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Nail art first started taking over our social media feeds well over five years ago and it’s still going strong. While the trends have changed over time—as they always do—one thing has remained the same: Good nail art looks seriously hard to do. But we have good news, not every nail design is a monumental struggle to create. So, no, you don’t need to book a manicure appointment every time you want your nails to look fab. Much like mastering winged eyeliner or learning how to blow dry your hair, all you really need to do is grab the necessary supplies and put in a bit of practice. Here, we’re sharing ten trending nail art designs that we’re confident you can learn how to do. Click through and get ready for everyone to ask whether you’re wearing nail decals!
Gradients are one of the most popular nail art designs, and it makes sense. You're a fan of ombré lips and ombré hair, so it’s only fitting that you'd love this trend on your nails, too. But doesn’t a gradient seem pretty hard to create with nail polish? Well, the good news is, it’s probably easier than you’d think. All you need is a makeup sponge—the disposable kind that looks like a little wedge—and three to five polishes in the colors of your choosing. The longer your nails are, the more shades you’ll be able to fit! Here’s what to do:
Step 1. Paint your nails with the lightest color. Start things off by polishing your nails with the lightest color that’s in your gradient. Use two to three coats to get the color to be opaque, then give your nails a bit of time to start drying. You don’t want the polish to be totally wet or it will shift around when you start creating your gradient.
Step 2. Cut up your sponge and prep a palette. With a pair of scissors, cut your sponge into smaller pieces. You’ll want at least one piece per color in your gradient. Now is also the time to create a makeshift palette. A piece of plastic or a paper plate will do the trick! Deposit a small amount of your darkest polish onto the palette. Don’t pour out too much since nail polish dries relatively quickly, it’s better to add more as you go.
Step 3. Sponge on your darkest color. Now you can start working on your fade! Dip a piece of your sponge into the polish on your palette, picking up just a tiny bit. Then, sponge the color onto the tip of your nail. If you’re using three polishes, this color should cover about one-third of your nail. If you’re using more colors, you’ll want this shade to take up a little less real estate. Add a bit more polish to your sponge, going over the very tip of your nail again. Can you see your gradient starting to take shape?
Step 4. Use an in-between color to blend. It’s time for your next polish. This shade should be a little lighter than the one you just applied. Use the same tactic as you did before, sponging this color onto the middle of your nail. If you’re using more than three polishes, you can adjust this step accordingly and work the other shades in.
Editor’s note: Is your ombré looking a little harsh? Try this trick: On your palette, mix a small amount of the two colors you’re trying to blend together. Sponge the mixture on over the harsh line of demarcation and you’ll notice your fade becoming more seamless.
Step 5. Add a top coat. If your gradient still doesn’t look perfect, don’t lose hope. You can turn things around with a thick top coat or a layer of sheer glitter polish. That’s right, a little glitter can masterfully hide imperfections!
A classic French manicure is…well, classic, but it doesn’t exactly qualify as trendy. If you want to upgrade your go-to design into something extra chic, try putting a vampy spin on your manicure. Paint your nails a soft nude shade, then use a black or deep purple polish to create your French tips. Of course, that’s easier said than done. If you don’t have super steady hands, we recommend buying French manicure stickers. These handy stickers are little curved strips that go across your nails and act as stencils for your manicure. Stick one onto each of your nails and polish over them, then pull the stickers off and you should be good to go.
Another option for perfecting a French manicure when you’re prone to mistakes is to skip applying your base color—at least for now. Instead, paint the tips of your nails, not worrying if your lines aren’t perfect. Then, dip a brush into pure acetone and clean up the tips. This technique is similar to using a cotton swab dipped in micellar water to fix your cat eye! Once you’ve cleaned up, brush a sheer polish overtop your entire nail to tie everything together.
Editor’s note: Wondering about the little curve at the base of the nail in this particular design? That’s called a half moon—and it’s another popular nail art idea! We’ll spill the deets on that one a little later.
There are certain designs that no matter how amazing and artistic you are, you probably won’t be able to do. They’re just too detailed! And there’s no shame in that. But we do know a way you can achieve the impossible—all you need are nail art stamps. Stamps are small metal plates with designs etched into them that can be used to transfer intricate designs to your nails. You put polish on the plate, swipe it with a scraper (an old credit card works, too), and pick up the design using a rubber stamper. Then, you roll the stamper over your dry nails to place the design. It may take a bit of practice, but it’s a million times easier than almost any other nail art technique and there are plates available for stamping just about any design you can think of. Paisley? Of course. Plaid? You got it. Chevron? Absolutely!
Nail art can be very reminiscent of arts and crafts. Just think about it, there's glitter and stickers and even stamps involved—and now tape. That’s right, you can use tape to create crisp lines on your nails. If you’re interested in a design that incorporates perfect stripes, don’t bother working on holding your hand super still and mastering a striping brush, just break out the tape. You can cut regular old adhesive tape into perfectly sized pieces or—and this is our preferred method—use striping tape. Striping tape is super skinny nail art tape that comes in all sorts of colors, usually with a metallic finish. The tape can be placed on your nails and locked in with a layer of top coat, or you can use it to create a pattern, paint over it, and remove it to reveal your design. The latter is the method that was used in the above picture!
You’ve painted your nails a solid color, but you’re looking to spruce things up a little—without fussing over your nails for hours. Enter polka dots. Dots are a versatile nail art design, you can play with the size, color, and layout to create endless looks, and best of all, they’re really easy to do. You can purchase nail art dotting tools to create perfect dots or you can create your own. A few DIY dotting tool options include the end of a bobby pin, a sewing pin (stick the sharp end into an eraser to avoid any injuries), a toothpick, and a paper clip. Simply dip your dotting tool into a bit of polish, then place your dots wherever you want them!
We promised we’d share how to create a half moon manicure, and we’re delivering. For this look, besides two shades of polish, you’ll need reinforcements. Remember those little stickers that were always on your school supplies list? You place them on pieces of paper when the holes tear in order to reinforce them and keep the papers safely inside your binder or notebook. Well, they surprisingly work wonders for nail art, too! To see what we mean, start with your nails painted a solid color. Once your nails are completely dry, place a reinforcement at the base of your nail. About half of the reinforcement should be on your nail and about half should be on your skin. Then, fill in the space above the reinforcement (from the tip of your nail down) with a different shade of polish. While the polish is still wet, pull off the reinforcement and you should have a perfect half moon mani!
Dotting tools aren’t only useful when it comes to making dots. You can also use them to create other designs, including leopard print. That’s right, why not translate one of this season’s most popular fashion prints to your nails? Grab three polishes you like, making sure one is a black polish. Paint your nails with one of the other shades, then use the remaining non-black color to create blotches on your nails. Finally, grab your dotting tool and dip it into the black polish. Use the tool to create small “C” shapes around the border of your blotches. This may not look quite right at first, but as you go you’ll see your leopard print come together.
If you can manage to paint your nails, we’re confident you can create multichrome rainbow nails, too. The trick here is that you’ll need a multichrome rainbow nail powder. Chrome powders, or mirror powders, have become increasingly popular because you can make your nails look like something of an optical illusion without any heavy lifting. Start by painting your nails any dark color—black polish is perfect for this! Follow up with a layer of top coat and wait until your nails are dry to the touch, but not completely dry. This means that if you were to press down, you could still dent and ruin your manicure. Next, dip an eye shadow applicator sponge (the kind that comes with most eye shadow palettes) into your chrome powder. Gently rub the sponge over your nails and you should see them transform before your eyes. Wipe off any excess powder, add another layer of top coat, and you’re ready to wow with your nails.
Who says gradients have to fade from the tip of your nails down to your cuticles? While horizontal gradients are a nail art go-to, vertical gradients (sometimes known as sideways gradients) are another trendy way to embrace ombré nails. You’ll follow the exact same steps you did for the rainbow gradient we walked you through earlier, except you’ll create your fade going sideways.
Think your hands aren’t steady enough for even the easiest of nail art? Think again! A skittle mani is perfect for you and we’re confident you can create one all on your own. Skittle manicures involve painting a different color on each nail—and that’s it. It doesn’t get much easier than that! It’s up to you whether you paint each nail in a shade from the same color family or pick polishes seemingly at random. Really, you can have fun with it. And if the issue is that you have trouble with coloring inside the lines, don’t worry about it. Place tape (regular old adhesive tape will do) around the edges of your nails before painting. When you’ve finished with your skittle manicure, pull off the tape and you should be left with clean edges. Any other minor mistakes can be touched-up with a cotton swab dipped in acetone!
Next up: Don’t ruin beautiful nail art with unsightly cuticles or dry hands. Here are 16 Ways to Show Your Hands and Nails Some Major TLC.