We Tried The Ardell Nail Play Pen & It's Our New Favorite DIY Nail Art Tool

Is there anyone who doesn't love nail art? Whether it's a hyperrealistic portrait of your favorite character, a festive design in dueling colors, or a smattering of polka dots, specialty nails can instantly brighten your day. However, adding a design to your manicure at the salon can get pricey pretty quickly — and the figures climb even higher if you opt for something more elaborate.

Many of us have attempted our own freehand nail art designs at home, but the process can be messy, time-consuming, and, let's face it, frustrating. We've all lost plenty of polish and ruined a few tools in our prior ventures with DIY nail art, but those days are fortunately behind us. You may recognize the name Ardell for the beauty brand's iconic false lash line, but its latest product will elevate your manicure skills in a snap. That's right: You can even use the Ardell Nail Play Pen one-handed if you so desire. The novel polish tool has a fine-tipped, marker-like applicator that makes it easier than ever to pull off dazzling nail art with no mess and far less stress.

An introduction to the Ardell Nail Play Pen

Ardell's latest launch is new to the beauty market at the time of writing, meaning it may not have hit shelves in your area just yet. If you aren't able to find it in brick-and-mortar shops, you can purchase your Nail Play Pen on Ardell's website for $8. The novel pen is available in a variety of colors, from rosy pink (Are We Having Fun Yet?) to kelly green (Twisted Mischief), but we purchased our Nail Play Pen in black — or Romp in the Dark, as Ardell calls it — for a neutral test of the product.

If you've ever used a paint marker, then you already have a good handle on how the Ardell Nail Play Pen works. To activate the polish, all you need to do is shake it vigorously and click the applicator tip against a hard surface. We suggest using a piece of cardboard or scrap instead of your nails, as the first drop of color can be somewhat messy. Its consistency is more liquid than typical nail polish colors, so it's a good idea to practice your design or scribble on some paper to get used to the feel of the pen. Otherwise, you may end up with too-thick lines or muddled designs.

Why we loved Ardell's Nail Play Pen

In the olden days, gearing up to do nail art at home was grueling. Trying to keep track of various tools while painstakingly painting miniature designs? It's no wonder why many of us stuck to basic, stripped-down manis for day-to-day wear instead. Given our past experiences with other nail art pens, we initially doubted how well Ardell's would perform, but to our surprise, the Nail Play Pen got the job done, all while only requiring a single product. 

For the price, we don't think you could find a better tool to heighten your home manicure experience. At less than the cost of a tip at the salon, the Nail Play Pen can give you a variety of long-lasting looks that are fun to paint on yourself or a friend. While playing with the Nail Pen, we tried several painting methods and found it best suited to stippled (or dotted) designs and geometric shapes. We freehanded some easy French manicure tips, but you can create extra crisp lines by using nail or washi tape to block off the rest of your nails. 

The polish dries to a semi-matte finish that looks nice enough on its own but even better beneath a clear, glossy top coat. While we experimented with drawing designs over a pale neutral basecoat, you can also use pops of colored nail polish to create simple shapes before outlining them with your pen of choice.

Final thoughts on Ardell's Nail Play Pen

Given the choice between traditional nail art techniques and the Ardell Nail Play Pen, we'd take the Play Pen in a heartbeat. Still, even though Ardell offers many lacquer colors to choose from among its Play Pens, it would be nice to have more variety, like glitters, metallics, and jewel-toned shades.

We also noticed a learning curve when using the Ardell Nail Play Pen. It may look like a paint marker, but it's actually a thick, water-based formula akin to nail polish that comes out of the tube. This liquid is tackier than regular nail marker ink, so it's crucial to keep things flowing by giving it a shake and capping the Play Pen when not in use. You might also need to tap the applicator tip a few more times to release stagnant ink, being careful to blot the pen on scrap paper before applying it to your nails. We made the mistake of skipping this step and ended up with unwieldy, drippy polish on more than one occasion.

Once you get the hang of the Ardell Nail Play Pen, we're willing to bet you won't want to paint on nail art any other way. With a bit of practice, the pen creates beautiful lines, dots, and swirls that would be hard to replicate with an ordinary brush or dotting tool. No matter what nail art trend you want to try, the Ardell Nail Play Pen can help you tackle it quickly and easily.