s