How To Apply Single Waterslide Nail Decals Nail Polish [2022]

How To Apply Single Waterslide Nail Decals Nail Polish [2022]

Here is how to apply waterslide nail decals to gel nails. You can apply a waterslide sticker to a nail form or onto your natural nail with gel polish. This water nail decal tutorial shows you step by step with easy to follow instructions.

Waterslide nail decals are easy to use and with so many fun and amazing designs they are one of the nail art tools to always have on hand.

The nice thing about waterslide nail decals is that you can use them as is, or you can add glitter or other accents to make them even more customized. They are so much fun!

What is a waterslide nail sticker or decal?

A waterslide nail decal is a very thin nail art sticker that uses water to separate the sticker from the decal paper. The ultra thin sticker can be used in many applications including regular polish, gel polish, builder gel and acrylic nails. A waterslide nail decal will require a top coat to prevent lifting off of the natural nail or nail form.

how to apply waterslide nail decals

Waterslide nail decals come in a few different ways.

1. A sticker sheet that has several different small stickers that you can cut out and use. The water nail decals are great for accenting nails without having to paint on a design.

2. Full coverage waterslide sheets that will cover the whole nail. These can be found in many different designs and are for covering the whole nail with a design.

3. Printable waterslide nail decals that you can print onto decal paper. Printables are good to have on hand because you can print your own nail art stickers in different sizes. You can keep them in a binder for easy storage.

Check out our collection of printable nail decals here

There are different techniques depending on what type of waterslide nail decal you are going to be using for your manicure. 

In this nail art tutorial we will show you how to apply the single waterslide nail decals.

This step by step tutorial will show you how to properly apply the nail decal and how to top the decal with a gel top coat for a long lasting manicure.


1. Decide what nail art stickers you want to use for your designs. It's a good idea to plan your designs ahead of time on a sheet of paper or a silicone practice mat.

2. Remove the plastic film if it is on your waterslide sticker. The plastic film is to protect the stickers when in storage or for shipping. This will need to be removed before using your nail sticker.

how to apply waterslide nail decals

3. Cut out the nail decal. The best way to cut these small stickers is to use small nail scissors. Get as close to the image as possible. Set aside.

how to apply waterslide nail decals

how to apply waterslide nail decals

4. Prep your nails as you normally would when using gel polish. 

5. If using gel polish, apply a base coat of gel and cure. If using regular polish, apply two coats and let dry (continue to step 7).

6. Next, apply a coat of the gel polish in the color that you want the waterslide decal to go on to and cure. Keep the sticky layer on the nail.

7. Place the decal into the water. Using tweezers, place the nail decal face up into water and let it sit for about 20 seconds. Using a dappen dish or a dish that is not too big or deep is best.

Tweezer sets are here on Amazon

how to apply waterslide nail decals

8. Carefully separate the backing from the nail decal using tweezers if it didn't separate on it's own. Good quality waterslide nail decals will automatically separate from the backing. If your decal did not separate, then gently coax the image off of the decal. Be careful with this step because the decal is very thin and can tear easily.

9. Place the waterslide sticker onto paper towel to dry off. Make sure both sides are completely dry before placing it onto the nail. If you put it onto your nail wet, you can have all kinds of problems with the water reacting to your top coat or other additions you are going to use on the nail.

how to apply waterslide nail decals

10. Place the waterslide decal onto the nail with tweezers. Try not to move the sticker around too much once it is placed because it can rip.

11. Use a silicone tool to gently go over the edges of the sticker so that it is not sticking up anywhere. Never rub a waterslide nail decal because it will rip. Just gently dab the decal to make sure the decal is laying completely flat with no wrinkles. Do not use your fingers because then your fingerprints could go into the design.

Check Silicone Nail Tool Prices Here On Amazon

how to apply waterslide nail decals

12. Go over the whole nail with a base coat. You will need this base coat so that your final top coat has something to adhere to properly. Pay attention to the edges and to make sure everything is capped to prevent lifting.

13. File if needed.

14. Go over the nail with a no wipe top coat and cure. Again, make sure the edges are covered and make sure the edge of the nail is capped to prevent lifting.

how to apply waterslide nail decals


1. Never place a decal onto wet gel. The gel will not cure properly and will ruin your design.

2. A waterslide nail decal should be placed onto a cured gel or nail polish that is completely dried. You can also embed a waterslide nail decal with builder gel to make it look like it's floating inside the nail.

3. Use a silicone tool to gently press out wrinkles and edges. 

4. Avoid using a sharp tool to smooth down wrinkles, this can completely destroy the nail decal. Water nail decal paper is extremely thin so only use a soft tool for smoothing and removing any bubbles or creases.

5. Always remove the plastic film before placing the waterslide nail decal into the water.


Water Decals: Read our article about the best waterslide nail decals.

Nail Scissors: The smaller ones with a curved edge are best.

Tweezers: Long slim tweezers are best for nail art stickers.

Shallow Tray: The best trays are the ones for sorting beads. They are shallow and easy to use.

Silicone Tools: Use these to gently press down the waterslide nail decal.

Gel Polish Set: You will need a set that comes with a base coat, color of your choice and a no wipe top coat.

Nail Lamp: Read our article about the best nail lamps for gel polish.

We hope you found this waterslide nail art tutorial helpful. Feel free to share it on your social media or link back to us.

Please save a Pin so you can find us again. Happy nail decorating!

 how to apply waterslide nail decals

If you need nail stickers right away, then check out our printable nail art stickers! Print them and use immediately for amazing nail art.

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Find your favorite stickers here

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