Tape manicure basics

By | February 14, 2013

Hey there fellow nail obsessed lovelies! I’m going to discuss Tape Manis today – what they are, how to achieve them, and the best tools for the job.

The basic definition of a tape mani is any sort of manicure that uses tape to create lines or areas not to be polished. There are many ways to use tape to achieve different effects. Tape manis are an extremely easy way to make cool nail art without having to buy special tools – it’s cheap, simple and anyone can do it!

Types of tape

Masking tape – regular reinforced paper tape. The sort that you’d use to stick to walls, as it won’t peel paint off. You can buy it for a few bucks at Officeworks, or most newsagents.
(Source: HiCube Coating Masking Tapes)
Scotch tape – plastic school tape, generally comes in little rolls and dispensers for a few bucks from Officeworks or most newsagents.
(Source: RR Products Inc)
Striping tape – You can buy these 1 mm wide rolls of super thin foiled tape off eBay for about $1 for a pack of ten. These can be used for detailing on top of your polish, as well as for marking off areas to not polish. These can be a huge pain to deal with at times due to the thinness of the tape, but persevere, because this is the tape you’ll need for the fine lines, and the tape I use most.

(Source: Kate’s Mani)
How to achieve it

Despite looking awesome and insanely difficult to do, tape manis are actually incredibly easy.

In its basic form, these are the steps to accomplish it:

1. Paint your base coat, and a base colour. Make sure to reach opacity with this colour.

2. Allow the base colour to dry completely. COMPLETELY. This is its own step, because it is so vitally important. If the base colour is not fully dried, when you try to remove the tape in step 5, it will peel off the base colour as well, and ruin all your hard work.

3.  If using masking or Scotch tape, cut up several of the shapes you’ll require for your design, and begin to apply them to one nail at a time in the desired pattern.

Steps 4&5 must be done in quick succession.

4. Paint one thin, opaque coat of a contrasting colour on top of the tape on one nail, and

5. Quickly and carefully peel off the tape in the reverse order to which you applied it.

6. Make sure to do one nail at a time, so your top colour doesn’t dry before you can peel the tape. Letting the top colour dry will cause it to pull off with the tape, ruining your sharp lines.

7. Add top coat to protect your design, and you’re good to go!

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can try more complex designs, like the ones in the top collage.


– If using masking or scotch tape, cut your shapes before you start painting. Find a desk edge or a corner to stick them to, so they’re ready to go and you’re not cutting with wet nails.

– BE PATIENT. You need to make sure that your base layers are completely dry before you start taping and painting.

– Play with the tape a bit while you’re cutting it. You don’t need it to be SUPER sticky, just sticky enough to seal out wet polish. If it’s a little oily from your hands, you’ll be less likely to mess up the base coat.

– When removing the tape, do it like a band-aid: as quick as possible. If you pull it up slowly, the paint will smear. Trust me on this one.

– TOP COAT, TOP COAT, TOP COAT! Your top coat will cover all manners of sins. I can’t begin tell you how many times I bang a semi-dried nail into my couch or my face or ANYTHING. Top coat is a gift from the gods. Make sure you take advantage.

Lastly and most importantly:
– This takes practice. It will not look good the first time. Accept this from the beginning and set aside an afternoon to try it out. You will master it sooner than you think, but like everything, it is a skill, and thus needs practice to perfect.

Nai has almost finished her Bachelor of Primary Education, and is not sure where to go from there! When she’s not polishing and posting to her blog NananaisNails, her Pinterest and her Instagram, she’s generally to be found on a couch reading something scifi/fantasy – most likely Harry Potter.

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