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Nail Art Tutorial – CND’s DIY River Rock Nail Decal Technique

By on September 20, 2011
in CND, Nail Art, Tips and Tricks

How To - DIY Nail Stickers or Decals Tutorial and Video

Of all the amazing things I saw at New York Fashion Week, what I was most excited to come home and try is a look that never even appeared on the catwalk. It’s a new nail art technique that CND Co-Founder Jan Arnold discovered in Russia and I couldn’t wait to share it with all of you.

It’s a way to make your own nail art decals using nail polish that CND’s Russian Education Ambassadors created. Essentially you are designing your own version of Minx or Sally Hansen Salon Effects at home. It’s easy and fun and I just know you DIY peeps are going to love it.

This tutorial video shows you, step-by-step, how to create the decals.


For the look below, I cut out a portion of the River Rock design. In order to help it blend I applied a coat of CND Copper Shimmer over Chanel Blue Bloy though I probably should have used a second coat of Copper Shimmer. The decal stands out a bit more than I would like so if you plan to cut out only a portion of the design it’s probably best to use a clear base.


Here I applied the Desert Rock decal that uses CND Ice Blue Shimmer as a base with CND Desert Suede and CND Copper Shimmer over Peripera P017 (I’ve been on an eBay kick) and the Ice Blue Shimmer background really altered the base color.


One last look at the River Rock decal. This time over Chanel Blue Rebel. I placed the decal over the entire nail and the Copper Shimmer background really comes to life over such a dark base color.


CND Colour & Effects nail polishes are available at salons and spas nationwide including chains like Beauty Brands, Beauty First and Trade Secret. For more info visit Online shoppers head to or CND Colour nail polish retails for $9/ea and the Effects retail for $11/ea for a .33oz bottle.

What do you think of this DIY nail art technique? Is this something you would try at home? If you do, please tell us what type of designs you create and the polishes you use.

Disclosure: All Lacquered Up’s coverage of CND at NYFW is sponsored by CND. For more info, view my Disclosure Policy.

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  1. Alexis says:

    I have trypophobia and this creeped me out beyond belief!!

    • Monica says:

      My thoughts as well!

      • Lindsay says:

        omg i did not know what that was so i googled it. i would have never thought to be afraid of that and now i am. thanks guys!

    • Jamie says:

      Now that you’ve said it, it’s all I can see when I look at them and it’s totally creeping me out, too!

    • Nats says:

      So.. I googled trypophobia and now I feel sick! I never knew it had a name, it’s nice to know there are other people out there who can’t face holes!

    • Kate & Zena says:

      How do you live with trypophobia considering your entire body is covered with holes called pores? It’s natural for people to be creeped out by holes to some extent, but I’m just curious how you can have a phobia to holes when your entire skin is full of them.

      • Bronwyn says:

        I don’t have a thing about holes, but since most of the time you have to look REALLLLLY close to see your pores (and even then they hardly look like holes, just dots), I think it’s not all that far of a stretch for people to have no issues with them.

      • Tara says:

        It’s not easy…you just try not think about too much..

      • Donna J says:

        It sounds like it’s misnamed, since it seems like most people aren’t actually afraid of holes and it doesn’t interfere with their lives the way that a true phobia would. It’s more like an aversion, getting grossed out by them. Also, unless you are sitting there with a magnifying glass, you can’t see most of your pores, except maybe the ones on your face, and you just don’t get too close to a mirror and you can avoid seeing those ones too.

        • Shayla says:

          well phobia doesn’t mean that it ruins/affects your everyday life, phobia just means strong aversion. The connotation is that its extreme but thats not really true. It’s named correctly, people just don’t know what phobia actually means.

          • Kate & Zena says:

            Shayla–A phobia is something that interferes with your life. I become hyperventilate when I see spiders, to the point I get lightheaded. That’s a phobia. If it doesn’t interfere with your life, it’s not a phobia (you’ll learn this in any Psychology 120 class.) If you just get the chills or feel nauseous…yea, that’s just being creeped out.

            That’s why I don’t get the idea of trypophobia. You must want to peel off your own skin, peel off the walls in your house, not want to sleep on sheets, not eat bread, not look at a computer screen, etc…as they’re all porous (i.e. they have holes) or, in the case of computer screens, are made up of pixels which are sometimes visible. You must have an awful lot of panic attacks. I just don’t get it!

    • Tara says:

      OMG…I have always been totally freaked out, nauseated, etc. etc. by lotus seed pods and things like that and I always thought I was the only one. When I saw this nail art, I almost threw up, it was so gross (no offense Vampy) I can put a name to this “condition”…Thanks..ICK ICK ICK……

    • Kimberly says:

      I am SO glad I am not the only one! *shudders*

    • Katy says:

      I don’t even have it, and a sickly memory of lotus-boob was the first thing I thought of.

    • Emily says:

      Yuck! I agree. Related: Have you seen the commercials for the new light and airy Hershey’s Kisses? They showed a cross-section of a Kiss and it was all holey as if termites had been eating at it. So gross.

  2. Frances says:

    I’ve seen these sort of decals around the blogosphere before. I think they would be fun for more complicated nail art since it would eliminate the dominant hand issue, although I have yet to try it yet.

  3. Jammies says:

    Michelle, thank you so much for this. And you rock at the tutorial thing! I do have to ask, though, did you put the finished decal on top of a coat of wet polish, or just sort of smooth it on like the SH strips?

  4. Elizedge says:

    this is the greatest thing since sliced bread!

  5. Kimberly says:

    Wow, the comment form dislikes side brackets that looks like html tags.

    I [heart] nail decals, I use Steelers ones all football-season long.

  6. Crystal Valentine Burhans says:

    I used to do this same technique when I was younger, but I used wax paper and I would use nail polish and also fabric paint.

    I never tried to make an entire design to cover the entire nail, but I would make various things and peel them off the next morning. Of course this was nearly 15 years ago when I was 12. I haven’t done it since then so I should probably give it another go.

    Thanks for sharing! :)

  7. Sonja says:

    Really cool. It’s like dichroic glass jewelry for your nails! :)

  8. Alyssa says:

    Wow! This is the coolest thing ever! I really can’t wait to try this technique. Thank you so much for sharing!!!!

  9. anonymous says:

    How do you get the plastic to adhere to your nail? I am not sure about the design, I agree with the Alexis and Jamie, it not so much creeped me out,as made me think of something growing in a Petri dish on your nail.

    • All Lacquered Up says:

      It’s not plastic, it’s nail polish. You peel the dried polish strip off the plastic bag. I find that the strips have a natural tackiness so it adheres to the dry polish.

  10. Georgina says:

    oh wow that looks disgusting. no offense to those who like it. *goose bumps*

  11. Michaela says:

    Thank you so much for doing a tutorial on this! It’s awesome, looks gorgeous – gotta love DIY decals. xx

  12. Danielle says:

    This idea is really cool!
    I have a question about Chanel Blue Boy. Since I applied it on Sunday I have touched it up over six times. Do you have problems with Chanel chipping like this frequently? Or is it just my nails??

    • All Lacquered Up says:

      It seems that some people have major issues with chipping while others love the Chanel formula. It’s probably a nail chemistry thing. I have never experienced major chipping personally.

  13. I’ve done decals this way. SO much easier than trying to do art with my weak hand :)

  14. nekosan says:

    I love it! I’ve heard of the technique before for marbling (as an alternative to water marbling), but the tutorial is wonderful. The CND effects are so great. =)

  15. Cryssi says:

    How long in advance do you think you could make these before using them? I’m going on a trip soon and a friend I’ll be seeing wants me to do her nails, but doing the art there and waiting for everything to dry would take ages.

  16. Emily says:

    Yeah, I’m sorry, but this is creepy. Makes me think of aliens.

  17. Katy M says:

    Totally loving this! Can’t wait to try it! Thanks!

  18. beachgal says:

    Interesting. Not sure it’s a look at that is for me however.

  19. How awesome! And oh so easy (and cheap! but it doesn’t look that way!)

    Thanks for a great DIY project-I love the nail strips but that can get kinda pricey. Great way to recycle plastic bags too ;)


  20. That’s cool! Are you seeing who decided to coment? I’m going to do this more times! ahahhahahhahhaha

  21. Maxine says:

    I love this technique. It has given me an idea of using clear polish on the plastic and then stamping some konad designs followed by the background color. It might mean that atlast I can have some control over how the stamps turn out. How fun!

  22. Lilah says:

    Not a big fan of this. It’s…weird looking.

  23. Nicole says:

    Oh, I saw people doing this on the MUA nail board a couple of months ago and wanted to try. Hmm

  24. katie says:

    I don’t have a phobia of holes; I was just thinking this design is not attractive. Don’t know what it is but it makes me want to look away.

  25. Chris says:

    This is sort of cool. But I think I would rather buy decals than take the time to make them. :P

  26. More videos please – you are a natural “on” camera! :) What a fun idea, thank god there are creative people out there who come up with ideas like this – I never would have thought of if but its fun and easy! :)

  27. jb says:

    it’s not for me. I have yet to find a nail art look that I like.

  28. Elle-Hime says:

    Can’t say that I get super excited over *rock designs* on my nails, but this is a brilliant idea and I can see it being implemented for a lot of different designs. I will definitely break out the wax paper and try it some day. =)
    Thank-you for sharing!

  29. TLM says:

    Why does she never show or explain the actual application to the nail?? I don’t understand how this would adhere if it’s a dried sheet. Does she lay down another base coat before positioning it on the nail??? CONFUSED!!!!

    • All Lacquered Up says:

      By “she” I assume you mean me. Did you watch the video? I explained the application and gave tips at the end.

      Though to answer your question, I don’t lay down another base coat before positioning. I applied it to my dry nail and added a layer of top coat over the sheet. Though if you are cutting out an individual piece, like one rock or star or whatever design you create, you can put down a layer of top coat to set it into.

  30. Elizabeth says:

    I’m a little surprised no one has mentioned using a stencil to create shapes on the nail decals. I personally wouldn’t go for the river rock look, but we do use stencils for shapes. Couldn’t the polish be put on the plastic in a shape (heart, star, flower, etc.)? I may try that.

    • All Lacquered Up says:

      Absolutely, stencils would be great. Just like the person who mentioned using Konad stamps with this technique. Love it!

  31. Alicia says:

    I agree with the rave responses, love that you did a video tutorial! I loved the river rock design with how the cnd effect play and ad demension. I have to try this technique! And I feel you demonstrated it perfectly so I CAN do it on my own. There are so many ways to be creative and I bet I can finally get that perfect half moon manicure versus trying to do it freehand! And for the commenter who mentioned doing this with konad, I totally agree! Thanks for the out of the box post and looking forward to your Chanel Jeans collection reviews!

  32. Marina says:

    The River Rock design looks super cool! It’s even cooler due to the novelty!
    Stupid trypophobia comments ruin this awesome post.

  33. T-AG says:

    This gives me so many ideas. I’m not terribly fond of decals because even though there are so many designs available, I never find any in designs and colors that I really like. I can’t wait to make my own, and not just in a pebble design. It’ll also give me more opportunities to use my CND Effects and other toppers in different ways. Thanks for a great tutorial!

  34. Madeline says:

    Maybe it can be attributed to what I did all day (cleaned out a fridge) but this totally looks like mold growth to me!

  35. Sarah C says:

    Very creative but… the make me think of keloids or something. Not for me.

  36. MissDoll says:

    Very cool advice and I’m definitely trying it

  37. Anne Clarizio says:

    I did this with the shellac and it’s so fun!!

  38. Lisa says:

    Same method used here so not exactly “new” or unheard of… A base color coat is not always required especially if y ou aren’t doing a separated design. I plan to try to make a Hello Kitty head!

    Good tutorial although I got rather bored watching it and skipped through the majority of it – you ramble too much for my taste.

    • All Lacquered Up says:

      Well I never claimed to be a YouTuber so I’m sorry if my amateur attempt at a tutorial didn’t appeal to you. I can’t please everyone. Also, I didn’t say this technique was unheard of but it is new to me. I’m not omniscient and I don’t have 24/7 to scour the internet and YouTube to see everything every nail person on the planet it doing. This technique seemed fun and new to me so I wanted to share it.

    • jo says:

      Lisa, can you imagine how you would feel if you worked hard to provide the amazing content that Michelle provides here for all of us, and someone criticized your work? Yes, we can all benefit from constructive criticism; that is one way that we grow and improve. I just think that there are more tactful ways of going about it. I believe that your message was coming from a good place but you may want to consider the recipient’s feelings when you provide feedback. There are ways of communicating the same message without the bite.

  39. Briana says:

    love the look and so glad you did this as a youtube tutorial rather than simply trying to explain it in the blog with pictures. Also sounds like the perfect excuse to look into picking up the cnd effects polishes lol

  40. BV says:

    Holy smokes. Some of these comments are very full on! I really love this and I can’t wait to try it. I think the nail art looks very sci-fi and cool looking. the only thing that bugged me was the fact that I can’t find my CND effect polishes in my stash…arghhh… I know I have at least 5 of the darn things somewhere…As soon as I dig them up – I’m doing this! This technique is new to me and seems easier than konading which is great!

    Thank you for going to the trouble of making this video!

  41. Erica says:

    How exciting for you that you got to go to New York’s Fashion Week! I can only imagine the site’s sounds, and people! Your head must be swimming with all the wondrous things. Thank you for taking the time to share such a creative technique. I have enjoyed reading your blog for awhile now. With the advent of the no-chip manicures, a Gelish fan, I am enjoying all the fun colors and techniques! Currently I am diggin the Rockstar nails! 50 different colors of glitter so far! LOL!!!
    As an aside…don’t let the turkey’s get ya down! Life is too short and there are too many wonderful colors of polish to explore! :)

    • Erica says:

      Oops that should be “sights, sounds and people!” What can I say, long line of school teachers in the family! Didn’t want to see that red correction pen mark on my comment! LOL!!!!

  42. Leah Ann LaRowe says:

    That is amazing and am going to try that! Very unique and sounds fun!

  43. Yes. Love it. DIY Minx.

  44. Medusa says:

    Can’t say I’m too keen on this look. Reminds me of bacteria growing in a petri dish.

  45. Christina says:

    I really like the organic look this creates, this would be great for an accent nail or two. Thanks for the video tute!

  46. Janie C says:

    Cool idea, I love river rocks!

    And PS I am actually a practicing psychologist, have been for 12 years, and yes it is a phobia.

    Anything that causes a person to want to avoid is a phobia.

    So tired of these people who have taken 1 or 2 classes thinking they are psychologists.

  47. Megan C says:

    The river rocks are beautiful! But, I don’t get it really. For her first picture, she put CND Copper Shimmer over her Chanel Blue Bloy color coat.What color did she add to the center of her river rocks? It seems like it’s a blue color?

  48. Karen says:

    There are lots of video tutorials on YouTube where you can see how to do your own stickers using plain clear nail polish and whatever polish you have on hand; nothing special. In fact I just did some nail art stickers using a “Konad” nail stamper too. Worked great!

  49. Ashley says:

    Can I use a solid color instead? With a design over the solid color?