Newspaper Nails

    Kids, how did your friend get that newspaper text on her fingernails? Here you will learn how to do it and why it works. This activity gives new meaning to having the latest information at your fingertips! You will need: pieces of newspaper, top and base coat nail polish, grey/nude/white/light pink colored nail polish, rubbing alcohol (isopropanol, isopropyl alcohol), cotton swabs, and nail polish remover.

    Please note:  All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision.

    Apply a solid basecoat to protect your nails and let it dry thoroughly.  Paint your nails with the light nail polish color and again make sure they dry thoroughly. Pour rubbing alcohol into the bottle’s cap or into a small jar.  Dip a small piece of newspaper print into the rubbing alcohol for about 5 seconds. Press it firmly on your nail for a few seconds. Peel it off carefully. You'll find that the ink from the newspaper will be left behind. Use a cotton swab and some nail polish remover to clean up your nails. Now apply a topcoat to your nails because, without it, the newspaper will rub off. See the video in the reference below for an on-line tutorial.

    Tips. You can also use the comics section, or the horoscope symbols, anything printed on newsprint will work the same. Press the newspaper firmly on to your nail; otherwise, the transferring ink will be incomplete on your nails. Be careful, and consider doing your nails over a newspaper, sink, or towel.

    Why does this work?  Newspaper ink is made up mostly of soybean oil and carbon black. The isopropyl alcohol helps start dissolving the ink so that it can transfer easily. The isopropyl alcohol dries quickly, and sealing the ink between layers of polish keeps it from rubbing off. 


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    October 2012


    Thanks to Elizabeth Neis for submitting this idea.