You don't need to buy lots of fancy nail art tools or expensive polishes or complicated things to make nail art! If you're a nail blogger, or a nail blog addict, you'll already know about these tricks, but my NORMAL friends and colleagues are always asking how I do some of the things I do on my nails, so here's a post for them! It's not magic, or something super complicated. It's usually something cheap and easy. Here are my top tips for nail art using stuff you probably already have at home.
These are my essential items - I always have these at home, and use most of them almost daily on my nails. Sellotape. Baking foil. Cocktail sticks. Makeup sponges. Cotton buds.
So, what do I use all these things for?
Let's start with makeup sponges. I buy these in the pound shop - this whole bag cost £1. Using these, plus some foil and tape, you can make a gradient nail art look, which looks far more difficult than it is. This is one of the things that my colleagues most often seem impressed by.
Start by dabbing the sponge on some tape on all sides - this removes any fluff or loose bits of sponge. This is especially important with cheap sponges, as they can be a bit rougher in quality than the more expensive ones.
Next step is to paint your nails with your base colour. Here, I've used Models Own Coconut Cream, which is a pretty off-white creme. Then, I lay down some foil on my work surface, and paint two stripes of my chosen colours next to each other on the foil. I'm using Models Own Coconut Cream and Bubblegum.
Then use your sponge to press down on the two colours (or three, if you're feeling fancy!) - I use the wedge shaped end of the sponge, but any surface works.
You then just dab this onto your nail. The amount of pressure used is something you need to get used to. Too light, and the colours won't transfer. Too firm, and you could make a mess and make the surface lumpy. To really blend the colours, move the sponge slightly in a wiggling motion up and down the nail. This is just a very slight movement though! Do this on all the nails, and repeat with an extra layer if necessary to make the colours more intense.
You'll end up with something like this! As you can see, there's a lot of mess round the sides of the nails, but we'll deal with that later. There's also some textured bobbly bits showing on my middle finger nail here, and that's my fault for not cleaning the sponge on the tape enough. They are tiny bobbles of sponge. When the polish was dry, most of it just brushed off.
This is where the cotton buds come in! Dipped in acetone or nail varnish remover, they're my essential for cleaning up the mess round my finger tips after a gradient.
Add topcoat, and ta da! One gradient mani. Depending on the colour combination you use, you could have something subtle and pretty, or dramatic and wild. You could do a three-colour gradient, or a different gradient on each nail, or a vertical gradient along the length of the nail... the options are as open as your imagination!
I've already shown you the sellotape used here for prepping the sponge for a gradient. That's just the start though, and my most common use for tape is for blocking off parts of the nail for a tape mani. I used China Glaze Shooting Stars over my gradient to make a pretty triangle design.
First off, I cut short strips of tape, and stick them to the back of my hand. This is to slightly soften the stickiness, so that it doesn't rip the polish off the nail! You also need to make sure your base polish is totally dry and firm. This is where a quickdry topcoat is helpful!
I then position the tape over the nail, and make sure it's lying flat on the nail, with no lifted edges or bubbles. Here, I've used two strips to tape off a triangle shape. I then paint the contrasting colour (in this case, my sparkly glitter) over the tape, and quickly remove the tape before the polish dries.
Again, you're only limited by imagination: you could do stripes, or block off the tip, or the base of the nail. Or you could tape off one side of the nail to make a 50:50 colour split. I did this triangle design, alternating with the opposite pattern of cutting a triangle of tape so that the middle section of the nail was blocked off.
Here's my final design!
And here's another tape mani. This one uses three new Jacava polishes - keep an eye out on the blog, full reviews are coming soon! To do this, I painted my base colour (the blue), taped off half the nail diagonally and painted the second colour (the pinky one), and then taped off the nail diagonally in the other direction before painting the third colour.
On to the cocktail sticks! I use these for all sorts of things - they're great for clearing cuticles of any flooded polish when it's still wet. They're really useful for helping to peel off tape from the nail, or to add rhinestones or studs (using the point of a cocktail stick dipped in topcoat). But three nail art techniques that can be done with a cocktail stick are dots, dragmarbles (also called drymarbles) and spun sugar manis.
Dotting is one of the easiest things you can do with a cocktail stick. Yes, you can buy fancy metal dotting tools of various sizes, but you don't need them to make dotty nail art. Just dip the cocktail stick tip in polish and dot it on your base. Depending how much you dip, you can make teeny tiny dots, or bigger ones, or even shaped ones.
Next, drag marbling.
Dry marbles, or drag marbles are something I've only recently started trying out. You need to check out Sveta Sanders, she's the expert at these! Basically, you paint a thick layer of one colour, then quickly dab on dots of another colour, and while they're still wet, use the cocktail stick to swirl and drag to make a marbled design. This can be messy or neat, complicated or simple. Or just messy, like mine!
This is what it's meant to look like!
Lastly, a spun sugar mani involves using the stick to draw out long strings of drying polish which you then trail over a base colour, just like spun sugar that is used to decorate desserts.
To do this, drop a few dots of polish on some foil, and leave it to start thickening up and drying a bit. Then use the cocktail stick to draw the polish back and forth over your nail. This works best when the strings are thin, like spun sugar. I'm still working on this, so some of my strings are a bit thick!
This process leaves a real mess on the sides of the fingers, but acetone and a cotton bud easily solves that!
Here are a couple of manis I did using a combination of the techniques. I'm less than happy with the finished look, but I like some individual nails more than others.
I'm fairly pleased with how the dots came out here, and I like the gold spun sugar nail. I'm not happy with the drag marble at all though, as it just looks like a thick mess. Oh well, it's a learning curve!
This second mani was done with my new Jacava polishes again. This time, the drag marble is a bit better, but I'm not sure if it's too subtle to see properly. The spun sugar looked better before I added topcoat, which has flattened it out a bit.
Lastly, foil glitter polish removal! Some polish, especially glitters, can be a real devil to remove. I'm sure we've all experienced having to scrub away at rough glitter on the nails, which shreds the cotton wool and is really hard work. But the foil removal method makes it super easy.
First, cut some strips of foil.
Then add a bit of cotton wool soaked in acetone or polish remover on the nail.
Then wrap the nail tightly in foil.
Do this on all nails.Wow, this photo makes my freaky bent thumb look really obvious!
After a few minutes, just slide off the foil and cotton wool, and the polish just wipes off! I love this method, and use it really often.
So there we go. That's my tips for some easy nail art using stuff that you almost certainly have at home already. Who says you need fancy tools and equipment to have fancy nails?