DIY Gel Polish Tutorial, Tips, & Tricks

August 4, 2015 separator DIY Tutorial

DIY Gel Polish Tutorial


My mom gave me a home gel polish kit for Christmas a couple years ago, and I’ve been using it pretty regularly ever since. I like having the flexibility to choose my own colors, designs, etc., and even though gel polish costs a good bit more than regular, it’s still a lot more affordable than twice-monthly gel manicures.

Over the course of all my home gel polishing – for myself and for friends, I’ve learned a few things that’ll help you make your mani last longer and go on smoother.

Today I’m sharing Gel Polish 101, so it’s just the basics, but I’ll be back soon with fun gel mani variations. What would you like to see/know/do related to gel polish? 

DIY Gel Nail Polish Tutorial Suplies



Supply list contains affiliate links. It won’t cost you anything extra, but I might get a small commission to help cover my blogging costs. Thanks for your support!

  • Gel polish starter kit – I use this one (on sale!).


DIY Gel Nail Polish Tutorial Step 1

1.   Clip your nails down if needed. File them into the shape you want, and then really thoroughly scuff up the surface just a bit with a buffing block. Gel polish won’t stay very well if your nails are super smooth.

DIY Gel Nail Polish Tutorial Step 2

2.   Use regular ‘ole drugstore rubbing alcohol to scrub off your nails and cuticles. This gets rid of the oils and filing dust and let’s the polish really stick.

DIY Gel Nail Polish Tutorial Step 3

3.   The first thing to keep in mind before you start polishing is that it’s easiest to do one hand at a time. So we’re going to do the following steps for one hand and then we’ll switch and do the other.

4.   Apply a thin, even coat of the base/top gel to one hand. Try to paint over the free edge of the nail just a bit, too.

Tip: Paint down to just above the cuticle. If you touch the cuticle with polish, it’ll peel away much sooner.

DIY Gel Nail Polish Tutorial Step 4

5.   Stick your nails under the LED light to cure. You’ll probably have to do your thumb separately, depending on the light you have. You’re ready for the next step when the light shuts off automatically.

DIY Gel Nail Polish Tutorial Step 5

6.   Paint on a thin, even coat of gel color. Paint over the free edge of the nail a bit.

Tip: The wonderful thing about gel polish is that it doesn’t ever dry without the light. If you mess up and paint your cuticle or the top or edge of your finger, just use a cuticle stick or one of your nails on the other hand to scrape it away. Always do this before curing under the light.

7.   Cure your first layer of color under the light.

8.   Add a second coat of color, and cure that under the light as well.

Tip: For the second coat of color, don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit. You can add a coat of gel glitter or a sheer shimmer on top!

DIY Gel Nail Polish Tutorial Step 6

9.   Top off the color with another coat of the clear base/top gel, and cure it under the light.

Tip: Some brands make a separate base and top coat. I prefer to use a two-in-one because it’s one less bottle to keep track of!

10.   Soak a cotton pad in rubbing alcohol, and really scrub each nail. This gets rid of the sticky residue that the gel polish leaves behind.

Tip: I know it seems crazy to attack freshly-painted nails with alcohol, but trust me. If you used the LED light, they’re dry! A swipe with alcohol is necessary to give them that shiny, mirror-like finish!


  1. I want a gel polish kit SO BAD! I’m actually in the process of ordering one through my aesthetician momma and can’t wait! This post is super handy

  2. I’m just. Wow. I can’t paint my own nails and stopped even bothering because my hands are always managled from whatever I’ve recently been crafting up, but I do love the idea of a DIY gel mani! Maybe someday I’ll take the initiative to not have man hands and give it a try. It looks awesome!

    1. Oh girl – I don’t even bother with regular nail polish anymore. I had always chipped it, spray painted over it, or somehow otherwise destroyed it within like six hours, tops. So I love this stuff because if I’m gonna spend the time painting them, I want that business to stay put!!

  3. Awesome! And I love your wrist tattoo, I have one in the exact same place 🙂

      1. Mine says “flow,” which is a concept in management literature (because I’m a HUGE dork) that’s all about finding and doing the things that engage and fulfill you. You can’t always be in flow because we all have other responsibilities in life, but it’s a reminder to me to build those things into my life and work as much as I can. I’d love to hear the story behind yours!

    1. You’re so right – what a fun way to spend an evening! You could do a bunch of color options and add popcorn and bubbly! <3

Comments are closed.