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How to Do Nail Designs With Toothpicks

by Erica Loop, studioD

You don't need to spend the day at the salon to get an artfully designed set of nails. Instead of shelling out big bucks to have someone else paint decorative designs on your fingers, you can do your own nail art at home using polish and toothpicks. Even a novice nail artist can get creative and use picks as polish applicators, making simple polka dot patterns or striped designs. More accomplished artsy types can go for a complex type of nail decor and draw on small-sized thematic shapes such as Valentine's Day hearts or summer sunshines.

Choose a main or background color for your nails. Paint your nails with the base color. Allow your polished nails to dry completely before moving on.

Cover a paper plate with kitchen foil to make a palette for your secondary nail colors. Pick a pattern or design -- such as polka dots, stripes, zig-zags or hearts -- for your nails. Pour dime-sized pools of the the colors that you need for the design onto the foil-covered plate.

Dip one end of the toothpick into the polish pool. Wipe the excess off onto the foil. Draw your design onto your nails with the toothpick. Dot the toothpick over your nails to create a polka-dotted look, or drag it up and down to make stripes. Use the pick as a drawing tool to make hearts, diamonds or other shapes similar to how you would draw with a pencil. Wait for the polish to dry before you add to your design.

Add another color if you want a multi-hued look. Dip a new toothpick into a second, or third, color of nail polish. Repeat the drawing and design step to add to your overall nail look. Let your nails dry completely.

Paint on a clear top coat to seal in your polish and add shine to your color.

Items you will need
  •  Nail polish
  •  Clear top coat
  •  Toothpicks
  •  Paper plate
  •  Kicthen foil
  •  Sand paper


  • If your toothpicks are too wide to use for a more intricate type of design, grind them down with a piece of sandpaper. Grind down the end of your pick with a fine grain sandpaper until it reaches the desired thickness.
  • Try more complex designs as you get better at creating your own nail art. Go from polka dots to lettering or more elaborate drawings of flowers or butterflies.
  • Accent your toothpick nail art with a special sparkle. Pour a dime-sized pool of glitter polish on your foil-covered plate. Dip a fresh pick into the glitter, and draw on lines or more dots.


  • Don't touch anything until your nails are completely dry. This may cause your artful design to smudge and smear.
  • Wait for each coat to dry before applying the next one. For example, if you paint on a base, don't immediately add red hearts. This will cause the polishes to bleed into each other or smudge your overall look.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images