How to make press-on nails look real

When you have a set of press-ons, it’s somewhat tempting just to let them do the work for you and make minimal effort. After all, you didn’t go to the salon, so you would not have too high expectations of what you will do. 

But what if there is a way to hack the system with just the fake nails you got? What if you can learn how to make fake press-on nails look real so you won’t have to spend a fortune? 

Well, prepare to be educated because this is the lesson you would not want to miss. 

How to make fake press-ons look real

How to make fake press-ons look real

Press-ons are great and all, but there’s a big catch that people forget to tell you: they look fake. They’re not the impressive fake either which can fool some for their quality. It’s the kind that screams, “I saw this from my baby sister’s playthings and decided to stick it on my nails.” 

It’s a newbie mistake. 

After all, sticking fake stuff and making them look natural is bound to have a learning curve. 

Like the no make-up look, the key to your dilemma is customization. 

Yes, customize. Your nails look different from others and will need a particular brand of contouring, so the press-ons (and you, by extension) won’t look cheap.

Nail size

Have you ever ordered something online, indicating your size, just for it to turn out one size smaller? 

Bummer, right? That’s also the case for press-ons. They will come in more than ten specific sizes. That’s because your thumb and someone else’s does not match perfectly. So most sets offer a variety of nail sizes.

Many brands emboss theirs with numbers. For example, zero would usually be for the thumbs, while 11 and 12 are for the pinky. (Or honestly, you can look and judge). 

To get the right fit, size up from the left nail groove to the right. A rough estimate usually works! And by the time you practice this step enough, you’d know which ones to pick just at a glance!

CHECK OUT: How to clean underneath acrylic nails

Prep time

It may feel like getting your press ons to fit right is luck-based. Sometimes it looks great, sometimes you suck it up and hope no one stares at it long enough. 

But no, fortune does not favor anyone but the prepared. It would help if you believed in that.

The first step is to wash your hands. Hygienic and essential as it removes the general oiliness on your hands. 

Now the next step is to push your cuticles back. Why? So the press-ons can adhere better. Also, you don’t want glue to drown your nails. That’s painful even to imagine. 

Last of all is the alcohol pad. Most brands include them but if the one you got does not, soak a cotton pad in alcohol and wipe your nails with it. This will get rid of excess oils and moisture. 

During prep time, you clean to prevent infection and make sure your nails stick and last long. 

So please don’t skip it. You don’t want to redo a nail because you got a tad lazy in the first place. 


This uses a bit of common sense. A quality nail glue means it will stick better, right? And when it is not popping off here and there, your nails look more legit and done well. 

So while you are shopping for press-ons, don’t forget to add to cart your nail glue or check if the set you have already has one. 

Pro tip: Apply the nail glue at the tip of your nail and the base of your fake nail. That’s a double lock security system that won’t disappoint you!

Filing and trimming

Nowadays, some make-up looks so well done, they can just shout, “I woke up like this,” and no one would ever question it. 

Impressive, right? 

Well, you can achieve that with nails too.

With nails, the contouring comes post-op. When you finish the sticking part, you have to file the tips and get that natural finish. 

One thing you should remember is that there should be continuity. The shape of the tips should follow smoothly that of the nails. It mustn’t look like your tips suddenly swerved at a sharp angle and decided to leave your nails. 

This part is the fine line between a meh and a wow. So take your time! There is no such thing as a job overly done. 

CHECK OUT: Can you reuse press-on nails

How to make press-on nails look like acrylic

How to make press-on nails look like acrylic

When you search why acrylic manicures have been the rave by Instagrammers, you come up with two reasons: design and durability. Acrylic nails can be customized to your desired length and shape and, more amazingly, last for three weeks!

But acrylic nails also potentially damage your nail bed and it will take a toll on your nails if you do them often enough. Yikes! 

Here’s where your press-ons could come to the rescue. And yes, there is an easy way to achieve the coveted acrylic mani with your press ons. 

You may think it’s hard to replicate a design from a salon acrylic manicure. After all, it came from your head, and you had an in-depth talk with your manicurist before you could visualize it on your nails. You customized it for you, so there’s no way you would find a replica of it on the press-on stalls.

Or not really. Well, not on stalls. 

You just have to find merchants who personalize press-on nails. Yes, they exist! After that, you can just put them on as your usual press ons! 

However, acrylics are also known for their plain, bright colors. And that, you can manage on your own.

You would need plain press-ons, an LED lamp, nail glue, clear gel polish, and a topcoat. 

First, never forget your prep. Push your cuticles back and trim your nails. You can then buff your nails to ensure that the press-on adheres firmly.

Buffing may make you anxious because it can lead to nail thinness, so while you are at it, buff gently. Keep in mind always the health of your nails!

Paint your nails with clear gel polish and then apply a dot of nail glue at the center of your nails. You can then proceed to cure it one nail at a time. 

If durability is your worry, then that should solve the problem. Curing the gel with glue doubles the strength of the hold. Cool, right? 

If they have finished curing, make sure you file across and to the sides, so the shape comes off as natural. Now get rid of the shine by buffing the press-ons. 

(Some roughing up before we get to the finale. Just be patient.)

You can then paint your press-ons with your choice of gel polish and add a topcoat for that smooth finish. 

May it be a bright pink or deep blue, they will never know that what you have cost less than salon-made acrylics. 

And that is what you call a great steal and loads of ingenuity. 

CHECK OUT: How to take off acrylic nails with hot water

How to make press on nails thicker

How to make press on nails thicker

Thick resembles a salon-made acrylic mani. Thick also means sturdy and can weather everyday life clumsiness. You want both, and now you channel that energy to your press-ons.

Okay, before you go crazy trying to make your press-ons look incredibly thick, you should keep in mind that there exist brands of press-on nails that are of thick quality. 

But if you are not satisfied with their thickness, it’s worth trying the double press-on method.


Yes, that may sound wild and not durable at all but guess what? Here’s a day to prove yourself wrong. 

So again, prep your nails. This is a mantra you must repeat to yourself whenever you experiment on them. 

Prepare two press-on nails. Cut the top part of one and the bottom part of the other. 

Tip: Make sure that you remember the final length you are going for so you don’t end up with way longer nails than necessary. Buff up the part of both pressed-ons you will glue. Then you can smear glue on both parts and stick them together. 

After you double your press ons, you can now stick them to your nails with your nail glue. File them down to shape them (see how durable they are!). 

It’s looking thick but not yet smooth. So add a topcoat, two layers preferably, since topcoats harden and strengthen your fake nails. 

After that, you can paint them with your gel polish color of choice and cure them under a UV or LED lamp. Tadah!! 

Not rocket science at all!

What are you waiting for? Go on and try these techniques. Because once you ace them, you are going to save a FORTUNE.

CHECK OUT: What are solar nails

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