Random Sunday: Tasteful(!) Nail Art

My teenage daughters do all sorts of nail art with pens and fine-tipped brushes.  I think it’s great, but I am a little long in the tooth for that sort of thing.  However, when I saw Louise recently, she’d done a nail-art trick that is so easy and so lovely – and grown-up appropriate – that I can’t resist blogging on it.  Louise had done the tips of her nails, where the white in your French mani would go, with a very light touch of pale gold glitter over a vampy crà¨me polish — more at the tips, fading down to no-glitter by halfway down the nail.  It ended up looking like a Japanese abstract on lacquerware, or a tiny detail from one of those stunning Whistler Japonesque works.

She forwarded the details, and I am using the image here with permission from the Polish Hoarder, which is also where the instructions come from.  As you can see in the photo and directions, this is a variation where you start the glitter from the bottom, the base of the nail, but the concept is the same:

“I painted my nails light blue and let it dry completely (overnight).

Then, with the glitter, I put a small drop on the inside of my nail, removed the excess from my brush, and spread the glitter out lightly across my nail.

I repeated that 4 times for each nail but with each time you do it, you spread the glitter less. You want the majority of the glitter to be on the inside of the nail.

I suppose it depends on how much glitter is in your polish. I wanted to keep the tips un-glittered so I was careful not to get too much glitter on my nail at once. Less is better because you can build it slowly.”

* * *

I was so taken with Louise’s nails that, armed with the info above, I tried it (also at the tips) with a small silver glitter (China Glaze Tinsel) over the pale pearlized-pink mani I was already sporting, and got subtle but smashing results.**  My only suggestions/clarifications — I’d do one nail at a time, I don’t know your climate, but I worry about the glitter setting up too much and not spreading properly if you let it sit on your nail for long.  Also: you definitely want to clean the glitter off the brush before you start using it to spread what’s on your nail, otherwise you’re adding to what’s already there.

The first time I did it my nails weren’t uniformly perfect like this photo, but they still looked great – both my girls commented on it.  Instead of doing a small dot of glitter at the tip, I painted the tip with a narrow horizontal streak of glitter – like a sloppy French mani – and dragged it down with the cleaned-off brush.   As Polish Hoarder notes (she did 4x for each nail) it’s easy to add more, but it’s hard to add less!  I just did 1x per nail and then added more to the ones that looked a little sparse in comparison.

If you are like me, I don’t change my polish until it starts to look tired – usually micro-chips at the tips.  The silver glitter gave my mani a whole new look and bought me an extra four days of wear.  If I’d slapped some Seche Vite on top it’d probably have lasted even longer.

In terms of color combos, two basic strategies: the more subtle pale (gold or silver) glitter on a light base, and the more striking pale glitter on a dark base (vampy, dark blue, green, etc).  Personally I feel that the results are more elegant if the base is a crà¨me.  If your base is light-colored the glitter polish needs to be suspended in a CLEAR base – I made that mistake, testing things, with a blue microglitter that was in a pale clear-bluish base, and it looked terrible.   Obviously you could do a dark or colored glitter or what have you, but if you’re concerned about the propriety of the bling, probably gold or silver microglitter on a crà¨me base is the way to go.

I am going to add a link here to a gorgeous, much trendier look:  a dark-colored nail on MUA with two different colors of glitter on top, pulled down the nail like this – the perfect party nail – but I don’t know if the link works if you’re not a MUA member, apologies in advance.

I know some people are doing this/spreading the glitter with Orly Smudge Fixer.  I haven’t used that, and would be curious to hear from anyone who has in terms of advantages (the disadvantage I thought of is, you’d have to clean the brush carefully, right?  That’s the nice thing about using the glitter brush itself.)  Also, anyone who has winning glitters, or color combos, or questions, please chime in!

**For whatever reason, my natural nails are long just now – nothing that would raise an eyebrow on a nail polish blog, but of a length that would pass as a set of acrylics.  I used CG Tinsel at the tips of my existing base coat of CG Tantalize Me – an opalescent pink with a slight blue tinge that I have a soft spot for because it’s a dupe of a L’Oreal polish called something like Pink Pearl that I wore the heck out of in high school.

  • This is such a great look–and the variations are wonderful. I don’t wear nail polish (I’m an artist, and I wear a lot of alcohol inks on my fingers already)–but I do use nail polish to create a kind of suminagashi–paper marbling. It works and I get to buy cool nail polishes!

  • Winifreida says:

    Hi March!
    Hope its OK to change the subject…..my nails are a lost cause!!!!
    I know (think?) you are a Guerlain girl. Although you are probably suffering a bit of trauma over the reformulations…. not to mention what I can now see is all this funny re-naming-re-packaging thing they seem to be doing.
    I was just on the Guerlain website, doing some revision on the nomenclature! I stumbled upon – left the cursor on or something – the info about Thierry Wasser, and it said among other things, that he created Quand Vient La Pluie OR, OR being the key word, Iris Ganache. I’m thinking, nah, lost in translation or something.
    Then having a gorgeous sample of Parfum Q.V.La P., and another of Iris G, yup, despite different concentrations, and QVLP smelling a bit irisier, I would swear they are nearly identical. So maybe that would explain my musings/frustration over ‘why the heck would they delete something as lovely as QVLP’….
    Hmmmmmm??? Its a crazy bit of marketing, because I would have just thought Oh this Iris Ganache is damn nice, but its just one of those matiere things………..

  • sweetlife says:

    Oooh! More nailpolish!

    This looks very pretty. I did an accidental version–one sparse coat of a dark red glitter over my black nails. The glitter showed up only rarely–a perfect match for the garnet ring I wear all the time.

    My newest nail loves are the NYC New York Minute polishes. Less than $2 at the grocery store and I found my perfect navy cream (West Village), a fantastic deep violet (Manhattan) and a gorgeous, wearable shimmery charcoal that flashed purple outdoors (Chinatown).

  • Jen says:

    Ah my two hobbies collide! I’ve read your blog for quite some time, and it was in fact your forays into the polish world that brought me back to my old teenage love of polish. (The post on Kaleidoscope?) I use the Smudge Fixer method to graduate glitters all the time. I find it’s easier to swipe a stripe or dot of glitter, let it set for about 20 seconds, and soak it in the Smudge Fixer, then gradually and slowly pull it towards the base or tip or of your nail, whichever look you’re going for. You can redip the brush into the Smudge Fixer as needed if it’s not graduating the glitter enough. If you let it set a bit, it doesn’t come off onto the brush and contaminate the bottle. I find that using the glitter polish brush to stipple the glitter on can be more challenging, as usually, once it’s on there, you can’t move it. With the Smudge Fixer, you can move it around until you’re satisfied. Here is my first attempt at graduation with Smudge Fixer:


    It’s a bit garish, but that’s how I roll. Me + glitter = bliss

    I really do find it easier. You still do one nail at a time, but the process is much, much quicker!

    • March says:

      Now I have two different responses explaining how Smudge Fixer would be useful, so thanks for the further info. And I think your graduated nails look great!

  • ScentRed says:

    I look at these perfect and intriguing mani’s like a poor girl pressing her nose against the window at Cartier. With 2 small kids, a dog and full time job I just have not managed to maintain my nails beyond the simplest of grooming. I occasionally force myself to find a few minutes to paint them. It’s usually on the way out to a rare party or dinner out. With my kids already strapped in their carseats, I paint on something sheer and attempt to dry them with the car heater after asking my hubby to do up my seatbelt. Hats off to all of you who manage their time better and have the gorgeous nails to show for it. I know some day I’ll get there. Some day… 🙂

    • carter says:

      No, hats off to you, honey. 😡

    • March says:

      Eh, I don’t think it’s managing the time better, you sound like you’re managing your time beautifully! I didn’t start with the polish until maybe a year ago, just because it looked like fun. I’m sure other people looking at me could come up with other ideas as to where my beauty regimen time could be better spent. 😉

  • Louise says:

    The fun of this mani is that all sorts of combos are pretty-I’ve done chunky glitter over dark for a holiday look, tiny glitter over pale for a soft look, multicolored over black, etc.

    The (Orly) Smudge Fixer is an easy way to go-and makes it easier to just dab a blob of glitter on a full hand, and go back to spread. It’s a great thing to have around anyway-it really does smooth out whoopies (usually they occur for me when commenting on a blog ; )

    Oh, and the pretty spring np colors coming out now! Check out the Nubar sparkles and the China Glaze Up and Away collections :p

    • March says:

      Thanks again for showing me this and hooking me up. 🙂

      I can see how Smudge Fixer would help. I looked at CVS (because they have a lot of the other Orly stuff) but looks like I’d need to get it online.

  • rosarita says:

    I love this look. I’d seen the pic from Polish Hoarder posted on mua a while back and I love her wintery color combo. I just labored over a dark red mani (Borghese polish, first time I’ve tried it) that was really a pain to apply evenly (the brush is too wide for my narrow nails) so I won’t attempt this look until next weekend. Winter and constant hand washing at work, where I can’t wear polish, have done their worst and my nails are peeling so badly that I had to cut them off very short, so not sure how well the glitter will pull. I have a new, almondy cream polish to use as a base and may try LA Rock Star Platinum for the glitter. Thanks as always, I love these np posts!

    • March says:

      Some polishes I love the color of, but I can’t ever get them on my nails right. Those are the ones that go to the salon with me. 🙂 And I hate stupid brushes, you’d think they’d get that part right. I think I have deep-set nails, if there is such a thing. 😕 It’s hard to get all the way down the side of my nail without getting the skin, I’m always removing the excess.

      An almondy cream with the sparkle sounds gorgeous! Funny, I have this Seche Ridge-Filling Base Coat, it’s an off-white. And it doesn’t do squat as a ridge-filler. But I finally noticed that it does make an awfully pretty mani, it’s a nice color all on its own, and it doesn’t streak like the pale Essies tend to do on me.

      • rosarita says:

        Yes! Deep set nails! That describes it perfectly. It’s not just that I get polish on the skin, but I’m really concentrating on application technique and it’s harder for me to get a clean line on the sides of my nails than it is to get that gap between the polish & cuticle. KWIM? Or am I sounding just a bit obsessive? 8-|

    • Louise says:

      Oooh, what’s that Almond creme, dear?

      • rosarita says:

        It’s another Borghese – they’re on clearance at my local Walgreens – Cannoli Cream. I’m not big on light creams but this one is very pretty, and the polish coverage is really good; opaque in two coats. 😡

  • hongkongmom says:

    luuuv these ideas..i hoard nail polish just like perfume…alllll the shades of all the colours. thanks for the glitter ideas
    my most commented on french manicure was on the toes;
    fire engine/orangy red with white tips:d

  • Marsha says:

    Thank you so much for having another random Sunday about nail polish. But we want to see your mani! I haven’t tried this yet but I’ve been thinking about it a lot.

    Thank you again-Marsha

    • March says:

      You’re welcome. No, sorry — no pictures of my mani. :”> Unlike these gals, who are pros at such things, I’m always horrified by up-close shots of my nails, I’ve done it a couple times. My cuticles aren’t perfect, my brush work isn’t even, etc.

  • Francesca says:

    Whoa, that’s fabulous, but waaaaay too much trouble for me. However, this is the weekend I do the metallic taupe polish, so I’m not a total loss. What you’ve done looks beautiful, though.

    • March says:

      No, no, it’s not too much trouble! I mean, I gave the ultra-detailed March directions, suitable for people who like over-explainers. 🙂 But basically you’re just putting a dot of glitter polish on a dry mani and dragging it. Simple as that.

      • Francesca says:

        Oh, honey, it’s too much trouble for *me*. It’s been years since I put colored polish on my nails.

  • Masha says:

    Sounds beautiful, I will try it! I have a technique that I like very much, borrowed from painting. Start with a dark color as your base, like OPI Ink or a dark green or purple. Wait for it to dry. Then layer on a coat of gold or silver polish. Use a sponge to gently dab the wet nail one time, in other words, sponge to nail, then lift off. This “sponges” the metallic over the dark, looks like a Klimt painting, very lovely, and semi-matte as well.

    • rosarita says:

      That sounds interesting – do you just do one nail at a time for the silver/sponge technique?

      • March says:

        I’m sure she’ll chime in but my guess is you do all the base first, so it’s dry, and then do the paint and sponge one nail at a time? Again, I’d be worried that by the gold polish would dry too quickly to get uniform results otherwise.

        • Masha says:

          I wait till the dark base coat is absolutely dry. Then I do just 2 nails at a time with the metallic, and use a bit of kitchen sponge (but you can try a fragment of any sponge, they’re all cool in different ways). Cut off a bit of a sponge, then quickly press on the nail and pull off, without wiggling the sponge or it will be a mess. Hope that helps, wish I could post a video! Maybe someday on Youtube….

    • March says:

      That sounds so great! I’m going to try it. What type of sponge do you use … and it must be really small, right? Or no?

      I’ve tried to get a similar effect with really chunky gold glitter and it looked … like really chunky gold glitter. 🙂 Terrible.