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Can You Use A Paint Brush For Acrylic Nails? [Let’s Find Out!]

When planning for an acrylic nail manicure, it’s only natural to question if you can substitute some of the items. Especially if you do not have everything but instead have potential alternatives lying around. The brush is often one such tool.

So, can you use a paint brush for acrylic nails? It is generally not advised to use a paint brush for acrylic nails. Instead, you should use an acrylic brush that has been purposefully designed to work with the monomer product. While you could use a paint brush, you should expect inferior results.

The truth is, paint brushes are designed with different uses in mind.

At first glance, it may seem logical to use one brush for various different tasks, but there are different brushes for a reason.

I know.

Perhaps not something you were hoping to hear if you did not have an acrylic brush currently.

It does add to the cost but it is entirely worth it.

Let us now take a closer look at precisely why this is the case.

Why You Should Not Use A Paint Brush For Acrylics

While it may be possible to use a paint brush to apply acrylics – generally it’s not recommended. This is because paintbrushes are composed of a different type of hair which does not work very well with acrylic product.

And the results, are that you are not going to be able to get the kind of application, or adhesion, that you need for this type of extension.

Your average paint brush is consists of either stiff or short hairs, that are natural or synthetic in nature.

For natural hairs, they are usually from an animal such as a horse or a badger.

Synthetic paintbrushes on the other hand, have bristles that are made from nylon, polyester, or sometimes both.

Now, these materials just do not work very well with acrylic powder and monomer.

They’re not designed too.

They are instead intended for use on paints that are of different consistencies and textures.

Then onto the main other reason. The size.

Paintbrushes are generally much larger than acrylic brushes.

In fact, its hard to find small paintbrushes out there. Particularly that are going to be appropriately sized for a nail.

Even the smallest paintbrushes are much larger than that of an acrylic brush.

It would be almost impossible to apply the product with the same amount of precision and care that you need.

What Kind Of Brush Do You Need For Acrylics?

Its important that you purchase an acrylic brush, intended for use with acrylic products. Better still, its best to use an acrylic brush that comes included with, or designed for use with specific acrylic products.

For instance, many acrylic nail kits will provide the brush as part of the set.

This should be preffered.

Otherwise, or if this is not the case, its best to use an acrylic brush from the same brand or range as the products you intend on using.

Besides, those brushes have been designed and created with those products in mind.

That being said, once you become more experienced and know what to look for in a good acrylic brush; there is not reason why you cannot invest in a new one.

Below, we will look at the different options and how you can choose the right one, for you.

Different Acrylic Brush Options

Before you invest in an acrylic nail brush, its important to be aware of the different options and types.

Below we will run through those and the factors that impact how they work.

Natural vs. Synthetic

The better acrylic nail brushes are often made with natural Kolinsky hairs. This is sometimes referred to as sable hair.

This is a very particular hair; coming from a specific type of weasel only found in some parts of Russia and China.

This particular type of hair is great to work with; it enables the product to collect in the belly of the brush and can hold the acrylic liquid more effectively.

Similarly, this hair is strong and versatile, meaning it can retain its shape even when wet.

And better still; the product can be applied in a slow and controlled manner as the brush is placed onto the nail.

Kolinsky hair is known to be of much better quality than those of other animals, or even other weasles.

So, if a brand clearly states they are selling Kolinsky brushes; this is a very good sign and one that suggests the brush will be of superior quality.

If you do opt for a natural hair brush like the Kolinsky, you will need to be very regimented in your cleaning. Otherwise, it will soon become too stiff and will damage.

This is why it is also advised to purchase acrylic brush cleaners that will help to remove the product without damaging the bristles. Acetone has been known on the other hand, to do this.

Synthetic acrylic brushes are entering the market. They are designed to work in a similar way to natural brushes.

Some synthetic brushes are known to last longer as they are not so easily damaged by acrylic product.

However, they do not tend to hold the acrylic liquid as effectively.

Its a bit of a trade-off.

For this reason, synthetic bristle brushes are commonly only reserved for nail art.

Again, it’s important to clean these brushes properly with brush cleaner as acetone can damage them.

Brush Size Options

The next aspect to consider when choosing an acrylic nail brush is the size. This is usually provided as a number (6, 8, 10, 12, 14, etc.)

In the beginning, it is best to use a smaller brush.

This will allow you to use an smaller amount of bead (liquid and powder) and will be able to distribute it more evenly to the nail across the 3 different zones.

Smaller brushes also help you to get the right consistency of liquid and powder too.

Beginners tend to use sizes 6 or 8, and these are commonly provided in starter kits.

With time and experience, you may want to use a large acrylic brush.

It can speed up the application process.

As a nail technician, speed = money.

So larger brushes can help you here.

You can work with larger beads that require less strokes to cover the nail.

Even with a larger brush you still require to work on the 3 zones, but it can be done simultaneously in one bead with the right technique.

Either way, it’s important to use the right balance of liquid and powder to prevent poor adhesion altogether.

You do not want the product too be applied to thickly, and beads should be applied thinly and distributed evenly.

Its important that beads do not overlap.

In reality, working with a smaller brush is easier, to begin with and the best way to practice.

However superior and faster results are achieved with a larger brush.

Larger acrylic brushes naturally have more bristles and retain a pointed end; this helps them to retain their shape when the product is being applied to the nail.

Smaller brushes are known for running flat under pressure, and this can cause issues with the application of the bead unless caution is exercised.

So, depending on your level of experience, start with a smaller acrylic brush and work your way up.

Start with a 6 and gradually move onto a 8, 10 or 12 as you gain confidence and skill.

10-12 seems to be the best size that most technicians will work with.

This brand of acrylic nail brush on Amazon are the ones to get.

They have some of the best reviews and you can pick them up in a range of sizes.


It’s generally not a good idea to use a paintbrush for acrylic nails.

Can you do it? Sure.

Will your acrylic product adhere properly? Unlikely.

The truth is, you are unlikely to get the bead onto the brush very well. Furthermore, the product is not going to collect very well when you do.

So instead, be sure to invest in high quality brushes.

Those made from Kolinsky are the best you can get!

If you are a vegan, or do want to try synthetic, then these can be used too. So long as they are designed for acrylics in mind.

And lastly; if you are new to acrylics. Start with a lower size.

Practice, and work your way up.

Size 6-8 is a good place to start, but if you can master a 10-12, you’ll end up doing your acrylics much faster.

And be sure to look after your brushes.

Not only to prevent the need to buy them again, but to ensure they retain their shape and work as intended for each manicure.

Never use acetone to clean and work with proper brush cleaning products.

Also be sure to store your brushes properly in a protective and sealed case.

You want your bristles to remain in tip-top condition.

Trust me.

Want to learn the art of Acrylic Nails? Check out my course!