Home Nails Painting Nails Black – Ultimate Guide

Painting Nails Black – Ultimate Guide

by Gabbi
Black Nail Polish

Believe it or not, coloring your nails for aesthetic purposes has been around since 3,000 BC. Of course, our ancestors didn’t have brands like Essie and Sally Hansen to give their fingertips some flair. Instead, they used natural dyes derived from henna, egg whites, vegetables, and even beeswax!

Thankfully, we don’t have to put that much elbow grease into making our nails look pretty in this day and age. Getting our hands on our next favorite nail color is as simple as going to the store. With polishes so accessible, and with nail technicians so readily available, some of us change our nail color out on a weekly basis.

Among one of the classic colors to go for is black. It’s timeless, edgy, and goes with just about everything. But what else should you keep in mind if you decide to go dark side (at least, on your fingers that is)?

How do you paint your nails black? You need to know how to keep your nails healthy to have a strong base for your polish to lay on, how to apply the polish so you don’t accidentally stain your skin, and what looks and styles look especially good with black fingertips.

So before you crack open that bottle of black nail polish, read through our guide so you can make the most of your midnight toned mani!

Grow Your Nails Long and Strong

Remember that your polish will look better if it has a nice, healthy base to lay on top of- so proper nail care is definitely not a skippable step.

With gel and acrylic nails only gaining more and more popularity, it’s no secret that long nails are definitely in right now- and they probably will be for the foreseeable future.

Because of this, it’s easy to want to take the plunge and invest in an acrylic manicure. And while this is an easy, and quick, way to get lengthy nails, you’re going to compromise the condition and thickness of your natural nails. Of course, with proper care and treatment, you can preserve the healthiness of your claws, but some may not find it worth the risk.

So what can you do? Luckily, a lot.

Keeping Your Nails Healthy

There are a multitude of different ways you can keep your nails healthy, even if you’re genetically predisposed to having weaker nails, or if you’re trying to regrow thinned nails after using acrylics.

What Not To Do

First things first – you need to break some bad habits. If you’re a nail biter, invest in a nail biting deterrent. These are basically clear enamel nail polishes with a bitter taste to them. That way, if you bring your fingers up to your mouth and take a nibble, you’ll immediately be reminded that you’re not supposed to be doing it.

If you regularly use your nails as tools, you may want to take a break. While it may not seem like you’re doing a ton of damage at first, using your nails to pop open soda cans, as toothpicks, or during any other situation where you shouldn’t be using them can wear down the natural strength of your fingernails over time.

This is a harder habit to kick, especially if you’ve been doing it regularly throughout the years. To quit it, be extra mindful about your hands, or ask family and friends to remind you if they catch you in the act.

Don’t submerge your nails under water for long periods of time. If you hand wash dishes, invest in a high quality pair of dish washing gloves. This will keep your nails from being exposed to hot, soapy water- which can make your nails soft, making them prone to breakage.

Obviously, you can’t wear dishwashing gloves while you shower or take a bath (or you can, to each their own), so we recommend immediately drying your nails off with a clean towel immediately after leaving the tub. This will speed up the time it takes for your nails to harden up again, reducing the risk of potential damage.

What To Do

To keep your nails moisturized, buy a good hand cream – preferably something you can keep in your bag or your pocket so you always have it handy (our absolute favorite is this one from L’Occitane). Whenever you apply it, take extra care to rub the lotion into your cuticles.

Not only will this moisturize any new nail growth, but it will also promote healthy blood circulation to the area to ensure that your nails are growing in as healthily as possible.

When it comes time for a manicure, it may be in your best interest to buy some good quality tools. We mean, it may  be time to part ways with that nail clipper you have that you don’t even remember getting. Some products that you should definitely have on hand are: straight ended and curved nail clippers, a glass nail file, cuticle trimmers, and a cuticle pusher.

Use the straight ended clippers for your toe nails, and reserve the curved clippers for your hands – this will ensure you’re not spreading any bacteria to other parts of your body. You may already have a nail file or two in your manicure kit, but take our word for it – if they’re not glass, they’re not worth it.

Nail files are typically very grainy, and can wear down with just a couple of uses. The graininess of the file can very easily shred your nail, causing premature chipping or ripping. Glass files are fine, and don’t wear down, making them the superior choice for rounding out any sharp edges.


As for your cuticles – they deserve some attention too! Trimming down your cuticles is purely a stylistic choice, and definitely not necessary when it comes to your nail health. If you have thick cuticles, you can choose to trim them away.

Remember, this process should not hurt nor should you be digging into the base of your nail to trim. Do keep in mind that the cuticle is there for a reason, and that’s to keep bacteria out of your nailbed.

If you don’t want to risk potential infection, you can instead push them back with a cuticle pusher (like this professional-grade one from Amazon). That way, they’re still intact, but they won’t get in the way of your paint job.

Painting Your Nails

When you sit down to paint your nails, ensure that the surface of the nail is as dry as can be. You can achieve this with a quick swipe of alcohol or acetone (strengthening acetone is best, anything too strong can damage your nail). If you’d like, you can apply a nail oil (check out our article for The Best Oils For Cuticles) to the base of your nail and rub it in.

Should you apply an oil, make sure you wait at least 15 minutes for it to sink in, and then rub the surface of the nail dry with a cotton ball so that your polish has something to stick to.

If genetics come into play with why your nails may be brittle or soft, you may want to consider adding a Biotin supplement into your diet (we love this simple one from Nature’s Bounty). Biotin is a vitamin B supplement that can improve not only nail growth, but hair growth as well. It can also strengthen your body’s nervous system.

If you do decide to go this route, please keep in mind that this vitamin is water soluble, meaning that your body won’t be able to store it for long. That’s why it’s imperative to take these supplements daily; that way, you can see the best results. 

Painting Your Nails Black

While it may be tempting to apply polish on your nails right from the get go, you won’t get much life out of your polish if you do it that way – and black polish is one of those colors where chips and cracks are crazy obvious.

Instead, set some type out in your day to really take some time with your manicure. Make it a self care ritual, that way you can really pride yourself in your work! We promise, taking the time to do it right makes all the difference. 

Step 1

First, start off with a quick hand wash. Really scrub underneath your nails to get them as bright white as possible. Don’t be afraid to use some gentle pressure on the surface of your nails to make sure that you’re getting rid of any stubborn stickiness or grime.

Step 2

When you’re done, dry your hands off, taking extra care to ensure your nails are dry. Then, apply a lotion to moisturize your nail beds, but be careful not to rub the lotion into the nails themselves. We want to keep those as dry as possible.

At this point, you can apply the nail oil we mentioned earlier. 

Step 3

Using your curved nail trimmers, trim your nails down into the length you’d like them to be. If you’re a fan of a straight edge to your nails, we recommend buying a separate pair of straight edge trimmers than the ones you use on your toes. Be gentle with your trimming, and remember that it’s easier (and less painful) to trim too little than to trim too much.

Step 4

Once your nails are all down to shape, take out your glass file to smooth out any sharp edges. If you’ve cut your nails straight, make sure to round out the edges just a bit. If you like the look of a blunt edge, round out the corners sparingly. Too sharp of an edge can snag on your clothes or cut your skin, so be extra careful.

When it comes to filing, you may be used to grinding the edge of your nails down with a back and forth motion. Unfortunately, you may be ruining the natural grain of your nail with that habit. Instead, file your nails going in a singular direction- typically clockwise on the top of the nail. This will prevent ripping and chipping.

Step 5

Once your nails are shaped and sized correctly, you may think you’re ready to apply your black polish. But before you do, take the extra time to apply a base coat. Black polish is very pigmented, and can stain your nails for weeks after use, so while you should be using a base coat before each manicure, it’s especially important in this instance. 

A strengthening base coat (like this fantastic one from OPI) is a must, as it’ll keep your nails feeling strong and protect them from any accidental bumps, scrapes, or potential rips.

Spend a little extra on something enamel or keratin based, and you’ll be able to feel how much stronger your nails are from the first use. A lot of these polishes also double as top coats, so your nails can be extra strong. 

Step 6

Now, you can finally crack open the black polish (try this amazingly pigmented option from OPI)! When you unscrew the brush from the base of the polish, make sure you swipe any excess polish so you don’t flood your nail with color. Gently swipe a strip of black polish down the center of your nail. Don’t start right at the base of your nail, but instead just a touch above it- this will keep your manicure looking clean. 

 A lot of people believe that the first coat of polish should be thick rough to where you can’t see the natural nail underneath the color, but all this will do is leave you with a thick polish application that’ll surely smudge (and barely dry!). We’re here to clear up those rumors. It’s totally fine for the initial layer of polish to be thin- the proceeding layer will cover up any holes and inconsistencies.

After that first center swipe, do the same motion to cover up the left and right sides of your nail. Don’t be afraid to tilt your nail a little bit to make sure that the black polish reaches the side of your nail flush against your skin.

Repeat the application process twice to all of your fingers. Be careful not to smudge the polish onto your skin, but if you do flub up a bit, don’t fear – and don’t try to clean it up right away! Just focus on getting polish on all of your nails.

Another pro-tip we have for a seamless mani? Dip your nail brush into the polish and wipe off the excess as you usually would, but instead of applying the color to the surface of your nail, apply it to the exposed edge on the top of your nail. This will keep your nails looking neat and clean, and it’ll prevent the color from chipping too!

Step 7

After the polish comes the waiting game. You want to ensure that your polish has had time to completely dry before sealing it in with a top coat. Wait at least 20 minutes if you can before sealing your look – this will prevent smudging, and will preserve how opaque your polish is.

Step 8

Now, those smudges you have can easily be fixed! If you have a thin nail art brush handy, this is the perfect time to take it out. But if you don’t, you can always wrap a little bit of cotton from a cotton ball around the sharp end of a toothpick.

Once you have your tool of choice handy, dip it in a bit of acetone, and use it to clean up any polish that has strayed. This is a very precise way to clean up your manicure, without compromising the polish on the top of your nails.

Styling Black Nails

The great thing about this manicure is that it’s extremely timeless. And by that we mean that it goes with just about everything, however there are some colors and styles you can try out that can make this polish pop.

For jewelry, wearing silver rings can bring out the edginess of your color choice. If you’re going for a classier look, opt for gold. We love how cute midi rings, or rings that land in the center of the knuckle, look.

It makes your hands extra interesting to look at, and after all the time you’ve spent on your manicure – why not show them off whenever you get the chance to?

As for outfits, pairing solid black nails with a little black dress will keep you looking put together and cohesive, while a sparkly silver dress can contrast the darkness of your fingers beautifully. 

In the autumn time, pairing black nails with a chunky white sweater can look uber chic! As would any deep, nature based colors like forest greens and burnt oranges. 

For an edgy touch, rocking jeans and a graphic t-shirt is never a bad style move, but pairing it with a leather jacket will take your outfit to the next level! Channel your inner grungy 90s kid when it comes to fashion inspo if you want to rock a black mani in a casual way – we mean baggy cargo pants, and layering turtlenecks underneath a fitted tee. 

If you need a visual tutorial for how to prep your nails perfectly before polish every time, here’s a helpful tutorial from Cutepolish on YouTube.

Related Questions

How do you remove black nail polish?

Black nail polish may prove trickier to remove because of how pigmented it is. It has a tendency to stain skin and nails if not removed correctly, or if it’s removed with a low quality acetone. 

To ensure you remove as much polish as you can, soak a cotton ball in acetone and lay it directly on the surface of your nail. Let it sit for as long as you can (5-10 minutes should be plenty).

You can even wrap your fingers in aluminum foil to conduct heat. Afterwards, press down on the cotton ball and swipe it off your finger. A bulk of the polish should have come off with it, and if there are some leftover stains, they’re soft enough to come off easily!

Up Next: Can You Use Base Coat As Top Coat? – And Vice Versa

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