Have you ever found yourself scrolling through social media and gazing disbelievingly at the beautiful nail art pictures that other users have posted? If so, you are definitely not the only one. How on earth do people get their nails looking so perfect? It's difficult enough to apply one simple coat of color without smudging it, let alone create intricate patterns and designs on your nails. Spots, stripes, tiny little nail varnish pictures, even writing... It must be some kind of wizardry that we nail art rookies could never hope to replicate, right?
Well, not necessarily. While nail art definitely abides by the saying "practice makes perfect", there are some tips and tricks you can make use of to quickly improve the quality of your designs. Similarly, there are a lot of common mistakes that nail art rookies make that can make it tricky for us to achieve post-worthy results.
Luckily, though, these mistakes are very easy to avoid once you've realized you're making them! We've compiled some of the most frequent issues that you can create for yourself. Plus, we've given you some handy tips about how to overcome them! Your journey to becoming a nail art expert starts here...
20 MISTAKE: Skipping A Top Coat When You're Done
Applying top coat is a nail art step that so many people ignore, despite the fact that it can make a serious difference to the quality of your finished product. Yes, waiting for your nails to dry and then applying another clear coat can be time-consuming and inconvenient.
But it's totally worth the wait!
As So Nailicious notes, just one coat of the stuff can increase the life of your manicure, reduce chipping, and add smoothness to a previously bumpy nail art design. Some top coats can even be applied before your art has dried, and will help to speed up the whole drying process. So many benefits!
19 TIP: Invest In A Quick-Drying, Strengthening Top Coat
You don't have to break the bank to find yourself a good top coat: you just need to know where to look, and exactly what you're looking for. Different top coats can have different properties: for example, some are focused on having a quick-drying effect, while others take longer to set but can seriously strengthen your polish and nail art.
Find the one that fits your specific needs, and you're good to go! While you're at it, you might want to purchase a good-quality base coat, too. As Good Housekeeping notes, a base coat will not only lengthen the life of your nail polish but protect your nails from staining and chipping too.
18 MISTAKE: Using The Wrong Kinds Of Tools And Brushes
They say that an artist is only as good as their tools, and the same is definitely true of nail artists. Real talk: if you're trying to complete an intricate and precise nail art design with super-thick or poor-quality brushes, you're not going to have a very good time.
Investing in a proper nail art kit is a must if you really want to achieve the best possible results.
Alongside investing in a good range of matte, glittered, and basic nail varnish colors, Cosmopolitan recommends that even nail art newbies should get themselves a striping brush and a dot brush. They're a lot easier to work with than the brushes that come with varnish!
17 TIP: If You Can't Afford Top-Range Tools, Use Tried-And-Tested Hacks
As much as we all might wish we could afford all of the most technical and top-of-the-range nail art tools, for a lot of us, that's simply not realistic. Luckily, the nail art gurus of the world have introduced us to plenty of tried and tested hacks and cheap tools to give us stunning results on a budget.
For example, Buzzfeed recommends using a standard, stationery-store black gel pen to draw intricate designs. You can use metallic gel pens to shake things up a bit or use the end of a bobby pin to create easy dots. There's no need to break the bank!
16 MISTAKE: Not Planning Out Your Design Before You Start
In the world of nail art, planning is everything. As tempting as it may be to just dive in and see where inspiration takes you, that very rarely ends well, especially for newbies. While we're not saying you have to spend hours drawing a mock-up of the final design you're aiming for, it makes sense to do a bit of pre-nail art preparation.
Do a quick sketch of the pattern you want to achieve, or find some inspiration photos online to use as a guide.
Even if you're totally confident that you can create your desired effect without doing research first, it's always handy to have a reference in case you lose your way.
15 TIP: Using A Dot Grid Can Be Incredibly Useful
When it comes to nail art planning, there are a number of little tips and tricks you can use to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, if you're planning on creating a zig-zag design, a dot grid will help you endlessly!
Nail Art 101 outlines this method in just a few simple steps. If you paint a grid of three-by-four dots, it's super easy to simply join them up and create a row of triangles. Then, you simply extend these triangles to the edges of your nails, and you've got yourself a simple zig-zag design! It's simple, yet effective.
14 MISTAKE: Trying To Draw All Of Your Lines Free-Hand
While in an ideal world we'd all be able to draw a perfect set of stripes totally free-hand, it's a lot more difficult to do than it looks!
Even the slightest slip of your brush or shake of your hand could ruin the entire effect.
Therefore, it's not unreasonable to take a look for some hacks and tricks to ensure that your stripes turn out perfectly each and every time you attempt them. It's not "cheating" – it's simply pragmatism! Even something as simple as covering the areas you don't want to paint with tape and leaving the to-be-painted areas exposed can make a huge difference.
13 TIP: Nail Tape Is An Easy Way To Make Stripes
If you don't want to risk actually painting stripes onto your nails in case you mess it up, Buzzfeed has the solution for you. Super-thin strips of colored and patterned nail tape can be arranged onto your nails to create the perfect stripe effect!
It takes away all any worries regarding smudging, and you don't even have to leave it to dry – you can simply stick on these strips and you're good to go. It can be quite delicate and precise work, but with a bit of practice, it's a hack that every nail art lover can utilize! The tape isn't expensive at all and can be found on a lot of online shopping sites.
12 MISTAKE: Throwing Glitter All Over Your Nails Without Thought Or Care
Who doesn't love a bit of glitter? It quite literally adds a bit of dazzle and sparkle to even the plainest of nail art looks, and it's super easy to apply. You can just pop some glue on your nails and chuck a ton of glitter all over it, right?
Well... That's one way of using glitter in your nail art, but it might not be the best way.
Applying glitter all over your nails with no thought or care might be a bit much! Even when it comes to this sparkly stuff, "less is more" can often be a very applicable saying. Instead of chucking glitter everywhere, go for a more nuanced design instead!
11 TIP: Use A Makeup Brush To Create A Glitter Ombré Effect
One slightly more technical way to use glitter in your nail art is to create an ombré effect. Yep, ombré isn't just a trend for your hair – you can work it into other aspects of your beauty routine too!
As Cosmopolitan notes, a nail art glitter ombré is an incredibly easy look to achieve. It's all about simply applying a lot more glitter to the tip of your nail than to the rest of it. Layering the glitter until a steady gradient appears is a little bit time-consuming, but it's worth taking a bit of time over. The end result looks simply stunning!
10 MISTAKE: Using Thick Layers In Your Base Color
Before you even begin applying the more intricate and delicate elements of your nail art, you need to make sure that you've given yourself a strong and smooth base to work with. The quality of your base does not only depend on the quality of the nail varnish that you're using.
The quality of your base is also impacted by the technique that you use when applying it.
According to StyleCaster, applying a base color in thick layers is a sure-fire route to making a mess of your manicure. It can be very tempting to apply a lot of polish all in one go, especially if the product in question isn't very pigmented. However, this will only lead to smudging and leakage into your cuticle area.
9 TIP: Be Patient And Use Multiple Thin Layers Of Varnish
Instead of rushing your base coat and applying one thick and gloopy layer of polish, take your time in order to get better results. As StyleCaster notes, if you apply lots of thin layers of your nail varnish instead of one thick one, the end product is almost certainly going to look a lot better.
They advise applying one thin layer, allowing it to dry for two minutes, and then moving on to the next layer. This will actually make your varnish dry a lot quicker overall than if you were sat waiting for one super-thick layer to solidify! A faster drying time means less opportunity for smudging to occur, and a firmer base on which to begin your art.
8 MISTAKE: Using Cuticle Oil Before You Start Your Nail Art
To be honest, unless you're an actual manicurist or a nail art wizard, you probably hadn't heard of cuticle oil until right now. It's a new concept to me, too! However, according to Byrdie, cuticle oil could well help your nail varnish to last longer.
Cuticle oil also keeps your nails and cuticles super-healthy.
The thing is, if you apply this kind of oil just before you apply your nail varnish and nail art, things are probably going to go pretty badly. As StyleCaster notes, nothing really sticks to oil – and that includes nail polish! Your nails are likely to chip and peel a lot more quickly if you make this mistake.
7 TIP: Use Oil After The Polish Has Set – And Be Sparing
In reality, cuticle oil is a product that needs to be applied after you've finished your manicure or nail art extravaganza. As Byrdie notes, not only will the oil still manage to protect your nails through all of those layers of polish, it'll vastly reduce the chance of your nails getting chipped or smudged in those dangerous first few minutes post-application.
You know that annoying feeling when a little bit of fluff gets stuck in your partly-dry polish? Well, if you've applied cuticle oil, it'll just slide right off rather than becoming a part of your finished look! Still, don't totally slather your nails in the stuff – just one drop of oil is all you need.
6 MISTAKE: Using Super-Old Nail Polish As A Part Of Your Art
While it can be tempting to hang on to your favorite nail polish colors until you've used the very last drop of product, these products don't stay high-quality forever. Even the most high-end nail polishes start to degrade over time: it's just a part of the great beauty circle of life.
As painful as it may seem, you're going to have to let that old favorite polish go eventually.
If you don't, you could get some less-than-great results in your nail art! According to Good Housekeeping, out-of-date polishes are usually noticeably thinner or thicker compared to when they were first opened, and simply won't apply to your nails as well anymore. Plus, they can often emit a not-so-pleasant smell. Ew!
5 TIP: Throw Out All Of Your Nail Polishes After One Or Two Years' Use
Here's the big question: how long do open nail polishes actually last? Well, according to Good Housekeeping, that depends on the product in question. Nail varnishes are usually created to last for either 12 or 24 months, and will often say so somewhere on their packaging – there'll be a "12M" or "24M" somewhere.
Of course, if the polish has started to show signs of going bad before this time-frame has elapsed, you should probably just throw it out anyway. It's not worth taking a risk on! To prevent your polishes from becoming unusable before their time, it's best to store them in a cool, dry place.
4 MISTAKE: Smudging A Perfect Base With A Misplaced Nail Stamp
Nail stamping can be a quick and easy way of achieving a detailed and beautiful nail art pattern. As the name of this type of product would suggest, you simply coat them in varnish and stamp them onto your nails! You can get stamps that feature smaller images, abstract patterns, swirls, and stripes...
The possibilities are endless!
However, nail stamps aren't fail-safe pieces of kit. It takes a lot of concentration and care to line a stamp up properly and apply it without smudging. It's definitely worth taking your time over – there's nothing worse than a perfectly good base coat being ruined by a misplaced stamp!
3 TIP: Make Sure To Use Good-Quality Stamps – And The Right Kind Of Polish
While nail stamping can be a tricky art to master, there are a few things you can do to make it easier for yourself. For one, according to Nail It Mag, finding the right kind of nail polish to use on a stamp is crucial. Thicker varnishes and matte products are apparently pretty good to use!
Likewise, make sure to properly clean your stamp after each use. Leaving old bits of chipped polish behind isn't exactly going to help you next time around! You can clean your stamps with acetone, or, for a gentler approach, use packing tape to peel off any lingering pieces of varnish.
2 MISTAKE: Totally Scrapping A Nail Art Attempt Due To One Mistake
Making a mistake at any point during a nail art session can be incredibly frustrating. After all of the time and care you've put into your design, one little smudge can make all of your hard work seem like it's been for nothing!
Even the most experienced of nail artists makes mistakes from time to time: it comes with the territory of such a finicky pastime.
However, it's important to remember that mistakes aren't the end of the line for your design. The temptation to scrub all of your polish off and start again may be high, but don't do it! There are far easier ways to deal with a small slip-up.
1 TIP: Get Yourself A Reliable Nail Polish Corrector Pen
If you're worried about making mistakes in the middle of a nail art attempt, consider investing in a nail polish corrector pen. Even if you're not worried, it might be worth getting yourself one just in case!
As Look notes, there's a wide range of nail polish corrector pens on offer from both drugstore and high-end brands. Whatever your budget is, make sure to grab one! They're invaluable for getting rid of little smudges or big splashes that can't be incorporated into your design.
If you still don't want to spend the money on one of these products, fear not: Bustle has a tutorial that can show you how to make your own from an old felt tip! We love a good life hack.