Courtesy Zoya, Courtesy OPI
Marianne Mychaskiw
Sep 17, 2014 @ 12:31 pm

We're calling it—the negative space manicure is officially the cutout dress of the nail world. Just like the trendy wardrobe staple, the design shows just enough skin to be subtle and sexy, while walking the line between a full-on pattern and a bare nail. So, what's with the "negative space" title? Unlike a French manicure, a negative space design doesn't require a base color, and gives off the illusion of lacquer floating against a naked nail bed. We spotted the effect on the Fashion Week runways of Creatures of Comfort and Charlotte Ronson among many more designers, and we especially love how you don't have to be the most-skilled nail artist to master the design.

For a linear style, like the one seen at Creatures of Comfort (above, left), lead nail tech Alicia Torello let a horizontal bar of each model's natural nail peek through a duo of warm neutrals. She began with a generous layer of base coat, then carefully ran Zoya's Penny hue ($9; zoya.com) along the base near the cuticle. After applying a second coat, Torello used Zoya's Flowie ($9; zoya.com) on the upper portion of the nail, making sure that the space between the two hues was maintained.

If you prefer a curved pattern, use Charlotte Ronson's manicure (above, right) as inspiration—lead manicurist Miss Pop alternated cutout half-moon shapes on every other finger, though the two shapes can be combined onto a single nail if you concentrate the top portion of color just on your tips. She swept a yet-to-be-released mint shade by OPI onto the thumb, middle, and pinky fingers, leaving out a rounded shape at the base, then used the hue to fill in the natural half-moon of the ring and pointer fingers.

Pro tip: A nail polish corrector pen, like Sephora's ($8; sephora.com), can do more than simply clean up smudged lacquer around your nail bed. If the shape of your negative space isn't as precise as you'd like it to be, run the pen along any uneven spots to make the overall appearance more crisp. Touch up any individual areas with a fine-tipped brush dipped in the color of your choice, if needed, then finish with a shiny top coat to lock in your handiwork.

See even more Fashion Week manicures we love.

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