Previously published by my darlings at The Toast…
Darlings! You have been sorely missed- I’m so glad to be back amongst you Toastinis (Toasterinis? Toasterazzi? I’ll get this). Thank you for the incredible Toasty warm welcome to my column last month! You are a lovely and incredible bunch. Please accept these virtual hugsies as a token of my gratitude.
Scrolling through your comments was the most fun I’ve ever had with my clothes on! And I was picking up what you were throwing down; I saw a LOT of requests for nail art tutorials. Luckily doing nails is essentially my reason for living, so welcome to my very first tutorial!
I’m overjoyed that nail art is all the rage these days. I remember when it was associated with being a) Wrong and b) Ratchet. Don’t get it twisted, there are still some dark corners of East London where 4-inch long Burberry print talons reign. But for the most part, the heavy burden of nail art shaming is gone. Now, I know a lot of women working in corporate environments worry about whether fancy nails will get them the side-eye at the office. I truly believe it’s all in the way you wear it. I like to keep all my nails the same colour and just include a one cheeky “feature nail” on each hand. Keep it classy and your nails can be as slick and corporate as your pencil skirt/blazer/chignon combo.
I know there’s a lot of apprehension when it comes to DIY nail art shenanigans. Some of you are thinking “HALP- I can’t paint my nails without smudging colour all over my fingers/face” or “I’m too clumsy to do patterns” Nonsense. You are fabulous and fierce and you can do this. It’s much easier than it looks!
So! Are you all sitting comfortably? I’ll put on a pot of bourbon and we can get started.
*comes back into room with tray of drinks, wearing silk kimono*
Right. I’m going to show you three of my favourite nail art looks: The Tiger Stripe, The Leopard Print, and The Glitter Fade. I’ll use step-by-step pictures and walk you through. I’ll also explain how you can make each look work for you double-time:
1. One version for heading out on the town and cutting shapes on the dance floor
2. An optional #TurnDown version for the work week
First let’s talk about your kit. You don’t need any expensive equipment- I’m going to recommend a couple of cheap nail art tools, as well as DIY versions which you’ll have lying around the house.
One of the most essential tools in your kit (and I will not bend on this) is a really good base coat and top coat. Whenever I hear someone say “Yah I don’t bother with all that” I start to shriek and flip tables. My current favourite is Sally Hansen Double Duty: A fabulous protective nail polish that strengthens your nails, protects from staining and provides a great base for colour. It also doubles as a top coat. A good top coat will protect your art, make your polish last longer and provide a gorgeous mirror shine. I have no room in my heart for matte polishes… I don’t think they are what Jesus would have wanted.
The next obvious thing you’ll need is some good nail polish. I’m quite partial to a nice bottle of OPI or China Glaze, but I also love cheaper drugstore brands. All you really need is something with good coverage that lasts well. Make sure you have some nice bold base colours. Then for contrasts, i.e. the colours that will form most of your designs, you’ll need the following:
– Glitter (either gold or silver)
The final thing you’ll need are little awesome things to make designs with. Two-way nail art pens/ brushes are THE BIZNESS. You can get variations of these cheaply on Ebay, and you really only need them in black and white to start off with. They have two ends- a little dotting tool and a skinny brush. Alternatively, you can use a toothpick as a substitute for the dotting tool and a trimmed paintbrush instead of the skinny brush.
Now ladies, you really don’t need long nails to create nail art. We just want neat nails that aren’t a bitten mess. Pro tip: If you do have problems with nail-biting, think about getting a mini aloe vera plant. Fresh aloe gel scraped from the leaf is one of the most bitter substances known to man. It tastes like despair and devastation. When I was a little nail-biter running around in afro puffs, my mum would rub the gel on my fingertips. Then whenever I put my finger in my mouth, the bitterness would have me YELPING out loud at the sheer injustice. It worked like a charm!
Let’s go over the basic nail prep which is the foundation of any nail art look.
– File the nail into your desired shape. I know people have shunned the 90s square nail, but you can do whatever you want (who’s gonna check you?). The “stiletto nail” is totes hawt right now; the pointy shape you see all over Pinterest. Since I wear contacts/ am scared, I tend to steer clear of these. I prefer the ever-flattering squoval shape, which is kind of pointy with rounded edges.
– Apply your base coat. Don’t overload your brush- we don’t want a thick gunky layer here. A great way to paint your nail polish is the 3-stroke method. Apply one stroke along the middle of the nail, and then one on either side. Pro tip: Avoid flooding your cuticles: leave a gap between your cuticle and the polish to avoid that fugly clogged look. Another pro tip: ALWAYS seal your base and top coat. To do this, once you finish painting each nail, simply flick the brush over the outer edge of the nail. This barrier helps to prevent your polish from chipping too fast.
Huzzah! Let’s get nailed! *winks with entire face*
The Tiger Stripe:
1. Use a nice vibrant orange base for this look. Think Tony The Tiger from Frosties (is he still with us?).
2. Grab your black two way nail art pen and get the brush part ready (or your trimmed skinny paintbrush). Start about one-third of the way down the nail from the cuticle. Make sure your brush isn’t overloaded. Place the tip of the brush near the edge of the nail and quickly flick a line inwards.
3. Fab! Now we’re going to repeat this two more times. Make sure you leave enough room between each stripe.
4. Take a quick break to do a victory dance and then move over to the other side of the nail (you may need to twist your hand the other way). We’re doing exactly the same thing on the other side of the nail, placing the second set of stripes between the first set.
5. You’re done! If you’re feeling extra sassy, use your white nail art brush/trimmed skinny paintbrush with white polish to add a cheeky highlight. Pick one set of stripes and paint a white stripe above each black one. Instant fierce.
6. Wait a solid ten minutes for your art to dry before applying your top coat. Pro tip: To make sure you don’t smudge your designs, carefully overload the brush until you have a blob of clear polish hanging off the very end. Now lightly apply the top coat, ensuring that the actual brush itself never touches your nail. This way you end up with a perfect top coat application sans smudging!
7. Optional #TurnDown Look: Simply recreate the look using a nude polish, or even a bare nail. Just add base coat, stripes and top coat!
The Leopard Print:
1. For this look, make sure you have a dark colour for your base and a lighter colour for your leopard spots (white works best)
2. Growl and fling your hair in a wanton fashion to get in the zone. Ready? Ok.
3. Paint your base colour on as normal and allow to dry.
4. Now for the spots. Make sure your brush isn’t overloaded because we only need a teensy bit. Create different sized spots on your nail by lightly flattening the tip of the brush onto the nail bed. We want flat spots, not huge blobs of colour. Let the spots dry.
5. Now for the fun part. This is the bit most people find scary, but you’ll quickly see how easy it is. Get your nail art brush/skinny paintbrush in black (make sure the brush isn’t overloaded). Slooooowly create a squiggly black semi-circle line around one of your spots. Now repeat this until each spot has a black border (don’t join up the squiggly lines, we want a broken effect)
6. You’re doing a GREAT JOB! You sure you haven’t done this before? Ok now carefully add some random squiggly lines in the space between spots. Not too many- one of the most important things in nail art is to keep stopping and checking to make sure you’re happy with the spacing.
7. Finally, add a few random black dots in between spots and squiggly lines.
8. Done! Wait a good ten minutes for your design to dry, and then apply your top coat as normal.
9. Optional #TurnDown look: Use a nude colour for your base and skip the light coloured spots. Instead just move straight to the black squiggly outlines once your base is dry. So cute! Whatsherface from Accounting can’t possibly give you Judgment Face for this classy version:
And now… The Glitter Fade:
1. This is the easiest of the three and my personal favourite. Who doesn’t want their nails to look like they’ve been dipped in gold? By the way, if you now have Midnight Star’s“The Midas Touch” running through your head, I love you and can we please be besties? Paint your base (for added drama, I like to use a very dark plum colour) and allow to dry.
2. Grab your gold glitter and make sure there’s only the lightest smidgen, the smallest suggestion of polish on the brush before you start. Aim for the centre of the nail and lightly brush down towards the tip. You don’t want a harsh dividing line between the base colour and the glitter, so go for a jagged, uneven effect.
3. Go back in with your glitter and repeat the previous step. This time you can be more heavy handed with the polish, but concentrate it mostly on the tip of the nail. This is where the glitter should be heaviest, creating that gradual faded effect.
4. Allow to dry for a good ten minutes, as glitter polishes can be very thick. Pro tip: If you need your polish to dry faster, allow to dry for ten minutes and then run your nails under an icy cold tap.
5. Apply your top coat as normal.
6. Optional #TurnDown look: Use a nude or clear base, and add gold glitter. Subtle yet glam.
7. Optional #TurnAllTheWayUp look: Use a bright neon base colour, and pair it with a multi coloured chunky glitter. Serve with sparkly hotpants and roller skates:
And there you have it- three simple designs to take you from drab to fab. Don’t worry about getting things perfect the first time, or even the second or the hundredth time. Just go on with your bad self and have fun! For a professional finish, keep some Q-tips handy. When soaked in nail polish remover, they’re perfect for cleaning up any spills or smudges on your cuticles.
I’d love to hear what you thought of this tutorial so please hit me up in the comments section! Thoughts? Questions? Requests for future posts? All welcome. Ooh and please feel free to get adventurous and recreate these looks! Can a sister get a hashtag? That way you can upload your pics to Instagram for us all to coo over. I’m thinking #AdjpantsNails maybe- what say you?