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Dots serve as the foundation for more nail art than you might think. Sure, there are speckled designs. But beyond that, you can use dots to create almost any shape or design you like. Of course, much like drawing the perfect circle is a challenge (to say the least), painting dots may not come easily—unless you have a dotting tool. This type of nail tool is exactly what you’d expect it to be; a tool that helps create even, perfectly symmetrical dots every time. It’s a nail art essential.
With that said, if you don’t have a dotting tool and still want to get dotty with your manicure, you can simply get crafty first. There are numerous nail dotting tool alternatives you can come up with by raiding your kitchen, junk drawer, or office supplies. Below, we’re naming seven ways to make a dotting tool at home. You can try just one or experiment with all seven and create dots of all different sizes.
Your kitchen is likely stocked with a whole box of toothpicks, and we’re sure you could spare a few for a manicure. Dip the tip of the toothpick into polish and press it onto your nail to create a dot. You can also cut the toothpick down, then dip it to get varied dots.
Design to try: Paint your nails white, then let the polish dry. Dip a toothpick into pink polish and create a diagonal stripe made up of dots across your nail. Put another toothpick in orange nail polish and create a second row of dots. Keep creating stripes, alternating your colors, until your nails are covered.
If you struggle to part with useless objects like pens that have long since dried out, we know a way to make them useful. Pick up nail polish with the tip of the pen, and suddenly, it’s a dotting tool.
Design to try: For a new take on gradient or ombré nails, bring dots into the mix. Create dots in varying colors, concentrating them at the tip of your nails. Keep adding more dots, but make them more sparse as you work your way down your nail. Ta-da, there’s your gradient!
Editor’s tip: Complete any manicure with hand cream to make it look even better. Trust us, dry hands don’t go well with nail art. We love the L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Hydra Nutrition Manuka Honey All Over Balm - Face, Neck, Chest and Hands.
Holding a pin by the pointy end can be a little precarious, but the opposite end is perfect for making bigger dots. To solve this problem, take a pencil and stick the pin’s sharp end into the eraser. Now, you can hold your new tool by the barrel of the pencil.
Design to try: When you see a beautiful drip design, you’re unlikely to assume it began as a bunch of dots, but it did. Start by painting the tip of your nails with your polish of choice. Then, using the same shade, place a few dots at the base and center of your nail. Pick up more polish on the tip of the pin and drag it across your nails to connect the dots to the color on your tips.
One of our favorite bobby pin hacks is to use them to create nail art. Bend the pin, and you can use the rounded end to make perfect dots every time.
Design to try: We created this chic cloud nail art using a bobby pin instead of a regular nail dotting tool.
It only tracks that if a pen can be used as a dotting tool, so can a pencil! Contrary to what you might think, a blunter pencil will work better to create nice, rounded dots.
Design to try: Paint your nails as per usual, then load up the tip of the pencil and start creating dots. To take your design to the next level, add another layer of circles on top. To layer dots without them covering each other completely, for your second round, put less polish on the pencil. Less polish means the dot will be smaller.
Unbend a paperclip, and you’ll have a new favorite nail art tool.
Design to try: Start with a half-moon manicure. This refers to nails with a semi-circle shape painted at the base. Now, we’re going to turn those half-moons into eyes. This design is perfect for Halloween. Pick up a lot of blue polish with the paperclip and use it to make a big dot. If the dot isn’t big enough, you can blend a few dots together into one. Then, dip the paperclip into a small amount of black polish and add another dot to the center—that’s the pupil. Finish with a top coat to pull everything together.
Last but not least, a thumbtack works great for creating small dots.
Design to try: The ultimate minimalist manicure features one dot at the base of each nail.
Next: 10 Modern French Nail Designs to Mix Things Up
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