Thanks in part to Instagram, nails have become the go-to canvas for a whole host of trends. If there’s a color, pattern, or texture of note, you better believe you’re going to see it recreated on the fingertips of social media-savvy nail artists everywhere. It's truly an art form, and I myself have lost count of how many times I've found myself in an hours-long scroll hole of the 52 million images that have been tagged #nailart. After all, if you didn’t share your new nail art online, did your salon visit even happen?
While I’m awestruck by creations like cow-print and pressed-flower nails, no matter the occasion, I usually opt for a red polish. I own so many shades of red, I could pen my own E. L. James-inspired novel on the subject. So instead of double-tapping everyone else's cool nails, I decided to ditch my failsafe shade and try the biggest trends myself for once. Here are the results.
I Tried: Gem Nails
3. Next, I pooled a dot of nail glue (like Nailene Ultra Quick Nail Glue) onto a tray, dipped a toothpick into the glue, and dotted a small amount onto each nail.
4. I picked up each gem, which I bought on eBay, with a pair of tweezers and held them in place for a few seconds, pressing down with another fingertip, until the glue set. I'd suggest scattering the gems randomly across each nail, mixing colors and sizes.
5. To finish, I applied Nails Inc.'s 45 Second Top Coat with Kensington Caviar to seal everything in.
I'd give this 4/10 for difficulty. I went for a multicolored pastel base to up the ante, but if I were to do this again, I'd opt for much smaller gems. I found them slightly fiddly to place at times, but overall this look was pretty easy to create. The gems did start to pop off after a day out and about, so this mani isn’t ideal for longevity, but it did get me some lovely compliments throughout the day.
I Tried: Leaf Nails
1. After a slick of base coat, I applied two coats of nude polish: Nails Inc.'s Gel Effect Nail Polish in Colville Mews.
2. On some scrap paper, I pooled a few drops of Essie's Licorice and dipped a fine nail brush into the color. Then, I drew a line from the top right corner of the nail to the bottom left. Practice with the brush first by drawing leaves onto paper, if you’re unsure.
3. From the "stem," I looped the brush to create two or three sketched leaf-like shapes on one side.
4. I continued onto each nail (a corrector pen, like this one from OPI, is a lifesaver for mistakes) and finished with top coat to seal the design.
I'd rate this 6/10 for difficulty. I was totally smitten with Emily Jane Lathan's leaf-print nails created by Amy Rickaby, so that's the effect I was after. Opting for a minimal, "sketchy" leaf (I envisioned eucalyptus when drawing mine) allowed for a more abstract feel, which means the design didn't have to be perfect to have a big impact. Another top tip Rickaby gave me was to use a nail art pen instead of a striping brush, as they flow easily and make drawing that much simpler. This was a quick and easy mani to DIY, but you may need a friend to help you with your non-writing hand — my left-hand leaves definitely ended up neater than my right. When the style did start to chip (after about 4-5 days), the design meant it couldn’t really be patched up. That said, I loved the look and will be trying it again. Practice makes perfect, after all.
I Tried: Plaid Nails
2. On a piece of scrap paper, I pooled a few drops of Nails Inc. Duke Street and dipped my nail brush into the nude. I made a straight line vertically down the outer third of each nails and repeated the step on the opposite side to create two vertical lines downward, approximately the same distance apart.
3. Once that dried, I added two straight lines vertically across, approximately the same distance apart, to create the grid pattern, and repeated this step on each nail.
4. I cleaned up any mistakes with a corrector pen and once I was happy with the pattern, sealed with a top coat.
I'd rate this 6/10 for difficulty. Ensuring I got a straight line with my nail brush did require a little concentration and precision; I found a quick stroke of the brush created a neater line than taking it slow. I did totally mess up on one finger, but I just started it again. Much like the leaf mani, my checks started to chip around the day-five mark, but luckily only on one finger, so a quick DIY job meant it was resurrected to see out the rest of the week.
I Tried: Tortoiseshell Nails
1. First, I applied my base coat and allowed it to dry. The key to creating a tortoiseshell pattern is building up layers of color with a clear polish in between to get that glassy blur, so I started with a "background" of yellow polish, Topshop's Gloss Nail Polish in Ducky (if you're in the US, Sally Hansen Hard As Nails X-Treme Wear in Mellow Yellow is a good alternative).
2. Next, I mixed two dots of orange polish to one part dark brown, which creates the perfect burnt-orange shade. I dipped my brush in and added splotches at random points over each nail, making sure some of the yellow could still be seen.
3. To create that "glass" effect, I layered clear polish over the pattern. Don’t be too precious — really allow the clear polish to blur the colors together. You may think it looks terrible at this point, but trust me, suddenly it all starts to come together.
4. With a sparing amount on the nail-polish brush, I created some tiny dabs of the darker brown color overlapping the burnt orange. I worked downwards from the top left of the nail, down to the right hand corner to create that famous tortoiseshell pattern and ensured I could still see some yellow peeping through. I repeated step 3.
5. Finally, to give a look of depth to the pattern, I placed small black brush strokes randomly over the entire pattern and applied top coat to finish.
Tortoiseshell print is everywhere right now, and frankly, I'm obsessed. A friend actually couldn’t believe I’d done this myself and swore it must have been an in-salon job, the highest compliment to a DIY-er. Creating this at home did require some patience; mostly I had to force myself to allow the multiple layers to dry thoroughly rather than rushing in with my next coat. I was surprised that this outlasted any other mani, despite the many layers of polish, which I thought might mean it would chip easily.
I Tried: Star Nails
1. After applying a base coat, I went in with two coats of Nails Inc.'s St. James and Barry M's Gelly Hi Shine Nail Paint in Dragon Fruit on alternate fingernails.
2. To add contrasting colured stars on each nail, I poured out a dot of polish and dipped in a tiny brush to draw with. Aim to position stars across the nails at random and draw them as neatly as you can — I found making them slightly larger was easiest.
3. Once you’re happy with your designs, finish with a top coat. If you think you'd find drawing freehand too difficult, I'd suggest glueing on some tiny star gems, instead.
I'd rate this 8/10 for difficulty. Trying this for myself made me even more impressed with Instagram manicurist Laura Wade's skills — there’s no way I could fit two super neat stars on each nail. That said, I loved the slightly abstract result, helped by the trendy mix of red and pink polish. Again, drawing with your dominant hand will make for neater stars, so either practice with that nail brush or rope a friend in to style your non-writing hand. A good-quality top coat ensured this lasted just over a week.
"The key to making a manicure last is allowing plenty of time between coats," Wade told me. "It requires patience, but it means each layer dries thoroughly so there’s less likelihood of smudging or chipping. You can clean up any wobbles with a small brush or stick dipped in acetone or nail polish remover. For the stars, super-fine nail art brushes are available for a few dollars on eBay. For the less artistic, I would recommend buying nail-art stickers or a professional stamping set. Again, eBay is a great source for these."