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Nail Art Know-How: Fall 2012 Nail Art Trends & How To Do Them Yourself

The verdict is in: plain old polish is so 2010. Kick your nails up a notch and start experimenting with nail art. Nothing screams trendy more than a neat nail—not only is it the perfect accessory to any outfit, but it also is yet another blank canvas that any collegiette can use to express her individuality and creativity. Read on to learn more about some of today’s hottest nail art trends, where to find inspiration, and what tools to use when creativity strikes.

Fall 2012 Trends

This fall, nail art trends combine old standards and new ideas. The following trends, seen on top style and beauty blogs, have gained serious momentum for the upcoming season:

Natural Nude
While plain nude nails might seem boring, basic beige is back. This versatile style is appropriate in any setting, from an interview to an internship. Looking to kick it up a notch? Try a nude nail with a glitter ombré—a look that’s perfect for a night out on the town.

Double Reverse French Manicure
Yet another sophisticated look, Megan McIntyre of Refinery29 recommends the Double Reverse French Manicure, à la designer Rebecca Minkoff, seen at New York’s Fall 2012 Fashion Week. To create this cosmopolitan look, start off with two coats of your favorite neutral beige or taupe hue (Minkoff’s models wore Jazz by Essie). Once that’s dry, paint a thin stripe of your favorite dark, shimmery shade. Top with a second stripe (The models wore Wrapped in Rubies and Midnight Cami, also both by Essie), et voilà: a French manicure your manicurist will be proud of.

Polka Dots
Spotted at Kate Spade, ThreadNY suggests giving these whimsical nails a try in order to make a major statement. Spade’s models wore the look in luxe black and white, but polka dots are so versatile that they can be worn in any color combination, contrasting or complementary. To wear, apply two coats of your favorite shade. Once dry, use a dotting tool to apply spots of various sizes.

Punk Rock Princess
Another trend pinpointed on Refinery29, Jan Arnold of CND (an authority on all things nails) cites “bold checkerboards, dangerous ombrés, and electric halo nails energized with bright pink, primary red, greens, and midnight blues” as a trend to watch out for this upcoming season. Designer Nicole Miller has already embraced the trend, finishing off models’ looks with a chic pink and purple checkerboard pattern.

Moon Manicure
Inspired by the 1932 launch of Revlon’s first bottle of polish, an updated Moon Manicure has made a comeback, according to Jenna Sauers of Jezebel.com. Her step-by-step tutorial demystifies the process, creating a different type of reverse French manicure. Rather than painting nail tips an eye-popping shade, paint the center of your nail and leave your cuticle half-moon unpainted. While this look takes more effort than the traditional French manicure, the outcome is worth the time you’ll spend getting it just right.
Get Inspired

The true beauty of nail art is the DIY Spirit that it embodies. If the top trends aren’t tickling your fancy, seek out your own inspiration online. Hannah Dellabella, a junior Creative and Professional Writing major at Carnegie Mellon University, found herself bored with simple, monochrome manicures. “I knew that nail art was the way to spice up my manicures. It became a creative outlet for me.” Jess Zarrillo, a junior Philosophy and Communications major at Rutgers University, agrees. “I had never even imagined using my finger nails as canvases,” she says. After discovering nail art as a creative outlet, Hannah delved into the world of nail art blogs, which she cites as a great resource for beginners. “That’s where I get a lot of my inspiration. There are so many nail polish and nail art blogs out there.” From Hannah’s own blog, Tooth and Nails to Tumblr staple F**k Yeah Nail Art (a compilation of some of the best nail art trends on Tumblr) to Prim and Polished (a blog dedicated to all things polish), there is a resource for every artist, whether you’re a longtime expert or a nail novice.

Supplies, Tips, and Tricks

Along with perusing the Internet for inspiration and instruction, both Hannah and Jess suggest that all beginners invest in some staple nail art tools. Among her most-used tools, Hannah lists “plain old Scotch tape. You would be surprised at how far a little tape goes! Use it to cover sections of your nail, then paint over the exposed parts to create different designs.” While her other tools are decidedly more high-end than Scotch tape—including dotting tools, makeup sponges, and a stamping kit—they are all easily accessible on websites like Amazon. Jess also recommends investing in pure acetone, perfect for cleaning up mistakes “Just be careful with it,” she cautions. “It can really dry your skin and corrode any surface it gets on.” Millicent Lucero, a senior at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, says that one of her favorite products is Konad’s nail art stamping system. “I also use fine tipped brushes—of any brand—to use to create fine detailing. I like acrylic brushes, which are usually available at craft stores like Michaels.” Finally, all three artists recommend Seche Vite fast dry top coat, listed among InStyle’s Best Beauty Buys. “Your nails will completely dry in around 15 minutes, and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it,” Hannah says.

If you’re just dipping your (unmanicured) toes into the world of high-end nail design, it’s understandable that you may be overwhelmed. The most recommended tip from all artists, both amateur and professional, is this: remember to be patient. More complex designs take longer than simpler ones, so it’s likely that you’ll spend a lot of time quite literally watching paint dry. Don’t get antsy and try to move on to the next step before your canvas is ready. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ruined a design because I was too impatient to let the polish dry properly,” says Hannah, and Millicent agrees. “I hate waiting around, doing nothing extraordinary because I don’t want to mess up my nails.” If you have a problem with patience, Jess suggests investing in nail polish drying spray. “Check reviews online to make sure you’re buying a quality product, but it’s worth it to splurge on this spray.”

Another tip that almost everyone can agree on is a moneysaving marvel: drug store polish is often just as high quality as high-end polish, but retails for a fraction of the cost. For $5 to $8 per bottle, collegiettes can purchase a wide range of colors from brands like Wet n’ Wild, Sally Hansen, and Essie. Comparatively, polish available at high-end retailers can cost between $15 and $24 per bottle. While those brands may sound more impressive, the price is not always worth the product. Keep in mind that the polish you use is a personal choice, and the best way to discover the products and tools that work for you is by putting aside time where you can experiment. Jess also advocates making your own polish. “Mixing multiple colors that you already own together is a lot of fun. It’ll put life back into the old polishes you don’t enjoy wearing anymore.” To do this, purchase empty, clear bottles (Jess recommends TKB Trading) and get started mixing right away. More complex DIY polish instructions can be seen at Heck Fridays, where bloggers Joi and Erin create homemade polish using nothing more than Wet n’ Wild topcoat, glitter, and eye shadow pigment.

Last but not least, any collegiette who plans on playing with nail art this fall should remember the cardinal nail art rule: protect your canvas. Hannah and Jess agree that using nail polishes that are “Big 3 Free” are the way to go. “Big 3 free means that the polishes don’t contain dibutyl phthalate (DPB), formaldehyde, and toluene,” says Hannah. Millicent recommends acetone-free polish remover, and cautions that you should let your nails breathe for at least a day before doing another manicure. If you’re too impatient to wait, another option is alternating between dark polish, light polish, and strengtheners in order to keep your nails strong.

No matter what your style, it’s easy to find a look that complements your personality, creativity, and innovation. Take any of the trends listed and put an individual spin on them by using your personal favorite polish, three-dimensional add-ons, or by trying something entirely new. Nail art knows no bounds—it’s up to you to expand your style.

Image Sources:
Green Nails Photo courtesy Hannah Dellabella
Pink Ombre Photo courtesy of Jess Zarrillo
Leopard Print Photo courtesy of Millicent Lucero

Lauren is a 20-something writer, baker, photographer, and compulsive e-mail checker. In her spare time, she is a Writing, Literature, and Publishing major at Emerson College, with a focus on nonfiction and screenwriting. When she isn't writing, she is enjoys reading Kurt Vonnegut, frosting cupcakes, and quoting Tina Fey's cinematic masterpiece Mean Girls. Sometime in the near future, she hopes to write for GQ, win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and compete on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars--not necessarily in that order.
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