This Nail Trend Will Give You Unexpected Nostalgia

Rewind to the good ol' days with this easy DIY art.

Hand with color-blocked nails
Photo: nailartbysig/Instagram

If you think "easy nail art" sounds like an oxymoron, you're in luck: Negative-space manicures are as accident-proof as it gets.

As someone who has tried (and failed) her way through countless DIY designs, I know how frustrating nail art can be. Painting on a canvas that moves and is barely wider than the brush you're painting with can feel next to impossible. But this look is a lot easier to create than it looks.

Negative-space manicures invite you to paint only a fraction of your nails, and the abstract patterns easily hide any wrong strokes. The results are effortless and stunning, which is why celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and Dua Lipa have all dipped their fingers in the trend — flaunting everything from '60s spirals to '90s flames.

If the color-blocking seems daunting, don't worry: According to Sigourney Nuñez, OPI education manager and nail artist, even artistically-challenged people like myself can achieve some of the best results with nothing more than a bottle brush (though the adventurous among us can use a detail brush to elevate their designs).

Nuñez says that all line work is going to be challenging at first, but practice makes perfect, and "the look is very therapeutic to pull off."

Once you master the basics, the possibilities are endless: You can reinvent a French tip à la Kylie, get advanced with a Queen's Gambit-inspired checkerboard, or see how many of the season's freshest shades you can fit on one hand.

Below, we get Nuñez's pro tips on how to perfect three different negative-space designs, so beginners and experts alike can make the most of this mani.

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Swirly Tips

Calling all novices: This one's for you. The simple swirls of this design make it easy to practice your technique before moving on to the big leagues.

First off, always (always) apply a base coat. "It promotes adhesion and prevents yellowing," says Nuñez.

Then, grab your bottle brush and swirl the edge around your nail to outline where you'd like your color to be. Fill in accordingly, then add a second coat for maximum coverage, and finish with a top coat.

If you're using a detail brush, pour a little of your polish onto a makeshift palette, like a piece of aluminum foil, to get started. Dip your brush in nail polish remover to clear off any junk, and twirl it in the polish so that your tip stays pointy.

Paint a thin wavy line up your nail bed, shaping where you want the color to be. Then, fill it in with your bottle brush and repeat.

Like we previously mentioned, you'll want to finish with your top coat — it's key to adding shine and protection to your design, says Nuñez.

If you're worried about making mistakes, the nail expert recommends adding a clean-up brush to your artist's tool kit — it can be anything from an art brush to an eyeliner brush you don't use anymore. Just dip it in nail polish remover and use it around your nail bed to erase any mistakes.

Multi-Colored French Tips

Because you're layering multiple shades over a French tip, this style is double the fun — and double the challenge. Nuñez recommends waiting to make sure each layer dries before adding a new color on top.

Start with your base coat. Then, using the corner of your bottle brush, paint a side swoosh across your nail, creating a French tip (see the pale green and pink base shades). Repeat for coverage.

Once it's dry, use the detail brush to paint your additional shades over the base color and finish with a top coat.

Sunset Half Moons

This advanced look is a great style for short nails. Nuñez recommends grabbing a detail brush for this one — you're going to need it.

Start off with (you guessed it) a base coat.

Then, use your detail brush to paint a half moon at your cuticle. Let it dry before outlining the shape with a second color, and use your clean-up brush to refine the design as needed.

Paint a dramatic French tip with the corner of your bottle brush and finish with a top coat. Let the paint dry, and then pat yourself on the back: You nailed it.

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