How To Do A Football Manicure

November 7, 2012 by Michelle

I love football.  And when I saw that one of my friends had posted a photo of the most awesome – and timely – manicure ever, I knew I had to figure out how to do it myself.  Headless Mom had a football manicure, and it was awesome.

I may have never done any sort of nail art myself at all, but it couldn’t be that hard, right?  It actually isn’t.  I’ve been giving myself this manicure since the first week of the college football season, and I’ve figured out how to – and how not to – do the football manicure.  I am constantly stopped by people admiring my nails, and it’s fun.

Photo of football nail art

I’ve figured out that the nails don’t have to be perfect to get the effect across.  I’m the only one who looks at them with a magnifying glass and sees every imperfection.  Everyone else sees them and just thinks they look really cool – from at least a couple feet away.

Football Nail Art Steps

The most important thing is to choose the right polish.  You want a toffee football brown, which is very doable.  When you look at the polish, look at the chips by the display and not what’s in the bottle.  You’ll notice that what is in the bottle looks a ton lighter than what shows on my fingers.  And because it’s a dark color, the second coat makes a huge difference.  I was skeptical the first time I put on my first coat, but it’s the right color!

In total, you will need three polishes: the toffee brown, a white nail art (not regular white – see below), and a clear polish with a thick brush.

Step 1:
Obviously, paint your nails brown in two coats just like you would with a normal manicure.  After you’ve shaped your nails and pushed back your cuticles, of course!

See, totally different color brown than what’s in the bottle!

Step 2:
Once your brown coats have dried to a degree, you’ll be ready to do your white nail art.  Pull the brush from the bottle, and ensure that any extra polish that is higher up on the brush’s stick is discarded on the edge of the lid so it doesn’t drip down while you’re painting.  You then want to drag the brush against that same edge, removing most of the polish from a “front” and a “back” which will create a flatter surface.  Turn the brush a quarter turn,  and use that sharp edge to do the painting.

Do just the long side of the laces first.  I’ve found that the easiest way to do this to create and even and a straight line is to place the tip of the brush on the back of a nail, then pull your hand straight back instead of trying to move your brush hand.  You end up with a much better line that way.

Step 3:
Create the short side of the laces.  Again, use the same technique for the short side of the laces as for the long side.  Be sure your hand is angled the right way for this, as otherwise you’ll have the short laces at an angle to the long laces instead of perpendicular, and it doesn’t look quite right.  I’m still perfecting this part.  Make them much shorter than you’d think you need to – see below for the why!

Step 4:
Place your clear coat atop the laces.  You have to be careful with this step.  This is where the thick brush is a necessity.  You want much more clear polish on the brush than you normally use.  You want only the polish touching your nails, with the brush above the polish moving it.  If you aren’t careful, the brush will pull the white polish and smudge the beautiful laces you just created.  You also want to be sure to do no more than three strokes to cover your nails with clear polish – once in the middle and then once on either side, being careful each time not to smudge the white.

And voila!  These nails are super easy and create a ton of fun attention – and support for the sport you love.

How Not To Do Football Nail Art

The steps are fairly easy, and I’ve also figured out what doesn’t work.  The first time I did it, my dad saw my nails and asked if they were Christmas trees.  Or if they were Chinese characters.  Obviously I had a little work to do.  That said, most other people knew they were footballs; my dad’s a little oblivious.

I had purchased white nail polish, and I used the end of a toothpick to apply the laces.  The toothpick holds onto too much polish, so it ends up too thick.  After showing this to a few friends, they told me about nail art polish.  It’s regular polish that is in a bottle with an extra thin brush.  I picked that up, and it made all the difference in the world.  Another friend suggested using a thin paint marker, which I’m guessing would also work.  Just… don’t use the toothpick.  See?

I also experimented with a variety of laces.  I always did at least three, and I experimented with doing four and five on nails.  If I were really good and could keep the polish lines as consistently thin as professionals do, I think doing five laces would be perfect, depending on your nail length.  For me, whether my nails are longer or shorter (or both at the same time – I’m tacky like that), three laces looked the best.  See?  They look silly.  This was also my first shot with the nail art brush, and I was still learning.

You can also see from the photo above that I would press down with the brush on one side and then slide it across and lift.  It didn’t give an even look.  Using just the bare tip of the nail art brush made a big difference.

Additionally, I started out making my laces too wide.  In the photo above, the thumb has the right proportion.  Most of the others are too long on the laces.  Making them shorter than I thought I should actually looks much better.  It’s easy to add more polish if needed.  It isn’t so easy to take it off.

So what do you think?  Is this not the coolest idea ever?  What is your favorite way to paint your nails? I’m ready to branch out and try something new once football is over.  Maybe I’ll really do Christmas trees and surprise my dad….

Shares 0


  • Tami

    That's cute. I have to figure out a way to make a hockey stick and puck!

  • Sandra

    Very cute, Michelle! I just got some brownish nail color, too…

  • Tara R.

    Those are really great!

  • Michelle

    Tami – I have a feeling the hockey wouldn't be too bad. White background for the ice, brown nail art with a wider base and then the slender stick. Skip the puck or black nail art oval next to the base of the stick. Totally doable.

    Sandra – Thanks. Browns are in. You have no idea how long I agonized over which brown was the right brown. And poor Mister Man was there with me as I was trying to figure it out and walking back and forth amongst the displays and asking his opinion!

    Tara – Thanks 🙂 And so not hard either. I get so many compliments on them. I love it!

  • tiarastantrums

    I'm too lazy to do my own nails! I also need that one hour of FREE time that I get every two weeks! (and yes, that is about the only time I do NOT have my kids with me)

  • Colleen - Mommy Always Wins

    SUPER cute! Wanna do mine? 😉

  • Mel

    How cute is this? Thanks for linking up to Inspire Me Wednesday.:)

  • Brandie

    My 13yo is big into nail art right now! I'm going to show her this =)

  • Jennifer Billy

    Oh my that is so cute! Great job. I have to try this, thanks for sharing and letting us know what not to do too. That will save me a lot of problems.

  • Pat

    Very cute! You're in season.

  • Sarah

    Cute! I'll have to keep this in mind when my sons are a bit older 🙂

  • Michelle

    Teresa – Hey, if you can get that one hour free, RUN with it. Fast. Enjoy that time. 🙂

    Colleen – Sure. We can get Melisa to jump in and have a nail party. I'd be all over that.

    Mel – Thanks! It is fun to do, and I love it.

    Brandie – I bet she'd love this. What else has she been doing with her nails?

    Jennifer – Knowing what not to do is sometimes as important for me as knowing what *to* do. Have fun with them!

    Pat – I am in season. I'll have to figure out baseballs next, right?

    Sarah – I have had so many people asking me if I'm doing it because my kids are playing football. Ahem. No, but what a great way to show support!

  • Amiyrah

    This is super cute! I just need a smaller brush for the white part and I can do this!

  • Michelle

    Amiyrah – CVS has them for something like $2. Last game of the season waws this week, so now I have to come up with something else creative. I have a few ideas… if they work out, you'll be seeing them here soon!

  • Trackbacks

  • Trackback from Candy Cane Nail Art
    Friday, 21 December, 2012

    […] shared the fun I’ve been having with my nails this fall when I posted my how to for the football manicure.  Now that (college) football is (mostly) over, I’ve moved on.  I’ve found another […]

  • Trackback from It’s Fall – Time To Move Into The Kitchen
    Thursday, 10 October, 2013

    […] it is, when fall comes around, I’m not just focusing on football – much as I am watching and attending football games.  Fall really brings about a change […]

  • Trackback from DiGiorno Pizzas Make Game Time My Time
    Sunday, 19 January, 2014

    […] of course we wear the “right” clothes to show our support.  And you’ve seen my football manicure before, haven’t you?  All that goes into place as we sit (or stand or jump) to cheer for our […]

  • Trackback from Football OREO Cookie Balls Tutorial - Honest And Truly!
    Wednesday, 25 November, 2015

    […] much at any time of the day or night, any day of the week, and find a game to watch. I even have a football manicure I rock all fall long. Couple that with my love of baking and you knew it was only a matter of time […]

Leave a Comment

Your email is never shared.
Required fields are marked *