Look 3: Leopard
1. Start with a solid-colored base. My friend Morgan painted and modeled this look; she chose Sephora by OPI “Bare to be Different.”
2. Cover each nail with droplets of your accent color. Depending on the look you're going for, you can experiment with varying size spots or keep them all the same. If your spots are coming out too sheer, build up the opacity and let the polish dry between coats.
3. Wipe your detail brush on the lip of the jar so it's not dripping with polish – you want to be able to control your handiwork here. Outline each leopard spot with your detail color, leaving some only half- or three-quarter-lined for a more natural look. Patience and a steady hand are the keys to this look!
Tips to Get Nail Art Right
Still hesitant to try out nail art? Here are a few tips for getting it right:
- Practice makes perfect. Steal a foolproof tip from Teen Vogue's assistant beauty editor Laurel Pantin for mastering nail art. “When you’re painting patterns, your best bet is to practice drawing the pattern on a sheet of paper, with both hands, before you start on your nails. Make sure it’s something you can draw easily with your dominant and non-dominant hand!”
- Use the right tools. Investing in a specialized detail brush for nail art makes a world of difference – seriously! The thinner brush will allow you more control over where your polish goes, which means you'll have more control over your design. I used nail polish with detail brushes by Mattese Elite Nail Art, retailing for $5.95 each at Ricky's NYC and online.
- Make it last. The trick to making your manicures last is to start with a base coat and finish with a top coat. “My favorite base coats are Orly Bonder and Perfect Formula Pink Gel Coat. For a top coat, I’m a big fan of Seche Vite – it dries really quickly and is super shiny!” suggests Pantin.
- Keep yourself occupied during dry time. Waiting for each coat to dry can be a drag, so pop in a movie or hang out with friends to make the time go by faster. There's no worse way to ruin your nail art than painting on designs before your base coat is dry and smudging the color.
- Opt for quick-dry polish. If you make a mistake on a nail, wiping off the ruined polish and repainting with quick-dry polish speeds up the process considerably. Quick-dry formulas are especially great for beginners who aren't too confident with nail art. According to Pantin, Sally Hansen and Insta-Dri Fast Dry Nail Color both make high-quality fast-drying polishes at drugstore prices.
- Don't just limit yourself to polish. Some of the best manicures are made with far more than polish. Pantin explains, “Lace was a big trend for spring. To translate that to your nails, you could try laying a piece of lace over your nail, and painting a bright color over it. Let it dry a bit and then pull off the lace—it works like a stencil.” You can also try experimenting with rhinestones, newsprint (the type will rub off on your nails!), and ribbon.
- Browse blogs. You have the technique down, but you're feeling uninspired – so turn to nail art blogs, like F*** Yeah Nail Art, Hey Nice Nails, and the nail art tutorials on Refinery29. While you're at it, check out Her Campus co-founder Annie's favorite DIY manicure tutorial.