Your DIY Guide To Instagram’s Trendiest Nail Art Designs

With nail salons closing their doors as a public-health precaution in the face of COVID-19, keeping your fingernails bare is the easiest option — but why settle for a single coat of clear when you can try your hand at DIY nail art?

For proof that it's not as intimidating as it sounds, we've rounded up the best of the best in terms of simple, straightforward nail art, for a step-by-step guide to a minimalist mani that can be achieved with professional-looking results right from your couch.

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Whatever your aesthetic, we've got inspiration for your next DIY manicure — and the most stylish hand shot ever (albeit with a couch or coffee-table backdrop).

Colored French


We were tipped off to the colored French-tip trend on Kate Hudson, then again at this season's Fashion Week in Paris. According to Hudson's manicurist Alicia Torello, you start with a base coat, then use a striping brush to curve a colored polish — like baby blue — along the tip of the nail.

Cuticle Dot


Meet the cuticle dot: a delicate nail-art design that celebrity nail artist Gina Alcedo predicts will take off in 2020. "It's a play on dimensions and negative space," she explains of the minimalist aesthetic. "That perfect dot just above the nail bed is a refined look that adds intrigue to a sheer, bare nail."

Florals


Floral nail art for spring may not be groundbreaking, but all things that bloom feel adorably apropos this time of year. "You can paint a single blossom on each finger, or mix and match your bouquet with press-on stickers," says Sarah Gibson Tuttle, founder of L.A. cool-girl nail chain Olive & June. That's right: A '70s-inspired flower-child moment is upon us yet again.

Gradient


Trendy and stupidly simple, spring's breakout blended gradient nail-art trend is as easy as it looks: Every finger gets a different color, and that's that. Tenoverten nail pro Nadine Abramcyk tells us that the key to a cohesive multicolored manicure is to choose your polishes strategically. "I always recommend a range of shades in the same color family," she says. Paint each nail a different color, and you get a shade transition that feels purposefully mismatched.
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Cuticle Striping


To get the minimalist's-dream cuticle stripe on your own, pull out your clear base and top coat, an accent polish, a thin striping brush, and a piece of aluminum foil. "Start with a sheer coat of base polish to even out the nail bed," says Betina Goldstein, an editorial manicurist-turned-jewelry designer. "Then dip a skinny brush in the color polish and wipe any excess by running the brush along the aluminum foil."

To get the right curve, Goldstein recommends starting the stripe as thin as possible, then gradually increasing in thickness toward the middle of the nail bed. "I like to start at the left edge of the nail, starting the line thin and gradually increasing the width, then getting thinner again as you reach the right side of the nail," she says. "Don't worry if your line thins out mid-way — you can always do a second coat if you need." And make sure you're painting the actual nail, and not the surrounding skin or cuticle. (We recommend keeping some nail polish remover and a brush nearby to fix any mistakes.) To finish, brush on a thick top coat like Essie's Speed Setter.

Thumbnail Accent


From yellow smiley faces to heart-shaped embroidery, nail pros are turning to thumbs to show off their most intricate nail-art designs. "With everyone posting close-ups of their hands on Instagram, thumbnail art has recently taken off," says Gibson Tuttle. Nail pro Jessica Washick echoes that the thumbnail accent is a subtle way to upgrade any simple manicure. "You can be as expressive as you want on your thumbs," she says. "And then, you still have the classic look of a polished manicure on every other fingernail." If you don't have a steady hand, just use a sticker.

Ombré Fade


You can get creative with your faded-ombré fingernails by going light or nude near your cuticles and blending into a contrasting shade, like bright white, towards the tips. First, grab that unsalvageable BeautyBlender you've been meaning to toss, and dip it in acetone to dilute your accent polish, nail artist Julie Kandalec instructs. This sheers the color and makes the tonal transition super-soft. Then paint nail polish over the surface of the sponge and dab the color right over your base polish — "almost like a stamp," Kandalec says. Yep, faded ombré is that easy.

Spots


Like a trendier take on polka dots, Ariana Grande wore a speckled brown-and-white manicure — and we were immediately reminded how chic and spring-y spots look sprinkled across our fingernails. Grande rocked a muted version, but you can also go brighter with stick-on circles of differing colors — the more you add, the cooler the final dotted design.

Typography


Speaking of stickers, the typography trend is as easy as sticking the appropriate letters across your digits. Go with a rainbow of colors, spelling out our personal favorite feminist call-out: Girl Boss.
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Confetti Hearts


We've been told that the heart-printed manicure is always in season, and a clear confetti polish makes for a trendy minimalist manicure that looks much more involved than the three minutes it took to swipe over your nails. We'd recommend trying one of Essie's Valentine's Day-exclusive polishes to get the look at home.

Rose Quartz


Marbled nails are shockingly simple to create at home, says manicurist Elle. For branch-like veins that look faint and not stripe-y, she suggests diluting the white accent polish with acetone and painting on the lines with a super-thin striping brush. If you don't have acetone on hand, another pro trick is to mix a few drops of the white polish with a clear base coat, which creates a jelly-like texture that's a little easier to work with.
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