We know not everyone has the same skill set, which is why it’s important to master varying degrees of nail art techniques. If your client envisions something outside your comfort zone, don’t be afraid to suggest a modified version to get the job done. Here are some popular nail art trends and easy, medium, and advanced versions of each look. (Designs are in order of difficulty from left to right.)

Animal Print

Michelle Whitaker,Salon Legacy Nails, Rolla, Mo.

Michelle Whitaker,
Salon Legacy Nails,
Rolla, Mo.

Easy: Polish nail with two coats of Artistic Colour Gloss Naked. Use Artistic Colour Gloss Empowered to paint zebra stripes down one side of the nail. Top with glossing gel, cure, and cleanse inhibition layer.

Medium: Use Artistic Colour Gloss Mocha Chino and Empowered to paint cheetah and giraffe print on the entire nail. Top with glossing gel and cure. Cleanse inhibition layer.

Advanced: Begin the same as with the medium nail. Outline all prints with foil glue and emboss with foil. Top with glossing gel, cure, and cleanse inhibition layer.


Katy ParsonsBoulder, Colo.@Blognailedit

Katy Parsons
Boulder, Colo.

Easy: Polish nail with Essie Bikini So Teeny. Using a dotting tool, place dots evenly on the nail. Paint little triangles around each dot, and fill them in. Finish off with a top coat.

Medium: Polish nail with INM Out the Door White Porcelain. Use a skinny striper brush and paint horizontal and vertical lines on the nail, evenly spaced. Paint the lines very thin with INM Out the Door Black Hole. Fill in alternating squares with Black Hole. Finish off with a top coat.

Advanced: First, polish the nail with Picture Polish Honey Dew. Paint thin, straight lines horizontally, vertically, and then diagonally (only in one direction) with White Porcelain. Fill in random triangles with a variety of color, making sure the same colors don’t end up next to one another. Finish off with a top coat.

Color Block

Jacqueline Cruz-Otero, New York City@jcee718

Jacqueline Cruz-Otero,
New York City

Easy: Paint nail one solid color. Apply a fast-drying top coat. Once completely dry, cut three pieces of striping tape and make a square in the center by the cuticle area. Place the striping tape on the sides and on top. Leave the space near the cuticle free of striping tape. Choose a different color, wipe off the excess polish on the brush and start filling in the shape. Once it’s all filled in with polish, remove the tape using tweezers. 

Medium: Paint nail one solid color. Apply a fast-drying top coat. Place a piece of striping tape vertically in the middle of the nail from cuticle to free edge. Take another piece of striping tape and place it in the middle horizontally on the right side of the nail. Make sure you tuck in any striping tape that is touching the sidewall. This will keep nail polish from seeping onto the next color as well as bleeding onto the sidewall. Choose two different colors, wipe off the excess polish, and fill in each box one at a time. Remove the striping tape while the polishes are still wet for crisp lines. 

Advanced: Paint your nails one solid color. Apply a fast-drying top coat. Place striping tape in various shapes and sizes onto your nail. Using two different nail polishes, wipe off the excess polish from the brush and start filling in each section one by one. When filling in the shapes make sure the nail color doesn’t go over the striping tape and onto the other color. Once every shape is filled in, remove the striping tape one strip at a time. 


Tammie Alvarado, Tulare, Calif.@tntalvarado316

Tammie Alvarado,
Tulare, Calif.

Easy:  Apply your base coat. Sponge white acrylic paint onto a piece of lace. Apply the lace to the nail, pressing lightly. Remove the lace, leaving its print. Apply a gel top coat. While the top coat is still wet, apply metal studs and crystals. Cure. Add a second layer of gel top coat covering all the nail art.

Medium: Follow the same steps as the easy nail until you get to the stud application. Apply the eye-shaped stud long ways, in the top center of the nail while the top coat is wet. Add round studs directly underneath. Add gold metal studs last, alternating placement. Cure. Add a layer of top coat and cure.

Advanced: Follow the same steps as the previous nails until you get to the stud application. Use colored acrylic to create a center piece. Apply a top coat then surround the center piece with gold caviar beads. Add round studs and eye-shaped studs around the center piece. Cure. Then add one more layer of top coat covering your art.

Negative Space

Elizabeth Morris, Va-Va Varnish Salon, San Diego@thenailhub

Elizabeth Morris, Va-Va Varnish Salon, San Diego

Easy: Create evenly spaced flowers in different colors by placing five dots in an open circle formation followed by a white dot in the center of each flower. Fill the spaces in between the flowers with white dots to tie the design together. Try different sizes of flowers for variety.

Medium: Using a small detail/striping brush, create random geometric shapes by placing connecting lines in different directions on the nail. Fill random spaces with color for a fun mod color block.  

Advanced: Create a swirly pinwheel design by painting curved lines from the outsides of the nail to the center. Fill every other pinwheel space with alternating colors of wet polish or gel. Use a tiny dotting tool or fine detailing brush to draw lines in the wet color from the center to the outside edges for a cool tie-dye effect.


Fariha Ali, Los Angeles@nailjob

Fariha Ali,
Los Angeles

Easy: Draw a red outline in the shape of an apple. Use a white shimmer polish to fill inside the apple outline. Draw a little apple stem with green polish and two black lines to represent the seeds. Seal with top coat.

Medium: Use silver glitter gel-polish as the base and cure. Draw the outline of the pineapple with black gel-polish and cure. Fill in the lines with green gel-polish for the leaves and gold for the pineapple. Cure. Wipe the surface with alcohol/cleanser and apply foil glue over the gold. Wait for it to dry and then apply gold foil over the glue. Apply a coat of clear gel over the whole nail and place two gold dots on the nail. Cure. Draw the lines on the pineapple with black gel-polish and cure. Add top coat.

Advanced: Use a nude color for the base. Apply clear gel or polish and place round white glitter pieces in a quilt pattern. Cure if using gel. Add top coat. Lightly buff areas where you will place the watermelons. Use white acrylic powder with monomer liquid to make the base of the watermelons. Shape the acrylic ball into triangles. Dip monomer saturated into clear liquid and then into pink glitter and form the bottom of the watermelon. Use the same method with a teal glitter to form the rind. Let the glitter and acrylic harden then encapsulate the watermelon with a clear acrylic ball. Apply top coat to the watermelons to finish.


Dana Cecil, Nail Junkie, Dover, Ohio@Dana_NailJunkie

Dana Cecil, Nail Junkie, Dover, Ohio

Easy: Use one coat of white gel-polish followed by a white shimmer gel-polish for the base. Apply top coat and cure then dab a circle of nail glue onto the tip and place premade bow. Make glued on decorations stay longer by using a spray glue dryer. 

Medium: Create base with two coats of pink gel-polish. Stripes are made with white gel-polish using a striping brush. Use black acrylic paint for the bow. With a dotting tool, place your center dot for the bow. Paint triangle shapes on the sides facing the center dot. You can round the outside corners for more of a bow look. Add some lines coming from the center and outline the bow in white pearl. Add top coat. Optional: add a center crystal using a dot of nail glue. 

Advanced: Use buff colored gel-polish and add black stripes in an uneven French tip. Add a few loops for a lace look on the edge. Apply top coat and cure. Pull the bulk of the black acrylic to the edge and create a triangle shape. Once it looks right, push the end in the center just a bit to create depth. Do the same for the other side, making sure the points of each side touch. The ribbons streaming down are created by placing a ball of acrylic and molding it into a ribbon shape. Grab a tiny bit of glitter acrylic and lightly place it around the bow. Top it off with a flat back pearl by gluing it to the center of the bow. 

Crocus Flower

Karalee Chabot, Nashua, N.H,@karaleenails

Karalee Chabot,
Nashua, N.H,

Easy: Polish the nail with two coats of white lacquer. Using green paint and a fine brush, create the stems and leaves of the flowers in an upward stroke. Use a vibrant purple to create the crocus buds and blooming bulbs. Maneuver the paint in a downward motion to create a petal. Create the surrounding petals. The bottom petal needs to come to a point so you can attach a stem using the same green as the leaves. For the lighter purple flowers, dip your brush into purple paint and mix it with white creating a swirl-like pattern. Repeat the steps to create the petals. Mix a bright orange for the center and place uneven dots in the middle of the purple flowers. Use white paint and dot it around the base.

Medium: Polish the nail white. Randomly paint thin lines using a very fine brush and green acrylic paint. Using a 3-D sculpting brush, grab a small bead of white acrylic and dip the white bead into purple acrylic powder. Place the bead overlapping one or more of the green lines and begin sculpting a petal. Be sure to leave the purple at the outer edge of the petal. Make five or six petals per flower. Use yellow acrylic powder to form a yellow spot in the center of each flower. Use orange acrylic powder to form 3-D lines with a small bead at the tip to complete the flower. Only apply top coat to the background. 

Advanced: Polish the nail white. Build  a 3-D flower out of purple and white acrylic. Place yellow acrylic powder in the center. Paint flowers on the nail and allow to dry. Drill a small hole with a piercing drill bit at the free edge. Repeat this step on the 3-D flower and line the holes up. Put a toothpick through both the nail and the flower and cut, leaving just enough length to allow the flower to spin. Form a small bead on the tip of the toothpick in the center of the flower with orange acrylic. Form a bead on the toothpick with white acrylic under the free edge. As the acrylic begins to dry, flatten the bead. Allow the acrylic to completely harden without seeping through to the nail. Apply clear top coat to the nail avoiding the 3-D flower. 

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