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What is Nail Art?

Dana Hinders
By
Updated May 21, 2024
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Nail art, the practice of painting decorative designs on your fingernails, is a fun way to brighten up your everyday look or accessorize a special occasion outfit. There are a variety of designs available, ranging from subtle and understated to funky and outrageous. For example, you could choose to paint flowers on your nails for a date or spell out the name of your favorite athletic team on the day of the big game. While the more intricate designs are best left to a professional, it’s possible to create simple nail art at home.

The key to any successful nail design is starting with clean and well-shaped nails. Nails should be neatly trimmed and filed before painting. Even the most accomplished artist can’t create an attractive design on nails that have been bitten down to stubs. If your natural nails are beyond repair, consider applying artificial acrylic nails before painting your design.

Once you’ve painted your nails with a neutral base coat, you can draw your design using a special thin-tipped nail brush. However, beginners may choose to improvise by creating their designs with a bobby pin or toothpick. Regardless of which application method you choose, it’s best to use a cotton swab and pure acetone to remove any polish application mistakes. Work as fast as possible, since nail polish dries fairly quickly. To save time, have a separate brush for each color of polish.

There are many different methods you can use to come up with nail art designs. Many beginners like to copy from pictures they have found on the Internet or in books. Some larger nail salons also offer classes for people interested in learning how to do their own art. However, even people with minimal artistic talent can learn to freehand geometric shapes or floral designs.

While most nail art designs are created simply using various colors of nail polish, you can add sparkle to your designs by mixing glitter into one or more of the polish colors before painting your nails. Using stick-on jewels is another great way to jazz up a simple motif. Tiny stickers can make it easier to create more elaborate designs.

Once you’ve finished your design, proper maintenance will help keep your nail art in top condition for as long as possible. Apply a coat of protective clear nail polish every two or three days for the duration of your manicure. Wear gloves when doing tasks that may damage your nails and resist the urge to pick or bite your nails.

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Dana Hinders
By Dana Hinders , Writer
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to her work as a freelance writer. After discovering her passion for freelance writing following the birth of her son, Dana has been a vital part of the BeautyAnswered team. She also showcases her versatility by creating sales copy and content for e-courses and blogs.

Discussion Comments

By anon336369 — On May 28, 2013

How do you create nail polish designs on a plastic bag?

By anon268561 — On May 14, 2012

@MissMuffet: You can cut a plastic bag in half and do the design on there. Wait about three or four hours to dry and peel off with a set of tweezers.

By angelBraids — On May 04, 2011

@MissMuffet - I know exactly what you mean. Don't feel bad, this is a problem for a lot of women. I swear by nail art stencils, as they work equally well on both hands.

You just have to put one onto each nail, paint over it and then carefully peel it off! You may not have the same choices as if you did it yourself from scratch, but it's a good compromise.

By MissMuffet — On May 01, 2011

I tried to do some Halloween themed nail art myself last year, but it was a bit of a disaster! As I am right handed I found it nearly impossible to make a good job when I had to use my left.

Are there any tips for this problem? I would love to be able to do this properly. Somebody save me from endless salon treatments!

By ahain — On Apr 03, 2011

This is a fun hobby, especially if you're artistic. Another variant on nail art is 3D nail art -- just as the name sounds, it takes the adornments on the fingernails beyond just paint.

3D nail art usually involves creating tiny sculptures with polymer clay and gluing them to the surface of the fingernails, but nail art supplies like puffy stickers and self-adhesive rhinestones are also available to create a variety of effects.

Dana Hinders

Dana Hinders

Writer

With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to...
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