The Minimalist Guide To Chic — & Easy — Nail Art

The Minimalist Guide To Chic — & Easy — Nail Art

Chalk it up to Instagram, or the jewelry designers creating the prettiest stackable gold signet rings that just beg to be paired with a perfect mani, but nail art is on the up and up. While the biggest breakout manicure trends ebb and flow with the seasons, there are a few designs that always look chic — and even better, they don't require a trip to the salon or a $50 hit to your credit card.

As proof, we've rounded up the best of the best in terms of simple, straightforward nail art, for a step-by-step guide to a minimalist mani that can be achieved right from your couch. Ahead, you'll find nine of our favorite looks, both on-trend and timeless, and a breakdown of how to perfect the downright professional-looking design on your own. Whatever your aesthetic, find inspiration for your next DIY manicure — and the most stylish hand shot ever.

Gradient Nails

Trendy and stupidly simple, spring's breakout blended gradient nail-art trend is as easy as it looks: Every finger gets a different color, and that's that. Tenoverten nail pro Nadine Abramcyk tells us that the key to a cohesive multicolored manicure is to choose your polishes strategically. "I always recommend a range of shades in the same color family," she says. Paint each nail a different color, and you get a shade transition that feels purposefully mismatched.

Cuticle Striping

To get the minimalist's-dream cuticle stripe on your own, pull out your clear base and top coat, an accent polish, a thin striping brush, and a piece of aluminum foil. "Start with a sheer coat of base polish to even out the nail bed," says Betina Goldstein, an editorial manicurist-turned-jewelry designer. "Then dip a skinny brush in the color polish and wipe any excess by running the brush along the aluminum foil."

To get the right curve, Goldstein recommends starting the stripe as thin as possible, then gradually increasing in thickness toward the middle of the nail bed. "I like to start at the left edge of the nail, starting the line thin and gradually increasing the width, then getting thinner again as you reach the right side of the nail," she says. "Don't worry if your line thins out mid-way — you can always do a second coat if you need." And make sure you're painting the actual nail, and not the surrounding skin or cuticle. (We recommend keeping some nail polish remover and a brush nearby to fix any mistakes.) To finish, brush on a thick top coat like Essie's Speed Setter.

Ombré Fade

You can get creative with your faded-ombré fingernails by going light or nude near your cuticles and blending into a contrasting shade, like bright white, towards the tips. First, grab that unsalvageable BeautyBlender you've been meaning to toss, and dip it in acetone to dilute your accent polish, nail artist Julie Kandalec instructs. This sheers the color and makes the tonal transition super-soft. Then paint nail polish over the surface of the sponge and dab the color right over your base polish — "almost like a stamp," Kandalec says. Yep, faded ombré is that easy.

Spotted Nails

Like a trendier take on polka dots, Ariana Grande wore a speckled brown-and-white manicure — and we were immediately reminded how chic and spring-y spots look sprinkled across our fingernails. Grande rocked a muted version, but you can also go brighter with pastel droplets of differing shapes, sizes, and colors — the more you add, the cooler the final print.


Florals for spring may not be groundbreaking, but all things that bloom feel adorably apropos this time of year. "You can paint a single blossom on each finger, or mix and match your bouquet with press-on stickers," says Sarah Gibson Tuttle, founder of L.A. cool-girl nail chain Olive & June. That's right: A '70s-inspired flower-child moment is upon us yet again.


Speaking of stickers, the typography trend is as easy as sticking the appropriate letters across your digits. Go with a rainbow of colors, spelling out our personal favorite feminist call-out: Girl Boss.

Confetti Hearts

We've been told that the heart-printed manicure is always in season, and a clear confetti polish makes for a trendy minimalist manicure that looks much more involved than the three minutes it took to swipe over your nails. We'd recommend trying one of Essie's new Valentine's Day-exclusive polishes to get the look at home.

Cow Print

We've been thinking about this look ever since Kendall Jenner told the world she loves cow print. Long, almond tips painted a crisp white, with imperfect black splotches sprinkled over the top, is the chic nail trend we never knew we needed.

Rose Quartz

Marbled nails are shockingly simple to create at home, says manicurist Elle. For branch-like veins that look faint and not stripe-y, she suggests diluting the white accent polish with acetone and painting on the lines with a super-thin striping brush. If you don't have acetone on hand, another pro trick is to mix a few drops of the white polish with a clear base coat, which creates a jelly-like texture that's a little easier to work with.

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Tags: Fashion, Music, Instagram, Ariana Grande, Kendall Jenner, Rose, Essie, Don, Goldstein, Tenoverten, Sarah Gibson Tuttle, Julie Kandalec, Betina Goldstein, Nadine Abramcyk, Kandalec, NailsTrendy