Nail Art Trends For the Real World

Nail art is hot this season, and while you might fret that it isn’t office-appropriate (there are some major designs out there!), you can definitely find the right balance between 3-D stacks and pale pink. Nails are the new statement accessory that can take you from salon chitchat to conference room meetings, if you do it right.

I personally understand the delicate difference, because before I became a professional nail artist (see my designs here!), I worked at one of the country’s largest and most conservative companies. I can attest that, even if your boss is buttoned-up, you can still fun up your fingers with an amazing mani. After all, you’re the one who’s going to be looking at your hands while you type the day away. Click through to discover some chic, real-world-appropriate nail art trends for spring.

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1The Reverse French

The usual French Tip is at the edge of the nails, but the Reverse French (also known as the Ruffian French) is flipped. It’s a classic look that’s easy to achieve. To get this design, paint your nails with a lighter shade, or even a metallic for a hint of sparkle. Once those coats are dry, paint your nails again, starting a smidgen higher up on the nail to leave a sliver of your first color peaking out.

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2The Glitter Fade

This nail look is like the dress that takes you from work to a night out on the town. By tapping a little glitter gradient to the edge or base of your nail, you can add a subtle, sophisticated sparkle—and it’s even perfect for covering up chips! All you need are a few dabs of glittery polish or simply a shimmering sticker like L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Nail Lingerie.

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3The Half-Moon

The half moon is a nail art staple first worn by flappers back in the 30s. For the threeASFOUR runway show last month, I added a modern trend: a window to the natural nail. To paint this look, you can simply put paper reinforcements at the base of your nail and polish to the tip. Just be sure to take the sticker off immediately. Add a stroke of silver at the tip for extra flare and seal the look with a glossy top coat for shine.

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4The Picture Frame

Another big nail trend is thinly outlining your nail in a contrasting color. For Charlotte Ronson’s New York Fashion Week runway show last month, I did five color combinations with Color Club nail polish to match the collection. You can use a nail art striper to paint the thin line or you can cheat the delicate brush stroke with a simple trick using polishes that are very opaque. Paint your nails in the color you want for the outline. Allow those coats to dry. Then, paint your nail again, just imagine it’s a bit smaller, leaving a thin “U” around the nail. To finish the look, add a French tip in the outline color.

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5Exaggerated Chevron

The natural nail window trend was also hot at Rodebjer’s recent debut at New York Fashion Week. The look I created with Color Club nail lacquer was subtle amber shimmering out of the darkness. But this shape will look great in any springy color combination because chevrons are classic. To get this look, I highly recommend using thin nail art striper brushes to save you from a lot of cuticle clean up. If you want to use the bottlebrush, shorten the shape to a V at the tip.

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A stylish and easy look to achieve is an ombré. All you need is a makeup sponge and two or three colors of polish. I like to fade from a light color to a dark or use colors that make a rainbow. First, polish your nails with the lightest color and let those coats dry. Then, paint a thin coat of another color on the makeup sponge and dab it on. Viola, ombré!

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7Gilded Nude

In nude and gold, this look is a twist on the aubergine “Velvet Curtain” design I created for the Illesteva runway show with Color Club nail lacquer. You can pick any color to go with the metallic, as long as the polish is opaque. First, paint your nails with the metallic polish. Then, using your other lacquer, get a good bead of polish on the brush. Starting one-third of the way up from your cuticle, stroke once to the left of the nail and once to the right, leaving a little gold space in the middle.

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8Rising Star

Similar to a look I created for Bergdorf Goodman, this rising star nail will add a metallic pop that makes your nails look just like a little piece of jewelry. To create the star, you will need a nail art polish with a striper brush in the metallic of your choice. Paint a point coming out diagonally from the corner of your cuticle. Then draw a perpendicular line from bottom of your nail to the other side. Fill in the outlines and you’ve made a rising star!

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9Abstract French Mani

If you were the kind of kid that didn’t like to color in the lines, this is the nail art look for you! These free form stripes will let you brush whatever random pattern your heart desires to create a nail look meant for the Museum of Modern Art. All you need is a bottle of nail art striper polish and a carefree attitude.

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10Matte & Glossy

A super subtle way to be playful with your polish is to use both a matte and regular, glossy topcoat. Paint your nails and seal them with a matte topcoat. Then, create your design with a regular topcoat. Here, I used a bright spring turquoise, but the design is a bit more dramatic in darker shades. Although no matter what color you use, it’ll be understated. This look will really be your little secret!

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