Giving yourself a manicure at home is a great way to take time out for yourself and show your artistic side. If you have a nail polish collection languishing on a shelf, it's time to get creative and explore new nail art ideas. The good news? Even beginners can achieve stunning effects.
Some basics to know before you start: first, get your base color right. Avoid streaks and uneven color by adding a second coat. Second, unless otherwise indicated, allow each coat to dry thoroughly before adding another. Third, use a clear topcoat to seal your work so it lasts longer. Ready? Let's go!
Start by painting your nails in a base color and letting them dry completely. Pros dip a ball-tipped stylus in a contrasting color to add uniform dots, but you can also use a bobby pin, toothpick, or sewing needle, depending on the size you're going for. For even easier dots, use a standard gel pen. Finish with a clear top coat once your nails are completely dry.
If you can do dots, you can do daisies! The technique is the same, but with different size dots. Start with one large dot in the center of each nail, which you can do with the standard nail polish brush. Then add five smaller dots around it for the flower petals. Experiment with inexpensive watercolor brushes to get the size you like best.
Another fun design based on the basic dot technique is a heart. To make one, use your favorite dot-making tool and make two dots of polish side by side. These will be the top of the heart. Use a toothpick or needle to drag each dot down to a common center point, lifting the tool straight up at the end to achieve a sharper point. Then push the drops of color around as needed to fill any gaps.
This technique may take a bit of trial and error to get the shape just right, but the results are perfect for Valentine's Day!
Go halfsies with two vertical colors splitting each nail. Choose two complementary colors and use the first to paint the entire nail. When dry, apply Scotch tape to one half of the nail, making sure the edge of the tape creates a perfectly straight line from the center of the cuticle to the tip of your nail. Paint the exposed side the second color, and wait for two minutes before removing the tape. As always, finish with a top coat to seal.
Perfectly straight stripes are easy to achieve with clever use of tape. This time, you'll need a roll of narrow-gauge masking tape or nail art tape. Paint your base coat the color you want the stripe to be. Then apply the tape to cover the center of the nail. Paint over the entire nail again for the color of the two sides. When you remove the tape, a perfect stripe will remain.
To get the look of one color fading into another, you'll need a clean makeup sponge. Start by painting a stripe of each color on the sponge, making sure the colors overlap and cover the length of your nail. Then use the sponge to press the color onto your nail. Apply a clear topcoat while the color is still wet to help it blend.
This technique can get messy, so have cotton swabs and polish remover on hand to clean up the skin around your fingernails.
For extra shimmer, you can shake glitter onto a wet base coat. This works just like kindergarten craft projects, with the nail polish acting as the glue. You'll get the best results with cosmetic-grade glitter, but fine craft glitter can also work. Tap off excess glitter and wait for it to dry, then use a cotton swab to remove any leftovers from the skin around the nails. Seal with two coats of clear topcoat.
Looking for a more sophisticated design but lacking the steady hand to make it happen? Small stickers to the rescue! You can purchase specialty nail decals, but any sticker will work if you thoroughly press it down and add a double coat of clear sealer. Stickers make a great accent feature applied to just one nail for a pop of whimsy.
Tiny crystals or rhinestones can add some serious bling to your manicure. Start with painted and cured nails, then add a thick layer of gel or standard topcoat. Use a moistened finger to pick up the gem and tap into place, nestling it into the wet top coat. This should hold the rhinestones for a day or two, but you can get some specialty nail glue or gem glue for longer-lasting results.
Once you've mastered some of these basic nail art techniques, you can combine them in creative ways for totally new designs. Try a diagonal line of polka dots or a series of stripes in different colors. Use a crystal as the center of your daisies, or try glitter for only one side of your bisected design. The only limit is your imagination!