Nail Klub: Get Geek Week Glam with DIY Nail Transfers

As ModCloth’s resident nail nerds, the Nail Klub was stoked to help celebrate Geek Week, but coming up with the perfect tutorial had us stumped. We gals played with plenty of ideas — from periodic table patterns to wizard faces with 3-D beards — but nothing seemed to fully capture the diversity and eccentricity of geekdom.

We had settled on a comic strip version of the newspaper transfer trend when Bree, a graphic designer, shared an amazing update to the technique. Instead of transferring newsprint images onto her nails, Bree used rubbing alcohol to put full-color, computer-printed pictures on her digits. The pictures, which Bree shrunk with her computer’s photo editor, turned into bright, bold, temporary tattoos for nails. Apart from being a scientific stunner, these nails are also fully customizable to your unique, geeky tastes.

Whether you’re big into binary or want to keep your favorite Magic card at your fingertips, this trick lets you flaunt your fascinations for all to see!Β Check out the tutorial below, and get some more tips after the jump!

We had an absolute blast decorating our nails with everything from Urkel and Screech to Data from The Goonies.Β  Along the way, we found that 50-percent isopropyl rubbing alcohol worked the best for transferring the ink. We used a white base coat to help the colors pop, and made sure the polish was totally dry before trying a transfer. Sometimes, tiny bits of paper stuck to the transferred ink — to remove it, we just waited for the ink to dry, then gently brushed the paper away with our fingers. Finally, we sealed in this manicure with a clear top coat, which instantly brightened the ink and gave our images a glossy, photo finish!

Do you wear your geekiness on your sleeve? Have you ever tried a geek-inspired beauty tutorial?

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  1. Sarah 07/18/2012 at 8:47 am #

    Holy moly, I can have doctor who on my fingers? Now I wish I had 11 digits for each one of them! Great DIY πŸ™‚

    Xoxo Sarah

    • Ali 08/09/2012 at 6:06 am #

      Oh my goodness! That’s so clever! I can see it now: ten faces of the Doctor against a TARDIS blue background. πŸ™‚

    • cabledcrusaderpatterns 09/12/2012 at 2:53 pm #


    • Jessica 10/17/2013 at 1:18 am #

      This is exactly why I was looking up how to make my own! DW FTW!

  2. Kaila 07/18/2012 at 10:18 am #

    Do you wait for the polish to dry before you put your fingernails in alcohol? And do you wait until you apply the clear polish?

    • Liz 08/29/2012 at 1:46 pm #

      yess! its so important that they are dry..otherwise you get the paper stuck on your nail. not a pretty sight! once you have transferred the image, go ahead with the clear polish. hope this helps!

  3. kailajenee 07/18/2012 at 10:21 am #

    Do you wait for the polish to dry?

  4. Eliza 07/18/2012 at 11:43 am #

    Hello there lovely Moddies,

    As usual, great job on the tutorial. The pictures are superb. Just wanted to ask a question; did the Nail Kulb try this on colored nail polish? I just did, and it didn’t work. I’m going to have to pick up some white to see it in action. Thanks!


    • omi 03/23/2013 at 11:34 am #

      You can use light colors also

  5. Anna (ModCloth) 07/18/2012 at 12:48 pm #

    Hey fabulous nail art fans! Thanks for your questions! We used white polish to make our images look really crisp (bright colors like yellow or red can look dull against colored backgrounds), and we waited for our base coats to dry really thoroughly before dipping them into the rubbing alcohol – that way, the paper didn’t stick to or smudge the polish. Oh, and as for the rubbing alcohol, we had the best luck with 50% isopropyl rubbing alcohol (bought at the drugstore). We tried a few times with 70%, but the results weren’t so awesome!

    If you’re having trouble getting your images to stick, try leaving the image against your nail a little longer, and press it down really firmly, sort of like you would when applying a temporary tattoo. You can also use another finger to add some extra drops of rubbing alcohol on top of the paper while it’s pressed against your nail – that seems to give the ink the extra kick it needs to transfer well! And one last thing for the tech-types out there – our images were printed on a LaserJet computer (though our design-savvy coworkers said InkJet would work just as well if not better!).

    It took a couple tries to make it turn out perfectly, but this was such a fun experiment for us! Let us know how your experiments turn out πŸ™‚

  6. Ericka 07/18/2012 at 1:33 pm #

    so you can just use regular paper from the printer??? I would love to have Star Wars nails!!! This blog is my bible!

    • Anna (ModCloth) 07/19/2012 at 7:37 am #

      Hiya Ericka! Yup – we used regular old white printer paper for these! We did read somewhere that parchment paper (the kind you cook with) can work, too – since it doesn’t absorb the ink as much, it might make the transfer process work better. Whichever way you try, let us know how your manicure turns out, and may the force be with you!

  7. Jessica 07/18/2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Does it matter what kind of printer you use (inkjet or laser)?

    • Anna (ModCloth) 07/19/2012 at 7:34 am #

      Hi Jessica! We printed our pictures on our office LaserJet printer, so we can vouch for that! However, one of our designers (and printing geeks!) suggested that InkJet printers might work just as well if not better, based upon the way they put the ink on the paper. If you try InkJet, let us know how it goes! Thanks for your question πŸ™‚

  8. laurel 07/19/2012 at 3:10 pm #

    super rad

  9. amanda 07/29/2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Would this work with pictures cut from magazines? or does it have to be freshly printed? this is absolutely amazing!

    • Holland 07/30/2012 at 2:14 pm #

      I tried this with printed pictures, and it worked alright, but when I did it with magazine photos the results were fabulous! I think the magazines are the way to go if you’ve had problems with the printer pics. Thanks for the wonderful idea ModCloth!

    • amanda 07/31/2012 at 7:50 pm #

      I tried it with the thicker, glossy front and back covers from a bunch of TV Guides I had hanging around. They didn’t come out super crisp, but I kind of like the distressed look~they almost look like silk-dyed Easter eggs (when you wrap the egg with silk scarves before dipping, it works on the same principle as the nails do).

  10. KT 09/17/2012 at 3:57 am #

    If I were to print these off my home computer what size should I make my images?

  11. Andrea Zamora 09/21/2012 at 10:05 am #

    ^ Yes I would like to know the answer to that question too!!

  12. thegirlinawe 09/30/2012 at 9:42 pm #

    Didnt work for me at all. I used regualr printing paper and the glossy kind. Didnt come out right at all. I guess im missing something. But I followed all the steps.

    • girl, READ THIS! (@girlreadthis) 04/01/2013 at 9:46 am #

      it didn’t work for me either!! i printed out pictures and did it from a magazine but nothing transferred onto the nail!

      • vilma 07/19/2013 at 11:27 am #

        it didnt work for either! i use Gel nails could that be the reason.. help!!! i really want to try this!

  13. sky 10/12/2012 at 1:06 pm #

    what would be a substitute for rubbing alcohol? Lovely idea BTW!!!

    • Plum 01/13/2014 at 5:20 pm #

      I know my friend has used vodka to do newspaper transfer nails on herself before, so that would be worth a shot. πŸ™‚

  14. Nisha Patel 10/20/2012 at 7:03 pm #

    Love this idea! But I was wondering how you got the images to print that little and in rows like that.

  15. TMAC50 11/01/2012 at 8:18 pm #


  16. ems 11/06/2012 at 7:45 pm #

    do you just use regular printer paper and what kind of printers do you use?

  17. Kelly 12/26/2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Whats a generally good size for the images?

  18. Elaine 12/29/2012 at 6:31 am #

    I would love to try this, but what program, and what size to do make the pictures?

  19. aiesha 01/19/2013 at 12:03 am #

    what else can we use instead of rubbing alcohol?

  20. aiesha 01/19/2013 at 9:09 am #

    what else coulde i use instead of alcohol?

    • Katherine 01/30/2013 at 12:23 pm #

      I used vodka and it worked just as good. I’ve also heard nail polish remover but I’ve never tried it.

  21. Mandi Hidalgo 01/21/2013 at 7:06 pm #

    I tried regular paper and newsprint paper in an HP Officejet F4400 and it did not transfer at all for me. πŸ™

  22. The Talented Ms Ripley 02/13/2013 at 1:23 pm #

    I can’t get this to work. Well it does transfer a little bit, but not enough to actually make out the picture. Shame! I had such beautifully geeky plans! (involving these images to go along with my portal t-shirt and earrings:

  23. Clo 04/05/2013 at 5:14 pm #

    Does anyone know what size you print the pictures?? πŸ™‚

    • Jenn (ModCloth) 04/07/2013 at 9:59 pm #

      Thanks for asking, Clo! We recommend printing them at 50px x 50px squares, which is about the size of a fingernail. If it’s too small or large, just adjust from there. Happy nail decorating!

  24. sam 05/18/2013 at 12:54 pm #

    dumb and doesn’t work!

  25. sam 05/18/2013 at 12:55 pm #

    it doesn’t even wok on normal paper or with normal home office ink!

  26. Julia 10/09/2013 at 7:01 am #

    I’ve done this using rubbing alcohol pads instead of dipping your nails straight into the alcohol. You basically use it the same way you would apply a temporary tattoo! It works really well if you don’t want to dip!

  27. dionebowlt 10/27/2013 at 4:41 am #

    Reblogged this on DioneBowlt and commented:
    Totally doing this for Halloween!

  28. bowsandnails 12/06/2013 at 8:41 pm #

    I am trying out this technique on my youtube channel. I linked your blog for giving me the idea!! πŸ™‚

  29. Shay 09/25/2014 at 12:20 pm #

    Will this work on gel polish?

  30. Jenny 03/21/2015 at 10:17 am #

    Define “dry thoroughly”..several hours. .a day or two? I’ve tried this multiple times and I always get paper stuck to my nail that doesn’t brush off after the transfer dries.. help πŸ™

  31. Rachel 04/20/2015 at 6:53 am #

    So… I’m just pointing out the obvious here… that this certainly will not work for those of us who only use non-toxic water-based nail polish, since rubbing alcohol is used as the polish remover. Bummer. Otherwise, I totally would have worn my little brother’s face at my finger tips for his college graduation. πŸ˜‰

  32. priska 07/02/2015 at 2:00 am #

    what kind of format picture did you use? JPG or PNG?


  33. kaliyah 10/22/2015 at 6:14 pm #

    girls it doesn’t work what you have to do is cut out the paper put it on your nail get a cotton ball and dap it in some water dap it on the paper on your nail and paint over it with clear

  34. Judy Piranian 06/18/2018 at 6:11 pm #

    I just tried this with a inkjet printer, and it didn’t work at all. I will go to FED ex and use their laserjet printer.


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