Nail strips, appliqués, stickers and decals can turn you into an artist—no paintbrush required! Nevertheless, there are a few techniques that can make the difference between dressed digits and dressed-to-the-nines digits. NCLA founder Elin Dannerstedt, who churns out fashion-forward wraps, shared these eight tips on how to get the best application for the longest-wearing nail designs.
Remove the Oil
Nails can be naturally oily, whether from wearing hand lotion or touching your face. Nail appliqués especially require that you clean the oil from your nail bed, which can be done by wiping nonacetone polish remover over your tips. Try: Cutex Non Acetone Nail Polish Remover.
Ace Your Base
It's hard to believe, but you should still apply a base coat to your nails when using appliqués. “Nail wraps adhere well to a clear base coat, which also protects the nail bed,” Dannerstedt says. Try: L'Oréal Paris Colour Riche Nail One Stop Base.
Size Them Up
Most nail appliqué sheets come with a large variety of nail sizes. “Before you jump right in, take a look at each of the sizes and shapes that come in your kit and hold them up to your nails to estimate the best size,” Dannerstedt says. This may take a little trial and error, which tends to be unavoidable.
Straight and Centered
It can be tricky to center a nail appliqué on a nail. Rather than eyeballing how to center it, ensure a side-to-side straight application by aligning the appliqué with one side of your nail (known as the “sidewall”) and then smoothing it down across the nail.
Mess Up? Peel and Reapply
What if you make a mistake? Can you start over with the same appliqué? In the case of nail strips that are made of real lacquer, they tend to be thinner and are harder to peel off and restick. With these, you may just have to start from scratch and grab a new strip. Thicker appliqués, wraps and decals usually allow you to lift and reapply, giving a little, which will eliminate imperfections.
Bubble-Free
See a bubble? Push it out! After pressing the appliqué onto your nail, yet before filing off the excess material, “just push out any air bubbles by pressing down and running your thumb over the appliqué,” Dannerstedt says. If you’re unable to eliminate all the puckers, don’t fret. Applying quick-dry top coat will help to ensure the bubble won’t cause lifting.
Refine the Edge
Naturally, nail appliqués aren’t the exact length of your nail, so you have to file away the excess. But sometimes shaping a strip can cause snags and tears. First, pull the excess nail appliqué taut, and wrap it around the tip of your nail. Then “file downward, removing the excess material while smoothing the edge of the nail,” Dannerstedt says. Use short strokes, and only file in one direction (down) rather than back and forth.
Seal Your Design
To guarantee a long-lasting appliqué, “cover it with a top coat to give it an extra shine while keeping it in place and protecting the design,” Dannerstedt says. Try: Essie Good to Go Rapid Dry Top Coat.

Photo: Courtesy of OPI, Sally Hansen, L'Oréal Paris and Maybelline