DIY Tutorial: Glitter Gel Manicure


I’m slightly obsessed with gel manicures. I find nothing more annoying than nail varnish that chips the first time I wear it, so I love that gels last up to 4 weeks and without damaging your nails underneath. However getting them done professionally all the time can be really blooming expensive. After realising what a dent in my bank balance my love affair was having, I decided to see if there was a DIY option. And so I uncovered a brand new obsession.

Unfortunately I quickly found out that the gel brands used by the professionals (Gelish, Shellac etc) aren’t available for purchase by us mere mortals. Everywhere I looked you needed a trade card to be allowed to buy them. BOO to that!

Refusing to be beaten I kept on searching high and low, and I think that I’ve now not only finally uncovered my perfect formula, but I’ve figured out how to do a DIY glitter manicure too! Even the professional manicurist I went too didn’t have glitter options with as much coverage as this method gave me.

gel nail diy 2

The first thing that you’ll need is a UV LED lamp, which cures (hardens) the gel. I did a little test to see if it was possible to do it without one and it’s just not. I left some gel polish on a piece of paper and 24 hours later it was still sticky.

I bought the SensatioNAIL Starter Set from Boots. It comes with the lamp, nail primer, cleanser, base and top coat, and your choice of colour polish. While the lamp does the trick I was disappointed with the colours available. I bought ‘Rose’ which was the brightest pink they had in stock but the results were baby pink, almost nude finish nails. That simply would not do! I also found the top coat to not be very effective. The first time I did it my nails started to peel within 2 – 3 days.

The starter set costs £69.99, which may seem like a lot initially, but when consider that getting them done professionally costs upward of £30, it pays for itself after just a few uses.

In terms of the colours, Bluesky is the best non-professional brand I’ve found so far. You can buy them on Amazon, they’re only £5 a pop and there are literally hundreds of colours to choose from. There are so many in fact that it’s a little overwhelming. The one I’m using in this tutorial is Neon Cherise, a super hot neon pink. Love it!

OK, so enough gassing, on with the tutorial!

Supplies Needed

gel nail diy 1

♥ UV LED lamp
♥ Gel nail primer
♥ Gel nail cleanser
♥ Gel base coat and top coat
♥ Gel polish colour of your choice
♥ Pot of glitter, mine was from Hobbycraft
♥ Tissue/ cotton pads
♥ Orange stick
♥ Nail file


Step one: Trim and file your nails to the desired length. Prep the nails by wiping with the gel cleanser and then apply a thin coat of the pre-gel primer. Leave to air dry for 30 seconds.

Step two: Apply a thin layer of base coat to all the nails on one hand, being careful not to get any on your skin. If you do smudge any, use the orange stick to clear up the edges. If you don’t, you’ll get big gloopy bits of gel hanging off your nails once it’s hardened. Gross.

Cure under the LED lamp for 1-2 minutes (I’ve found that the longer you cure each layer for, the longer the manicure lasts).

Step three: Apply a thin layer of your chosen colour polish to every nail on one hand. Cure for 1-2 minutes.

gel nail diy 3

Step four: Apply a second thin layer of colour polish, just to your thumb this time. While the gel is still tacky, sprinkle glitter over it, trying your best to get an even coverage. Gently pat the glitter down and blow off any excess. If you don’t you’ll be more likely to end up with a rough finish. Cure for 1-2 minutes.

Step five: Carefully clean around the nail, removing any excess glitter using tissue and the orange stick. Apply a medium – thick layer of top coat and cure for 2-3 minutes.

When you do a non-glitter gel manicure they suggest a thin layer of top coat, similar to the other layers. However, I found that as the glitter is 3D, I needed a thicker layer of top coat to encase it, otherwise I got a rough finish.

gel nail diy 4

Step six: The nail will be tacky still – this is normal. Use a cotton pad to wipe gel cleanser over the top of the nail to finish up. You may also need to file to nails a little if you have any bits of stray glitter causing an uneven tip.

Step seven: Repeat steps 4, 5 and 6 for the rest if your fingers on the same hand. Then repeat the entire process for your other hand.

You’re done! Gel nails last between 2-4 weeks without any peeling or chipping so you now have a fortnight to show off your handiwork (!!) and plan which glitter colour to go for next. Hurrah! A whole new world of glittery possibilities!

gel nail diy 6

To remove gel nails you’ll need to get yourself some acetone nail polish remover available in most pharmacies.

Now go forth and glitter !


  1. Oh my god. I’m a gel addict too as I have really ridged nails. This may have just revolutionised my life and my bank balance!! Thanks Kat!

  2. I started doing gel nails about 6 months ago. Love it! I also bought a set (Red carpet on

    I wanted to get more colours and would also recommend blue sky, they have a great range. Even better they do some which change colour depending on how warm your hands are. They also do ones which already have glitter in and some of these colours are lovely. They even do glitter ones which change colour. For a fiver this is amazing value !!!

    As an alternative to glitter you can also use nail art stickers before the top coat too.

    The time spent seems so much more worth it when it lasts so long. In fact whenever I’ve taken it off it’s not because it’s worn or chipped, but because my nails have grown and you get that annoying gap at your cuticles.

    Warning: beware of nail varnish which says it has a ‘gel finish’ this is not the same stuff!!!

  3. Post author

    Thanks for these tips Vicki! Do the glitter gels work well? I always find glitter polishes to be a bit sparse on the old coverage.

  4. Natalie

    My fiancé bought me a lamp and a few colours for
    Christmas as were saving for our wedding, I’m yet to use it – naughty! I’ll be trying this for sure this weekend!

  5. Melissa

    I discovered this not long ago and did ombre rainbow nails. It was the coolest thing ever. Random strangers in bars and supermarkets kept grabbing my hands and squeeling!

  6. Melissa

    Also if you’re short on colours and want different effects eyeshadow works great. Just stipple on in the same way you would the glitter. I use ones with a lot of pigment. It’s good for ombre nails. Sometimes I just add glitter to the tips aswell so I get a colourful glitter french mani effect.

  7. I bought this kit for my birthday last week, and a few polishes, haven’t got around to using it yet but you’ve spurred me on to try it now, thanks 🙂 I’ve only
    Just started having gel manicures and my local spa is charging £35 a time. I got the starter kit for £45 – this better be good! X

  8. Kelly

    Try looking on ebay and amazon for Gelish. You mentioned Boots so I assume you’re in the UK so I don’t know if you have Sally’s Beauty Supply but, if you do, they sell the mini bottles of Gelish there which are plenty big enough for a regular gel user who also likes to share with friends since the coats you apply are so thin and gel polish needs to be tossed after 18 months. No beauty card needed at Sally’s or amazon or ebay. You get the larger bottles on ebay and amazon that are used in salons for a little less than the small bottles at Sally’s so I get them and offer to do my friends nails any time they want usually just so I waste less. Hope you find some Gelish!

  9. I like the idea shared by Vicki to go for the colors which already have glitter in it. Kat the nails are looking really pretty and looks like all the time consumed in performing this technique pays off if the nail polish lasts long.

  10. Selina

    You can also buy the CND colours from Amazon they are pricier of course but great quality.

  11. Chendra

    When I do glitter after I cure the top coat and wipe it off I take a buffer and buff it down just a little bit so it is not rough and then reapply the top coat.


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