Gone are the days when getting a manicure meant simply choosing between French or a single neutral or statement-making color. Now, nail art encompasses everything from gold foil to animal prints to modernist masterpieces rendered on 10 tiny canvases. To help us get inspired for our next appointment, we asked Catherine Fain, Co-owner of Raleigh, North Carolina nail studio Paintbase, to explain the ins and outs of chic nail design. Read on for everything you need to know about embracing the nail art trend, and for ideas beyond anything you’ve ever imagined for your digits, check out Paintbase’s Instagram.
What to know before you book. First off, be clear about your vision when you make your appointment. “Let your nail salon know you’d like nail design so they can book you with an experienced stylist,” Fain advises, adding that it’s also a good idea to give them a sense of the complexity of your look. Also, bear in mind that more complex designs are going to take time, so allow for that in your schedule. In terms of durability, your nail art should last about as long as a regular manicure, but there are a few caveats: “Anything glued on and some types of chrome or foil are a little more delicate than other elements of nail design,” Fain says, but assures that with a good nail stylist, you should have a lasting result.
Consider it a collaboration. “We love when our customers bring pictures,” Fain says, noting that Instagram and Pinterest are excellent resources for clients seeking inspiration. “Images can help us advise clients on time and pricing, as well as whether the design needs to be modified.” Getting expert input on colors and polishes can also yield great results. “Most polish lines release seasonal colors, and we’re always eager to share those—especially if you are trying to break out of your routine,” Fain says. “Some looks will work better with gel or shellac polish than they will with regular polish, and your nail stylish should be able to advise you.”
Not adventurous? No problem. Nail art isn’t reserved for cutting-edge creative types or special occasions—there are excellent options for the color-averse or those who take a more conservative approach. Fain recommends staying on-trend yet work-appropriate with a modern French manicure using a different tip color in the French style, or a “negative space” manicure featuring a subtle, tone-on-tone design. If you do enjoy expressing yourself through nail design, the possibilities are seemingly endless. “We’ve seen everything from college mascots to political statements in our nail design requests,” Fain says.
How to pick a pattern. For clients who are new to nail design, Paintbase recommends playing it safe with accent nails, applying art to one or two nails on each hand to ease the client into seeing something out-of-the-box. A French manicure with a glitter accent nail or some simple striping tape can create a subtle, chic look, while evil eye nails are a fun accent for when you want to be a bit bolder. Fain says clients often take a seasonal approach to nail selections, favoring deeper, darker colors in winter and lighter, brighter colors for spring and summer. Watercolor nails on a white or light base color and gold foil accents are currently popular for spring, and other trends gaining traction include the bracelet nail trend (perfect for a boho vibe) and chrome and hologram nails, which Fain says are great for achieving a glam look for a big event or night out.