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Butterfly Blues: Blue Foiled Monarch Butterfly Manicure (plus tips for nail foiling)

Foils look amazing but are hard to wear on their own (they kinda start looking raggedy within a day) but as an accent to jazz up your nail art, they’re fantastic. 

Today, I adapted an ever-popular nail art design (the Monarch butterfly) and instead of doing it in orange, I did a bright cyan blue and added a spectral effect to the “wings” with a blue holographic nail foil.

Nail Foil Basics: Skip down to the tutorial if you aren’t new to these gorgeous sci-fi looking things

  • Many online stores and beauty supply shops will sell nail foils. You can find plenty of cheap ones on ebay and at places like and If you are paying more than a few dollars for each long strip including shipping, you are being ripped off. (I’ve seen stores in Singapore selling them for $15-19. RIDICULOUS.) I get mine from
  • These are NOT the same as the stick on nail strips that come in packs of 10-16 stickers. You need to apply a foil adhesive that is either sold by the vendor who sells the foils OR repositional glue from the craft store thinned out just slightly with a little bit of water; I tested them and they work the same!
  • They usually come in long 3-5 foot strips that you need to cut yourself, but some companies pre-cut them into smaller strips and pack them into little sleeves. These usually cost more than the whole strips but are more convenient to use. 
  • Nail foils come off easily with nail polish remover, but they are more delicate than regular polish so they don’t last as long. 

Things to note when working with foils:

  • The glue needs to be completely dry before you stick anything on. Make sure it is completely clear on the nail, and THEN wait another minute more. Otherwise, the foil won’t stick properly.
  • Many foiling strips have a protective layer underneath (it’s usually a pearl or beige-brown). Using a cotton pad and a little nail polish remover to gently wipe across that layer will remove it and allow the foil to stick better, especially if you need a lot of precision.
  • Top coats will cause your foil to “seize" up and crinkle, so you will never get that perfect finish. The only thing you can do is avoid ANY fast-drying topcoat. The slower it dries the better. I have found gel top coats to be the best at not crinkling up the foil.
  • If you want max drama for just one night and don’t intend to keep your manicure for more than 1-2 days, then skip the top coat. Your foiled nails will look extremely shiny and eye-catching tonight. (They will look like crap tomorrow, but who cares?)
  • You can use a water-based non-toxic glossing glue or sealant from the craft store in place of topcoat. But these need a long “curing time” during which you should not get your fingers wet at all.
  • Cut the foil into smaller strips rather than bigger ones. Applying to half your nail and then the other half gives a smoother finish than trying to get a whole strip to cover an entire nail. You end up with less crinkles and cracks.
  • For application, I like Miss80Million’s video here:

Now that we’re done with the basics, on to the tutorial!

Step 1: Apply 2 coats of your base shade over a basecoat. I chose a blue that almost matches the foil. 

Step 2: Using black polish or acrylic paint (I used acrylic paint and a paint brush), paint on a slanted french tip; thin at one end, thick at the other.


Step 3: Using a small brush, add a second strip parellel to the tip, near the nail bed.


Step 4: For the butterfly shape, use your brush to add 3 strokes from the line down to the french tip. Then where it meets the french tip, do short swipes to round out any hard angles (view next image below to see what I mean).

Step 5: Using a dotting tool (or the back end of a fine brush), dip into white acrylic paint or white polish, and then draw on large dots in the black. These large dots should be lined up with the black lines you drew earlier.


Step 6: Then with the smaller side of the dotting tool (or the blunt end of a tooth pick), apply smaller white dots in between the larger ones you placed earlier. Don’t over-apply white dots! Just 2 rows of dots in the black tip will be sufficient.

Step 7: The next part is the fun bit. I used a small brush to dab foil adhesive onto the blue “cells” in between the black lines. Anywhere that you want your metallic foil to stick. Be careful to use just the tiniest bit because I applied a thicker dab to some cells and the foil ended up covering all the black.

Let dry for 1-2 minutes, and then firmly press a strip of nail foil down over the glued areas and lift off.

Step 8: Apply your topcoat to seal everything in. Because this isn’t a full-strip foil nail, I didn’t need to worry about the foil crinkling and cracking. 

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    Monarch butterfly nails
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