kitten nails
When I saw this picture of Harley Viera-Newton’s cat nails, I instantly knew I had to figure out how to do it myself. I thought about trying this method for DIY nail transfers, but it was unclear how well it works and which types of printers it works with. With a little more searching, I discovered that the secret to making your own nail decals is rub-on transfer paper, which you can easily buy online. It’s a little like applying temporary tattoos to your nails, and I’m really excited about the possibilities. Anything you can print, you can put on your nails! (If you want to do text, just make sure to reverse it).

Cat nail decal tutorial DIY

Anti-chip top coat (I used Revlon Extra Life Top Coat)
Printable rub-on transfer paper (I used Grafix Clear Rub-Onz Inkjet Laser Film)
Tweezers (optional)
Cat nail decal tutorial DIY
1. Create your cat face designs in a photo editing program. Measure your nails and re-size cat images so the faces will fit on your nails. Or just download mine:

Click to view full size

2. Paint your nails in a couple of coats of a light, neutral color. Let dry completely.
Cat nail decal tutorial DIY

3. The Grafix transfer paper I used came with instructions, a wooden stick, and two types of paper. The instructions were a little confusing, so I’ll clarify a bit. The two kinds of paper are the transfer film, and the adhesive film. The transfer film is the one you actually print on, and it is thin and has one matte side and one shiny side. If you put your hand on one side of it you can see your fingers through it. The adhesive film is actually a piece of paper coated with adhesive, with a clear piece of plastic adhered to it. So one side is matte, and the other is glossy. It’s thicker and less transparent than the transfer film.

4. Print your cat faces on the matte side of the transfer film. I printed mine as close to the edge as possible, so I would use as little film as possible.

Cat nail decal tutorial DIY

Cat faces, printed on the transfer paper. For comparison, it’s on top of a piece of the adhesive film, glossy side up.

5. Cut out a piece of the transfer film with all of your designs on it. Cut a piece of the adhesive film slightly larger. This was the most confusing part for me. Take the piece of the adhesive film and slowly peel the two layers apart, making sure that the adhesive stays stuck to the clear plastic, NOT the paper layer. Place the adhesive film backing (the paper layer) beneath your transfers, and then cover the transfers with the clear adhesive film, sticky-side down. Use a craft stick or coin to rub the top of the clear adhesive film and smooth out any bubbles. The adhesive film backing is only there to keep the adhesive from sticking to the surface below your transfers, so after you cut them out it will fall off.
Cat nail decal tutorial DIY
6. Cut out the designs, trimming as close as possible to the printed areas. You now have your own transfers!
Cat nail decal tutorial DIY

Cat nail decal tutorial DIY
7. To apply your transfers to your nails, peel off the clear adhesive film and carefully place face-down on your nail. It will be sticky, so try to position it where you want it before you let it touch your nail. I was able to carefully re-position my transfers as long as I didn’t press down on them.
Cat nail decal tutorial DIY
8. Gently rub the top of the design, which is the shiny side of the transfer film, to help bond the design to your nail. The instructions say to leave it alone for several minutes to bond, but on some of my nails the transfer film immediately started to peel away. On others I let it bond for a couple of minutes, and then peeled away the paper. For some I had to burnish more, than use tweezers to help slowly peel away the paper.
Cat nail decal tutorial DIY

Cat nail decal tutorial DIY
9. Repeat for all ten nails, then paint with top coat.
Cat nail decal tutorial DIY

Cat nail decal tutorial DIY

“Where’s the one of me?”

Cat nail decal tutorial DIY

Cat nail decal tutorial DIY

I meant to orient the cat faces the other way, so they face outward, but I forgot until after I’d already done the first few. Oops!

DIY kitten nails tutorial

DIY kitten nails tutorial

Amaze friends, acquaintances, and cats with your ridiculous nails!

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42 Responses to DIY Cat Nail Decals

  1. Purrfect Kat says:

    loving it!!!!!!

  2. liz says:

    oh god sooooo cute! i keep thinking i need to buy a color printer…

  3. Dita says:

    Very easy to do and thanks for clear tutorial!


  4. Pops De Milk says:

    Oh my goodness, this is SO cute! I need to get some transfer paper…thanks for sharing this awesome tutorial!

  5. Catherine says:

    These are AMAZING. I want to put in sick leave, head home, and cover my nails in kittens right away!

  6. strawbewie says:

    OMG! That’s genius! thanks so much

  7. Catie says:

    WOW! Rachel, I love this.

  8. susana says:

    Mi hija de 11 años enloqueció con sus uñas.Tenemos que conseguir el papel de transferencias ,acaba de ser la prioridad de su vida,ja ja ,cariños.

  9. Jorina says:

    haha this is great! I’m such a cat lover.

  10. Francesca says:

    Hi there! AWESOME catticure. I have crossposted on my blog, Polishment. >^..^<
    You look a-meow-zing!

  11. Sarah says:

    These are great :D
    How do you remove them?

    • admin says:

      Thanks Sarah! I just removed them with nail polish remover. Since they’re on top of a coat of nail polish, they came right off when that layer dissolved. Not sure if they’d come off so easily if they were applied on bare nails.

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  13. Maranda says:

    This is just too cute. C:

  14. Cat nail art says:

    […] Tutorial here. […]

  15. […] Recipe For Internet Success: Cat Nail Art Posted on October 8, 2012 by admin UPDATE: It’s here. The tutorial you’ve been waiting for. It ain’t easy, but when it comes to cat nails, our philosophy has always been “no pain, no gain.” Check it out at Transient Expression. […]

  16. Karen says:

    Awwww…sooooo cute. I too see all sorts of possibilities. Thanks for sharing! (I found this link from the site: One Pretty Thing)

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  18. […] if your Googling ‘cat nail art.’) I’ve found two different DIY tutorials here and here. The first one is from MTV – if that doesn’t scream ‘CAT NAILS ARE TRENDY’ […]

  19. lemondedis says:

    j’adore ! une très bonne idée… merci pour le partage !

  20. Emi says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the kitties’ images, they are AWESOME! I’ve done Christmas nail art using your download (linked back to you, of course!), and I’m in love!
    Thanks again for the great inspiration :)

  21. Mika says:

    I need this in my life! Thanks for sharing. LOVE it.

  22. […] Well, this has officially made my day. Rachel of Transient Expression shows you how to take decoupage to a whole new level – cat art for your nails. […]

  23. | YAY CATS! says:

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  24. Veltis Lisa says:

    Hi there! this is a totally great idea! and i’m loving it! :D

  25. Tara DK says:

    This is awesome! :D I don’t have a printer but used stickers instead xD Found them in the scrapbooking isle of Micheal’s ~ they were laser printed ones, very crisp and clean looking!

  26. Fiona says:

    I just wanted to pop in and say that I love your nails so much I’ve included them in my top ten cat diys!

  27. Elina says:

    Wow! Great job! I love it!

  28. Hmm says:

    How long did these last? Does the decal hug the nail or is there a slight ridge to it?

    • Rachel says:

      The nail decal hugs the nail. They’re very thin. These last as long as a normal manicure, which will vary for everyone. I’m really hard on my nails, so the tips always start chipping pretty quickly, but the decals lasted until I used nail polish remover on them.

  29. Oh my gosh. These are amazing! I’m such a huge cat-lover…I’ve gotta give these a try. Pinning!

  30. Wow! What gorgeous and delicate manicure! Love it!

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